Gwyenth Paltrow’s lifestyle brand/activated charcoal dispensary/low-level marketing cult Goop has been hit with yet more criticism this week, this time with a semi-hefty price tag attached. The Mary Sue reports that Paltrow’s wellness empire has been successfully sued by the Santa Clara County District Attorney, plus nine other state prosecutors, for claiming that products like jade and rose quartz vaginal eggs had scientifically proven medical benefits, settling for $145,000 in damages.
The products in question are sold through the Goop web site, where they sit along the expected assortment of tonics, dusts, and Alex-Jones-but-for-rich-white-lady supplements that have become Paltrow and her company’s stock in trade. The marketing on most of this stuff is suitably vague, the better to promise a sort of skin-rejuvenating, sadness-killing cure-all for modern miseries. But the language for the company’s Jade Egg, Rose Quartz Egg, and Inner Judge Flower Essence Blend—which promised that it “supports self-acceptance, flexibility, compassion and forgiveness” and can also help “prevent shame spirals downward toward depressive states”—were all found to cross the line into medical claims.
Per the D.A.’s statement:
The health and money of Santa Clara County residents should never be put at risk by misleading advertising. We will vigilantly protect consumers against companies that promise health benefits without the support of good science … or any science.
To be clear: We’re not trying to throw shit on the concept of alternative medicine as a whole, or to take a knee-jerk swing at new age practitioners, who are often women sick of being talked down to by the frequently male-dominated medical field. It’s a painful and confusing world out there, and if reverse-birthing a chunk of jade or dosing yourself with flower essence takes some of the edge off, more power to you. The problem comes when people try to massively profit off of claims that have scientific—which in this case really just means “we repeatedly used it a bunch of times and it actually did what they said it would”—weight, without actually doing the science, a standard that Goop’s products have repeatedly failed to live up to.
Still, you don’t get to be in the empire-branding game by letting a little thing like a six-figure cash settlement get in the way of good advertising: Goop’s response to the suit has been to rephrase it as though the the payout was some kind of consultancy fee, writing that “The Task Force assisted us in applying those laws to the content we published, and we appreciate their guidance in this matter as we move from a pioneer in this space to an established wellness authority.” Wellness, after all, being one of those beautiful terms that don’t fall under the strict umbrella of medical science.