Sonya Unrein

Sonya Unrein
Denver, Colorado,
April 20


Editor’s Pick
SEPTEMBER 18, 2008 3:43PM

The Paltrow Life, as Presented by O

Rate: 16 Flag

Yesterday's Oprah featured a stunningly thin and fit Gwenyth Paltrow, who had recently lost twenty pounds and yet eschews dieting of any kind, claiming that even thinking about dieting causes her to gain five pounds.

But after a bit of prodding and (conveniently) a packaged video piece, it was revealed that Paltrow works out six days a week in a beautiful home gym with an omnipresent trainer who "makes" Gwyneth sweat it out in 80 degree, brutal strength training and cardio sessions. Paltrow likes the setting because she can look out the window onto an apple orchard and hear her kids playing in the pool while one of her two nannies watches them and she does countless "butt" repetitions.



This video is the closest thing to lifestyle porn as anything ever conjured up by the talented Oprah production team, outperforming Martha Stewart on her best day.

Good for Paltrow, I guess, for amassing the wealth to support her quest for peace  with her own body.

But how, exactly, is it supposed to inspire me?

Most of us will never be able to achieve that body so we can eat whatever we want by working out for twelve hours a week with a trainer urging us on to perfection. Surely Oprah knows this.

Is she simply feeding into our voyeuristic impulses and celebrity worship, which Oprah herself purports to share with us, creating an illusion that we are Oprah's girlfriends as we round the television together at four p.m. to watch our celebrity goddess achieve that ideal form, that ideal role as mother and wife and object of desire?

Or should we be more cynical, concluding that perhaps the less secure we feel about ourselves, the more we will watch Oprah in search of solutions, making us nothing more than a desirable demographic?

armIf neither of these things are true, then wouldn't it have been nice if Oprah had said, "Results not typical" ?


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Great piece. And I agree with your last line, there should be some sort of "Truth in Celebritizing." At least by Oprah standards.
How about "lifestyle not typical."
(I'm sheeshing a lot today, I think I need some sort of vacation. Yeah, right.)

This reminds me of reading recently in "Vanity Fair" (the thinking woman's porn) that Jennifer Aniston takes two minute showers to save the environment.

Translation: "What kind of Earth-sucking sloth are YOU, Ms. Housewife? You take FIFTEEN minute showers."

Well, then I just got angry about that.
Jennifer Aniston undoubtedly has a facialist, manicurist, masseur, "asthetician", hairstylist and makeup artist. It's amazing she has to shower at all. Furthermore, she's a spokeperson for a bottled water company.

When she gives up all of her service personnel and her tap water encased in plastic, I'll start feeling bad about my shower duration which involves listening to four children try to light the house on fire while I stand on one leg trying to shave my legs, shampoo my hair and pray to all that is holy that the phone doesn't ring.

Furthermore, Gwyneth found a way to make Sylvia Plath's life boring. That is an inexcusable sin.

Okay, done ranting now. Great post!
I've often felt that Oprah is much more an entertainment show rather than a show that's actually helpful to the average viewer. There are of course exceptions to this. Her magazine has always bothered me. The clothes and shoes that are promoted are ridiculously expensive and out of range for even the upper middle class.
You know, I saw that show yesterday. And yeah, it always amazes me when Oprah holds up celebrities' lives to us, the mere mortals of the world, and she has nary a clue that we're all sitting there agog that anyone has the nerve to share all this as if it is the most normal thing in the world. In fact, the number of people who can really live that way is so small that Gweneth Paltrow should be acknowledging that she is a freak of nature.

What I loved was Mario Batali. All through the cooking segments, he was pointing out Gwennie and Oprah's quirks and idiosyncrasies to the audience, all the things that I'm sure celebrities hate for people to know about them. It made me really dig Mario. A lot.
I associate Oprah with the flu, because the only time I see her is when I'm sick and can't grab the remote.
I find Oprah selling a lifestyle that I'm not buying. I'm all for empowerment. I've never been able to quite put my finger on what is so grating. Perhaps it's the idea of the profit she is making daily off of the average housewife. It's not much different that selling snake oil.
I don’t watch Oprah and rarely watch any network TV. For the most part, the shows and the multitude of commercials seem to be designed to make the viewers feel unfulfilled and unhappy with their lives. Further, the commercials and to a lesser degree the shows, are designed to make us feel that if we buy a product or a service we will be happy, beautiful, and desirable as the people we see on the commercials or shows. The illusion created is very powerful and I prefer not to be deluded and to think that by buying something I can be happy.
I'll preface this by noting that all I know about Oprah I have learned from my wife, because I burn my irritating-people-on-tv reserves on sports commentators.

According to the missus, Oprah spent a lot of time some years ago focusing on her weight loss - achieved through ass-kicking workouts and meals prepared by her chef. This is a weight loss plan that is hardly applicable to other people, but she was right in there with a message of "I did it, so can you."

In other words, Gwyneth Paltrow's workout regime is completely understandable, if you're Oprah.

As for whether it's laudable... would you criticize a football player for working out 12 hours a week? Probably, actually, they wouldn't be doing their job. And I'd argue that regardless of whether it's wrapped in self-actualization blather, weight management is a professional maintenance activity for Gwyneth Paltrow.

