Let me say right off the bat that I really used to like Gwyneth Paltrow as an actress, and she seems like a perfectly nice person as well. I’ve never heard a bad thing about her from the few people I know who have enjoyed an interpersonal relationship with her. Gwyneth seems familiar to me; she’s someone who might be a cousin of mine, if I had cousins. Sadly or fortunately, both of my parents were only children.
Gwyneth is the right kind of WASPy, you know, not the lockjawed Newport Great Gatsby manqué kind, but the down-to-earth, Yankee, descendant-of-Cotton Mather kind, who knows how to clip a coupon even though there’s a hundred million in the bank, who appreciates a well-waxed pew. In other words, the kind we like, who inform our work with their realness and quirkiness, not the kind we feel like pushing over the porch after four scotch and sodas because they sound like an un-oiled screen door opening and shutting incessantly and are blighted with equine humor.
Gwyneth seems to be struggling these days, trying to regain a foothold in a business she once ruled over with confidence side by side with the likes of Matt Damon, who seems ready to have a constellation named after him, and her ex Ben Affleck, who is doing pretty well as a director of Boston versions of The Wire, which somehow end up on the big screen rather than where they belong.
For your consideration, I draw your attention to Gwyneth’s recent forays onto our screens, big and small. I could never see Country Strong, not even if it were the last thing left to download on Vuze, but she apparently sang not one but five songs on it, a sample of which we were treated to at the Oscars. She also sang three or four songs on a recent episode of Glee, and signed a deal last week for a reported $900,000 with Atlantic Records, which in this day and age is nothing short of astounding even for Chris Martin’s wife.
As mentioned in a previous post about Glee, I know nothing about music, especially most of the music sung on that show, but it would appear to me that Gwyneth’s voice is about as flat and characterless as her hair. Maybe I’m being unkind, and from a Sigur Roos, Nordic point-of-view her voice has the deep hues and coloratura of Maria Callas. All I know is that during her performances at the Oscars and Glee, I was more focused on a World Series tournament of Blackberry poker I was battling than I was on the screen.
What is Gwyneth doing exactly with this music career? Chris Martin’s hand must be behind this in some way. Or maybe even her purported rivalry with former bff Madonna has made her lose the plot entirely and try to dominate country music the way Madonna has with pop. I dunno. I can’t even keep up with my own gossip much less with celebrities. For all I know she is now estranged from Chris and reconciled with Madge.
What has always baffled me is that very friendship with Madonna. Not just me, but the people I know who know her have been puzzled by it; it’s always somewhere in every social conversation about her, as if the honor student we were constantly held up to as an example suddenly ran away to Vegas and became a junkie hooker. Gwyneth and Madonna are seemingly so incongruous. Opposites attract?
For people like me who grew up in one of the more ancient European cultures, Italy, calling yourself Madonna is a problematic thing. It’s a name that hobbles you from the first handshake. Forget the Catholic implications, which are as much a part of the brick and mortar of Italian society as Hinduism is to India, but the word ‘Madonna’ figures in a number of invectives, the most notable of which is porca la Madonna, or ‘Madonna the pig.’ Because of its high blasphemy, this is the very worst thing you can say as a kid in Italy. The third issue is an unfortunately snobby one. As a childhood friend of mine from Rome once summed up the Italian attitude to Madonna, which informed my own: “She looks like the maid.”
Gwyneth is so blond she should have been named Heather. I’m sure Gwyneth’s mom, Blythe Danner, took one look at her daughter and knew the name had to be Heather, no choice in the matter, but, being Welsh-named herself, she decided to be adventurous and compromise with the Welsh word for “white.” Indeed, Gwyneth is very, very white. Too white for Glee, but not too white for country music, which is why this move of hers into that niche might not be such a bad idea in the long run.
Gwyneth herself has remarked on the downturn of her movie career. I blame the relationship with Chris Martin and the move to London. We were in London at more or less the same time in the mid-Naughties. It’s a great place, I regret the circumstances that forced me to move, but you do fall into this Harry Potter parallel universe and as a consequence way off the Hollywood/New York map. Worst of all for your career, you don’t care. The London reality is so complete, and so completely more satisfying than anything America has to offer, both on a creative level and on a social and cultural level, that if you never went back to the States you wouldn’t mind. Yes, she does have the legit excuse of having had two kids, and apparently did it without a nanny, which I find hard to believe, but she is that type after all: white and whole wheat at the same time.
