Poor Gwyneth Paltrow. Turns out she is wrong about just about everything, and so is every other celebrity out there hawking a beauty treatment or health regimen.
But Gwyneth is only part of the problem! Apparently our proximity to celebrities (through both traditional and newer social media channels) is giving us an unhealthy fixation on fame, causing us to think that we, too, can be big-time stars.
Think you can dance, sing, or get drafted by the NHL? Timothy Caulfield says it ain’t gonna happen. And he’s got the stats to back it up.
Caulfield is a professor in the Faculty of Law and the School of Public Health at the University of Alberta. While writing Is Gwyneth Paltrow wrong about everything?: When Celebrity Culture and Science Clash, he researched widely, from well-regarded medical journals to an in-depth study of People magazine, and has distilled his research into an interesting and humourous look at celebrity culture, our fascination with it, our devotion to it, and its dangers both to our bodies and our psyches.
First thing you learn is to stop all those cleanses. They’re doing nothing for you and may be detrimental. Ditto the extreme diets, breast implants, and bird poop facials. Next comes the distressing and ultimately depressing news that you’re never going make it to the big time. Not in this town, and not in any town, not any time soon. This is followed by a final section wherein Caulfield assures me that even if I do make it to big time celebrity status, (which, he insists, will never happen so stop even thinking it will) I will not be happy.
Is Gwyneth Paltrow wrong about everything? is really two books in one.
The first discusses the way in which celebrities urge us to remake ourselves in their image by following their colon cleansing rituals and adhering to their beauty regimes. Wittingly or not, celebrities prey on our desire to look svelte and spectacular while endorsing products that have no proven scientific basis in reality.
The second part of the book looks at how living in a celebrity-infused culture encourages us to strive to be celebrities ourselves. American Idol success stories and overnight YouTube sensations only fuel the flames of our ambitions.
Caulfield throws an ice cold barrel of water on any such notions or ambitions. Following Gwyneth’s Clean Cleanse will do you no good, and not only that, you’ll never get that recording contract, and your kid is never going to make into the NHL.
Taken as a whole, this book might better be called “abandon all hope ye who enter here” not only because the statistics prove that you’ll never be celebrity-famous, but also because living the celebrity life sounds like the lowest circle of hell.
Caulfield is a bit of a parade-rainer, but he does it in a compelling, engaging, and completely readable manner. His self-deprecating wit and well-chosen celebrity quotes kept me entertained even as he crushed my dreams of celebrity fame and wealth.
Not that I wish to be a celebrity, you understand. Living the lifestyle of the rich and famous is not at the top of my to-do list. That said, I wouldn’t say no to a few of the perks. Is it wrong to dream of someday having a personal chef, say, or a closet full of clothes that aren’t older than my children? But the realities of pursuing the celebrity dream sound too soul-destroying to contemplate.
I highly recommend this book. If you like reading Malcolm Gladwell or Steven Levitt, this book will appeal to your interest in facts, stats and humour.