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Finding some good in GOOP Add to ...

Three things: Friday the 13th's Jason Voorhees is back, killing all the hot mamas at Crystal Lake; the haggard Mickey Rourke just told a TMZ reporter, when asked if he was dating Courtney Love, that he "would rather be on a deserted island with a gorilla;" and Gwyneth Paltrow's website GOOP, which launched last fall, continues to be bashed, most recently being called "pretentious" and also "infamous" in the tabloid press.

It is easy to pull wings off insects, and it is easy to overpower a girl in panties with a scythe; to slam Courtney Love when she's been down for quite some time, and to mock the earnest efforts of a woman who happens to be maddeningly thin, stylish and - more often than not - talented.

As machismo becomes increasingly stylish, among men and women, aggression towards women - truly stunning vitriol - increases also.

Paltrow, who is reviving her career in the tailwind of her surprising return and success in last year's Iron Man, has been, of late, appearing daily in small news items all over the Web about: the Iron Man sequel; her seemingly insane co-star in Two Lovers, Joaquin Phoenix; the opinion that at 36 she is "aging well"; her terror of catching pneumonia again; and her latest appearance on Oprah.

On Oprah, she claimed she never dieted, and when a segment of the show was posted on Defamer.com, the message board was quickly filled with comments.

Some examples: "Liar, liar, pants on fire ... she eats twigs and grass, then gives herself a million cleansing enemas," and "this bitch is prime example why life is so UNFAIR. Thin and rich with an extra helping of obnoxious. I hope she gains 300 pounds when she hits menopause."

Is it any wonder Paltrow is also responding, in the March issue of Elle magazine, to slams of her website by cursing "the haters?"

In the response, she asked, "How could people hate me, my intentions or what I'm trying to do? I'm a good person and I'm trying to put good things into the world."

Having finally looked through GOOP, having read its obtuse mission statement - "Nourish the Inner Aspect" - and having pored over its six weekly categories (Make, Go, Get, Do, Be, See), I am tempted to deride her flaky, intellectual posturing, but why?

I do not know if she is a "good person" or not, but I agree that she is trying to "put good things in the world." GOOP is, ultimately, a nice little forum for ideas about self-improvement, ideas that are rooted in harmless acquisitiveness, simple playfulness and an exceptionally fragile sense of the mind and soul. It is this fragility that makes GOOP (its name is, admittedly, dreadful) hard to dislike, as it puts forward such tentative feelers toward art and literature, spirituality and the dream of a whole, harmonious life.

Paltrow's prose style is a little lofty, and high-pitched. In the "Go" section this week, she writes that "Los Angeles, with its bougainvillea, sea breezes, avocados and eccentric inhabitants, is like no other place and will always be in my soul."

Yes, she sounds like Katharine Hepburn stiffly reading from a script, but this is mediocre writing from an actress, not claiming to be anything but the host of a website that "nourish[es]what is real." And what is real to her is travelling, reading, shopping, being a mother, being active and so on: In other words, she is like a lot of women her age, whether they wish she was a morbidly obese enema junkie or not.

Her friends are enlisted to share ideas in each section, and while it has been viewed as risible that she calls Madonna and Christy Turlington "literary-minded," her book selections this week are not of the Eckhart Tolle and Sophie Kinsella variety, but eclectic, sombre choices, including work by Zora Neale Hurston, Leo Tolstoy, Jhumpa Lahiri and David Wroblewski.

Her thoughts on fashion are as good as anything I have seen in any magazine - better, in truth, as she is a genuine style paragon. Her other musings inspire, as well, that certain, indescribable impulse that moves women's magazines - the impulse to buy, the impulse to change, the impulse to get a whole bunch of goop, I suppose.

Gwyneth Paltrow, daughter of filmmaker Bruce Paltrow and actress Blythe Danner, emerged in the public eye in the early 1990s as Brad Pitt's girlfriend, one in a succession of wafer-thin, slim-hipped and sexually ambiguous women who recall Ava Gardner's summation of Frank Sinatra marrying the young androgyne Mia Farrow: "I always knew Frank would wind up in bed with a boy."

Paltrow quickly distinguished herself as a fine actress, whose somewhat adenoidal voice and slight lisp make this American, oddly, better suited for English roles.

Her career has been fallow for some time, and she has lately been most famous for looking good, having babies with her musician husband, Coldplay's Chris Martin, and living in London among their strange, sexy and aloof beau monde.

GOOP may only nourish that aspect of us that wants to know more about what this star wears and where she goes, now that she is coming back big, but what else could we possibly want? Besides, that is, a Chanel minidress, Giuseppe Zanotti heels and Alice + Olivia tights (featured in this week's Get), a trip to New York (in Go) and a platter of oysters (in Make) to nourish our real desire for beauty, served up by and like a tall drink of water.

lcrosbie@globeandmail.com

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