Click here to enter my other blog: Jane Austen's World.

Friday, March 13

Gwynneth Paltrow the Perfect Emma?

Jane Austen wrote about Emma, the only JA heroine to have a book titled after her name,"I am going to take a heroine whom no-one but myself will much like." According to last Sunday's Jane Austen Character Throwdown poll, readers seems to confirm that notion. Miss Woodhouse, although her responsibilities far outweigh those of Miss Dashwood, overseeing a large house, servants, parties, dinners, get-togethers, and charity for the poor, is behind in the poll by a margin of 3:1. Is this because we lack sympathy towards a rich girl who enjoys all the advantages of wealth and who indulges herself by interfering in the lives of others? One can never feel quite chummy, can one, with someone who sets herself up to be better.

Gwynneth Paltrow played Emma with elegance and assurance. The actress's background, that of wealth, privilige and ease, reflects Miss Woodhouse's, so in playing the role she didn't have to reach far inside herself to find her inner Emma. Recently, as a mother of two unfortunately named children, Gwynneth decided to share her knowledge of the fine life on her website, which is named, of all things, Goop.

The Chicago Sun Times' Paige Wiser provides four reasons why this website is accidentally fun to read. I have used Ms. Wiser's categories to make my own observations.

1) It is economically inappropriate. In an age when people are seeing their investments slide to zero and worry about keeping their house or job, Ms. Paltrow recommends that every smart woman's closet should feature a $2,000 cashmere trench coat. (Image at right).

2) The Zen writing. And the zen feel of the site itself. It looks classy and spare and elegant, like Gwynneth herself, but the writing is accidentally funny. I say accidentally because Gwynneth doesn't seem to realize that 99.9% of the world simply cannot follow her precepts. She writes about her father taking her to Paris as a child: "On the plane back to London he asked me if I knew why we had gone, just he and I, to Paris for the weekend. I said no, but I felt so lucky for the trip. He said, “I wanted you to see Paris for the first time with a man who would always love you, no matter what.” From that time on, Paris was and continues to be very special to me. I lived there for five months in 1994 and I have made many trips back. These are the places in Paris I stay and eat and toast my dad." Now my question to those who live across the pond from Europe is, how many times have you returned to Paris to toast anything? How many of you went for the first time as a child?"

3) The tone is smug. I rest my case with the above example. In addition, there's something very empty about the site. Aside from the copious amount of white space, there's not much meat to chomp on.

4) It's painfully obvious. Looking at her site and reading her advice, I can substitute Gwynneth for Paris Hilton or any other privileged heiress. Instead of picking her own movie choices, Gwynneth asked a few director friends to do the honors, directors like Steven Spielberg and Wes Anderson. Lucky Gwynneth.

I don't want to jump on the Gwynneth bashing bandwagon merely to bash, but when a lady's response to recent criticism about Goop is a four letter word that starts with "F", which she did in an interview with Elle UK, then, well, I think I'll take a pass on accepting that lady's words of wisdom.

Posted by Vic, Jane Austen's World


Lynn said...

I spent enough time on Paltrow's Goop recently just to see what it was all about...there was a little blurb in a trade magazine touting how great it was. I lasted there less than 10 minutes, chiding myself afterwards for wasting my time !

Blarney Girl said...

There are probably tons of actors out there with blogs and websites for us humble little people to read and wish we were like them. I for one just want actors to act. I don't care who they voted for in the general election. I don't care what they think about the environment.
Gwynneth did a fair job of playing Emma and I applaud her for that, but beyond that I could care less.
BTW - No Lady would use the F bomb.

Lynn said...

Hooray for you Blarney Girl...very well said LOL !!!

Jeanne said...

Another example to show that actresses need writers to give them lines to say.

Bostan natsuko said...

I think most people did not pick emma is that she is mostly naive during the begining and all that. But i really liked paltrow's part as Emma she lookes much more Emma then in the BBc version, and Mr. Knightly looks so much better than the bbc version.

delightfully mediocre said...

I looked at her "detoxifying" plan a couple months ago, by which Gwynneth suggests things for us to eat (things like all organic foods, a tablespoon of oil before bed and room-temperature first thing in the morning... and that's not even the weird stuff) and that was about it for me. Well, if we could all afford to spend what she does on clothes and organic gourmet food, maybe we'd feel the need to share our wisdom with others too. I like her as an actress, but I don't really need her suggestions as far as essential things I'll never be able to buy on a librarian's salary.

supertaster said...

You go, Gwynneth!

Blogs suck if they're not your own authentic voice. Sounds like she's being true to hers.

nigel said...

The F word is used in Sakespeare's Play's; Romeo and Juliet and Henry V but is often edited out for modern sensibilities.

I also think Gywneth didn't really have to stretch to play Emma and I wonder how everyone would compare her with Kate Beckinsells more recent portrayal of the role?

I met a lot of Emma's at University as a mature age student and I think there is that; "Queen Bee and Wanna Bee" stage that many women but not all, go through to find balance in their womanhood?

Do I sound sanctimonius?
No, just trying to present an alternative view point (*smiles*).

Kimberly Ann said...

Hate to be the devil's advocate, but I find all the Gwynneth bashing to be a bit much. Sure, her perspective isn't going to appeal to everyone - in fact, probably just a minority of people - but it is her site and she isn't asking anyone to follow it if they don't want to.

I know she took a lot of flack for the recent listing of Parisian restaurants and hotels but let's remember that 1) there are still folks who are traveling even in these economic times and 2) there might actually be some people living in Paris who read her site.

Bottom line for me is that it might not be my cup of tea but it is somebody's, so why disparage it? That's more up Mrs. Elton's alley.

~Aileen Ma~ said...

@ Kimberly Ann--

that is so well put. You've said it better than I'd be able to =)

Paltrow does indeed strike me as the natural Emma type, and I suppose she's the sort of character that even Jane Austen thought "only she herself would like." To each her own, is what I'd say. She clearly exists in a different realm that may even be a parallel universe, but she seems to mean no harm. Let her be=)

Caitlin said...

I agree with Kimberly Ann and Aileen Ma. I don't find GOOP at all relevant to me, but there are people out there who do, and for the rest of us, it is interesting to occasionally see how people like Gwyneth live.