Whether anyone actually wants to watch it... well, who knows. Movies with rich people were pretty popular during the Great Depression, so maybe Oprah's going to keep consistent here.
Haggismold, like your wife, I have been tuned in to the Oprah diet saga for about twenty years, and that's precisely why this Paltrow piece is so out of place, and yet for the Oprah show as a whole, so very in place. Oprah has the means to the same luxury tools as Paltrow, yet she struggles constantly with her weight and has used that struggle as an audience identifyer. I am not necessarily placing judgment on Oprah, but I do think her motivations (which appear to shift from day to day, year to year) bear analysis.

Jodi, the two-minute shower is a great example! It fits in with the show where Julia Roberts and some other organic-only guru came on the show to scare us all to death about eating regular old food available anywhere but Whole Foods. People are losing their homes and they are painting the non-organic food supply as near child abuse. It's all part of a bigger narrative, too, about the constant dangers we face, whether it's molestation or chemical poisoning.

Mary, I have a love/hate/ambivalence relationship with Oprah. I guess it depends on where I am in my own head at any given time.

Liz, the Mario aspect of the show was great. He always comes off as so personable and passionate about food, without getting crazy. He's fantastic on Iron Chef. (I watch too much TV, I admit.)

lgranzyk, my worst criticism of Oprah is that she is anti-intellectual. She's obviously smart, business savvy, and her charisma and self-confidence exude, yet her analysis of anything is only about an inch deep. When she has a "very serious issue" show like this week's child molestation show, she generates such a fevered pitch. It sounds like I'm staying child molestation isn't a problem, but I'm not. But a more balanced approach would make the show better.

Mikek, I can see why you would think the show is designed for a certain affect and I agree, but I'm not sure that Oprah herself understands the biases she brings to the show topics, and it doesn't seem to me like she has any conscious intention to manipulate our emotions.

Thanks to all for such insightful comments. I am in the middle of "The Story of Edgar Sawtelle," which will be announced today as the new Oprah pick. The author is a fellow Denver metro area person and from what I've read of the novel so far, it's very good.
where are all the comments? There were supposed to be 8 (now nine with this one.) I do not delete comments. I hope they reappear.
I've got to stick up for my girl Oprah on this one. I just watched part of the show and deleted it--I mostly delete the celebrity chat episodes--but I don't think they're intended to inspire.

She averages maybe one a week of these silly celebrity shows, and they're fodder for the people who worship celebrities. It keeps the show light enough, and keeps building the audience. I think she does them to pay the bills, keep the show running. I'm OK with that.

Jon Stewart once explained that TV audiences crave light stuff and celebrity, and if they sit through 20 minutes of biting satire on socially-relevant topics, you reward them with a six-minute celebrity interview.

That sort of gave me the shivers, but that's the business. I figure I can delete one Oprah a week from my tivo right off, and some of the others on other grounds, and she's still brilliant at least three days a week.

She's a real talent: a stunningly wise and empathetic person, who can entertain and enlighten. I think she's a national treasure. And she ladles out some annoying crap to keep it going. I'm OK with that.
damn. i just posted a really long comment, hit "post" and it seems to have vanished. how annoying.
I already thought Paltrow was a bit too thin. I didn't see the Oprah episode, but I can hardly imagine Paltrow even thinner...

I don't remember exactly when it was, but a few years ago, Harper's had a piece on gyms and exhibitionism. Very interesting. No where else in the world, do people work out on treadmills or bicycles in windows exposed to public view.
I've often thought that Oprah just might be the devil . . .

Or maybe just a surrogate?
I am related, by marriage, to an incredibly wealthy family. If I mentioned their name you all would recognize it immediately. My sister-in-law who married into the family once gave my father-in-law a sweater that her husband no longer wore. I personally thought the sweater was ridiculously ugly, but aside from that nothing more unique than a Wal-Mart special. Something I might pay $15.00 to $20.00 for were it better looking.
Perhaps to somehow make the sweater more attractive to all within earshot and eyesore ( I mean eye sight) my sister-in-law announced that the sweater cost $700.00. What? $700.00 was it made of spun gold everyone wondered and someone rudely asked. No, she explained but it had come from Afganistan and was produced from local wool by local craftsmen.
The guy who sold the wool might have gotten $0.01 american for the wool and the guy who spun it into cloth maybe $0.05. The guy who actually sewed the sweater together might have gotten a dime for his efforts and the importer and retailer split most of the remaining $699.84.
I olny bring this up to point out that my sister-in-law who came from a somewhat modest economic background took no time at all getting out of touch with the way most people actually live. No sense that $700.00 might pay someone's rent. Or put food on someone's table for a couple of months.
It's not just the born with a silver spoon crowd that's out of touch but many with newly acquired wealth who have lost touch and taken leave of their senses. And they really ought to know better.
Dave, your post make a lot of sense. It just sometimes drives me crazy when she does the most frivolous shows about celebrities (and absolutely fawns over them like they're either fascinating or she somehow owes it to them to use her show as a confessional venue, a la Tatum O'Neal or poor old Winnona) or doesn't ever delve into the truth about Scientology as observed by its victims instead of its Tom Cruise-types. I guess its her show and she isn't obligated to balance the content or even make it consistent from show to show. Regardless, I'll probably keep watching (unless I get a dream job sometime soon) and continue to over-analyze. I'm in a bit of a slump right now; OS is the best thing to come along in a while. I do watch the Daily Show and generally skip the interview if it's an actor pimping a movie. Unless he's Ricky Gervais.

John, I really enjoyed your comment. That moment of the gift exchange must have been uncomfortable...Thanks for posting about it.