Gwyneth Paltrow verdict: Why she divides, and fascinates
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Retired optometrist Terry Sanderson’s lawsuit, which alleged that Paltrow failed to be diligent while on the slopes at a lush Utah skiing resort in 2016 and crashed into him, knocking him unconscious and leaving him with serious ongoing neurological issues, was met with a countersuit of Paltrow’s own. Where he sued the star for $300,000, she demanded a $1 settlement in her favour, saying that it was, in fact, Sanderson who ran into her. What followed were eight frankly bizarre days of proceedings, featuring a phalanx of doctors, physicists (yes, really), and a defence attorney who repeatedly complimented Paltrow on her fashion sense and questioned her about her friendship with Taylor Swift. And yesterday afternoon in the courtroom in Park City, Utah, the verdict came through: the jury had unanimously found Mr Sanderson “100%” at fault for the incident, and awarded Ms Paltrow that symbolic $1 amount of damages.

How to explain the sheer level of interest in the case? The rush of media attention around the trial was understandable in and of itself, but Paltrow’s particular style of celebrity, and the way it seemed perfectly attuned to the rarefied case in hand, undoubtedly added its draw.

An avatar of privilege

Perhaps it’s that she has effectively turned into a one-woman brand name: when she launched Goop, for many it became a kind of byword for a particular brand of questionable wellness guru, seemingly aimed at lithe white women with spare time and cash to worry about infrared sauna blankets and “vagina candles”.

As she has evangelised about chakra healing and $75-per-month vitamin supplements, Paltrow’s high-end “yoga mom” spirit has overshadowed her film career. Even her exceptionally trim body, at 50, is another part of the brand: recently, she has spoken about a bone-broth diet which has been widely criticised as “dangerous”. (She subsequently insisted that she has many days of eating “whatever” and “french fries”.)

There is something so absurd about Paltrow’s image that it seems almost to transcend the disdain you might expect to be levelled at her for such flagrant unworldliness. To many, she’s such a caricature of privilege, doing things that are so glossily removed from ordinary life, that she seems to have become a source of amused, even affectionate fascination, hence the amount of memes of her testimony in the witness box that spread around the internet and platforms such as TikTok.

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