Coldplay’s music reminds me of the end of a bad relationship, in which I invested too much time and emotion; like a Latin American bank after a run on it following the economy’s collapse, I feel drained and wasted. Between the childbirth hormones and living in that enervating Chris Martin-wailing environment, I think Gwyneth lost the plot, and thus a grip on her career. She blames it on being a female actress of early middle-age. I say go speak to your fellow Oscar winner, Meryl Streep.
I imagine the conversation between Blythe and Gwyneth — just writing those two names together made me feel like I was penning the sequel to Mists of Avalon — after Gwyneth announces her departure for London and the torpedoing of her career.
Blythe: “You can always have a nanny on the set, darling.”
Gwyneth: “Studio nannies are gross, mom, you of all people should know that.”
Blythe: “Why? Look at you! You turned out great.”
Gwyneth: “That’s what I mean. I don’t want Apple and Moses to have my childhood.”
Blythe: “What are you trying to say?”
Blythe: “No, go on, spit it out. I was a terrible mother, is that what you’re saying?”
Gwyneth: “Maybe just a little absent sometimes.”
Blythe: “Now you listen here, missy. Your father and I gave you everything…”
Gwyneth: “I don’t want my kids raised in a star trailer by some Eve Harrington. Period. And you know what I mean by that, let’s not dig up old dirt.”
Blythe: “Indeed! Why not while we’re at it? You feel you were raised by Eve Harringtons? Well, how would you feel giving birth to one like I did?”
Blythe: “Don’t give me those doe eyes, save them for the Academy. You know what I mean. I am by far the more accomplished, believable, complex actress, but I’ve never even been nominated for an Oscar much less won one. And now you want to go and throw it all away without a nanny in London, of all places! Nanny Central!”
Etcetera. Silly, I know. But that’s the way it would play out in my family.
In the real news, the brave country of France, which gave us Freedom Fries, is the only G-8 to have officially recognized the rebels of Libya, but that will do little to help the cause unless everyone else mucks in, and it looks like we might not. Our Fearful Leadership was waiting for the Arab League to agree on establishing a no-flight zone, but even after that resolution was passed we still couldn’t agree on it. In the middle of this, the tsunami-earthquake-nuclear meltdown happened, so now we’ve thrown the decision to that cesspool of moral dubiousness, the United Nations, which “hopes to have a decision by the end of the week.” Which means they hope the problem will go away and tyranny will once again reign in Libya.
The French Foreign Minister, Alain Juppé had this to say:
“Qaddafi is scoring points. We have perhaps missed a chance to re-establish the balance. If we had used military force last week to neutralize some airstrips and the several dozen planes that they have, perhaps the reversal taking place to the detriment of the opposition wouldn’t have happened.”
The rebels aren’t vanquished, yet, but they are hanging by a thread. Lest we fail to understand the historic significance of what is going on, it pays to remember a time two hundred and thirty-five years ago, when the French backed another rebellion against a mad tyrant, George III, who was so crazy he peed blue. Yes, it was entirely politically motivated: the French wanted us to fight their enemies, the British, on their behalf, to cut off a source of vast wealth for the Crown. But on the face of it, the move was idealistic as well. Democracy should prevail in all circumstances, no matter how I feel about the operation of the democratic system in the US (that’s for another tirade).
What is happening with the tsunami and the nuclear disaster is horrific, hard to look at. But we cannot keep our eyes off the Arab revolution. I’m waging there will be very little rise in fundamentalism in a Facebook world once the Pan-Arab Revolution is over; we should back it with all of our might. Our future security depends on the eradication of these dictatorships and monarchies that we have hitherto supported, actions which have subverted our moral integrity in the eyes of a world that used to look up to us. Now is the chance for us to pay the French favor forward to another oppressed people, and thereby redeem ourselves at least partially for all the wrong we have done.