“I Wish You Well”: the curious case of Gwyneth Paltrow’s parting shot
As far as Gwyneth Paltrow fandom goes? Depends on the day. Or, really, the decade. Like almost every other basic millennial who counts scrolling through, liking and sharing nostalgic Instagram posts as a valuable use of their time, ‘90s and early ‘00s Gwyneth has, undeniably, a certain je ne sais quoi.
This was pre-‘wellness’, making candles that smelled like a vagina and taking credit for popularising yoga. No sir-y, these were her rebel years – you could argue, accidently so, such is the DNA of cool. Making her mark in movietopia as the ambitious, cross-dressing, Viola in Shakespeare in Love (winning her an Oscar) and (the wildly underrated but, nevertheless, sweetly charming) Sliding Doors to the morose Margot Tenenbaum in Wes Anderson’s cult hit film The Royal Tenenbaums (a character who almost definitely, for better or worse, influenced an entire generation of girls to wear more eyeliner, smile less and buy faux fur coats, long before the Indie Sleaze masses co-opted the aesthetic). Embracing seductive scarlet velvet suiting from Tom Ford, that still holds up in the Fashion Hall of Fame, and grungy leather jackets. Consciously coupled with Hollywood ‘bad’ boys and a pack of Marlboro lights. Simpler times: what I hereby archive as The UnGoop-ified Golden Age of Gwyneth.
On the flip side, of course, there’s no denying that in more recent years it feels like whatever the actress-come-wellness-mogul says publicly now will spark some kind of internet meltdown. Like when she once shared: “I would rather smoke crack than eat cheese from a tin.” Or told a journalist: “I am who I am. I can’t pretend to be somebody who makes $25,000 a year.” OK yes – written down you might think, why say that? Poor taste, Paltrow. But the thing is, and not to play Devil’s Advocate here but, she’s, er, not wrong. She was one of the highest paid Hollywood actresses in the world. She has a point. Even if that point errs on the side of perceptively obnoxious.
Her words, polarizing as they can be, I think have layered meaning. It’s what makes them so delicious to dissect. Sometimes shocking. What is she saying, really? Did she mean to say that? Does she regret saying what she said? It’s what makes them so divisive; so, dare I say, oddly refreshing at times to hear – even if we clearly disagree with the sentiment itself – from a celebrity in the eye of the cancel culture storm today. Essentially, this is someone who just, quite frankly, does not give a s**t. I’ll say what I want, your response and interpretation is not my responsibility.
Her words, polarizing as they can be, I think have layered meaning. It’s what makes them so delicious to dissect
The guessing game reared its head yet again this week. During Thursday’s grand finale of what will, surely, go down as one of the most memorable and meme-able celebrity trials of the year. In case you missed it: between Gwyneth and a retired optometrist Terry Sanderson, the latter suing her over a ski collision in Utah that occurred over seven years ago. He claimed it left him with permanent brain damage, which she denied, and accused Sanderson of crashing into her, resulting in her losing “half a day of skiing.”
Upon receiving the verdict, finding her not liable, she delivered the most iconic, steeliest, of parting shots. Four simple words. Whispered to her accuser as she left the courtroom…I wish you well.
It’s the new “f**k” you, softcore style. Swearing without swearing at all
Sanderson’s response was that it was “very kind” of her. Though, social media responses detect a rather different hidden subtext. One twitter user wrote: “Gwyneth Paltrow whispering ‘I wish you well’ to the guy who sued her and lost is pure troll behaviour, iconic”, another commenting “Ice.Cold.”
Whatever your reading, it’s fair to say this brief could-be-put-down has unbelievable power. It’s the new “f**k” you, softcore style. Swearing without swearing at all. A kind of dressed up, smarter, passive aggression. Without the inevitable pettiness that comes with simply hurling insults across a room. Something that can easily shut down a disagreement or, say, an ex boyfriend that wants to hang out with you but not actually be with you. The receiver is then left baffled and confused because, well, technically speaking you’re not actually saying anything wrong, and yet…
Of course, looking ahead, folks are now forecasting an “I Wish You Well” Goop candle. Honestly, I’d buy it. So sue me.