In Defense Of Gwyneth Paltrow's New Show, The Restart ProjectAndrea Howe
Gwyneth Paltrow has teamed up with her celebrity trainer, Tracy Anderson, to star in a new web series called The Restart Project. The 10-episode series, which will premiere Monday, December 16th on AOL, will feature the stories of women who have overcome hardship, debilitating injuries and other setbacks, to triumph in the face of adversity. Each episode will feature one women’s story, firsthand, and how she overcame her setback, largely through diet and exercise.
In Gwyneth’s words, “We are inspired by women who have restarted their lives, using health and fitness.”
“There are so many women out there that have stories that are incredible examples for other people,” Anderson said in the video. “They’re not focused on getting into their skinny jeans, they’re focused on healing themselves from the inside out.”
The focus of the web series is to feature women’s stories of adversity, and show how they have pulled themselves up, in order to serve as inspiration for others.
From the brief 60-second trailer, the series will be featuring an amputee who’s climbed Kilimanjaro, a woman who experienced a huge weight loss, a woman zip-lining, and a tearful confession of a woman who is focused on healthy living in order to feel better but not necessarily look better.
My expectation for the show is that it sends a consistent message that whether confronted with emotional tragedy, physical injuries or heartbreaking loss, a life focused on living healthfully can help you overcome many obstacles.
Regardless of the personal road you take to healthful living, I would expect the show to emphasize how a healthy lifestyle can be approachable for a wider audience, because it definitely can be. While the average person cannot devote the time or money that Paltrow may afford, it certainly doesn’t mean health and movement should be sacrificed. Getting outside and moving is essentially free, and new studies show that the difference between a healthier way of eating is just $1.50 a day. My biggest hope for the show is that through each woman’s unique story, they are able to convey a message of approachable healthy living.
Despite not even being aired yet, the series is already taking a hard bashing. From critiques of the designer clothes both Paltrow and Anderson are wearing as well as comments on their physiques, to claims that the duo have all the answers, and are helping these women restart their lives, the criticism seems not only premature but also trite. The show appears to be featuring women who have changed their lives on their own, through health and fitness, not with the help of Paltrow and Anderson. And while the women’s wardrobe labels are up for debate, it seems ridiculous that their clothing should detract from each women’s inspiring story. After all, isn’t it a given that wearing designer clothes is a common part of celebrity life?
While I’ll agree that the show’s biggest hurdle will be making the interactions between Gwyneth and each woman feel genuine and relatable, the bottom line is that the premise of the show shouldn’t really be about Paltrow and Anderson at all, but about the women featured. Call it a publicity ploy to change each of their images, or call it fantasy to try and relate to the average middle-class American women, but at the end of the day Paltrow and Anderson have become somewhat experts in this whole “healthy living way of life” thing, so it doesn’t seem that far-fetched that they would have a genuine interest in this genre of storytelling. While they may not necessarily be able to relate to each of the women featured, it doesn’t mean they can’t appreciate their story. I think any human being can appreciate and sympathize for a person who’s overcome tragedy and beaten the odds. It doesn’t matter what your tax bracket is or how expensive your clothes are, stories of triumph are always important and worth hearing, regardless of who the messenger is, in this case, Paltrow and Anderson.
Beyond that, in this series, Paltrow and Anderson are aiming to promote and encourage women to live healthier lives. They’re not pitting women against each other in some reality show where they compete over who can lose the most weight, nor are they sexualizing women in a modeling competition, or even encouraging women to learn to twerk. Their main objective, and apparent crime, is encouraging women to eat healthfully and get out and move. Is that really so bad? Continuing to harbor resentment over their lifestyles and harp on everything from their clothing to food choices just seems overplayed and redundant. Can’t we just give Gwyneth some slack, just this once? If we can afford some slack for Martha and even Miley, considering their prison time and tacky dance routines, I think we can spare a little for Gwynnie.
Despite of, or because of Gwyneth, I for one am holding out hope that the show will be a great source of inspiration, and that those watching will focus more on the stories of the featured women, and less on the celebrities who happen to be hosting.
You can see the series trailer here, and watch it on AOL beginning Monday December 16th, 2013.