In today's post I will defend the honor of Gwyneth Paltrow. This week she got some heat for saying in an interview for Popeater that "Everything in my life that's good is because I worked my ass off to get it and to maintain it."

Who has a problem with that? An ambitious writer named Keli Goff does. In a lengthy article in The Huffington Post she accuses Gwyneth of "gloating" and says this is part of the bigger problem of an "attitude of entitlement" by those born rich and advantaged. The Huffington Post thought Goff's point of view was worthy of a lot of real estate online. And because the story involves a celebrity, it got picked up by other sites and bounced all over the Internet.

As my regular readers know, I recently learned that there is an unwritten rule to the effect that celebrities should not defend themselves in the media, even against unfair, false, libelous, and career-ending claims. If a celebrity is foolish enough to try, it is seen as "digging deeper." The media likes to keep a controversy alive, so anything said in defense will be taken out of context and it will indeed make things worse. Gwyneth just found this out too. Her statement that she works hard was in the context of answering a question about the nasty criticism she's been getting lately. She did in fact dig herself deeper. And if she takes another run at it, things will only get worse.

Luckily, for Gwyneth, I'm here to help. I bring to this fight one major advantage: I am not Gwyneth Paltrow. Nor do I have any connection to her. And I hereby offer my Internet Reputation Defense services to any other celebrity who gets the hatchet treatment from the lower rung of the media. Gwyneth will be my first case. If she still has a career when I'm done helping her, I hope to get more non-paying clients.

Let's start with some background that you need to understand about the writing industry. It's a hard field to break into. Newspapers are struggling. Magazines are shrinking. Publishers would rather sell a poorly written book from a well-known author than a masterpiece from someone new. The Internet is so vast that it's hard to get noticed. What's an ambitious writer to do?

If you're both ambitious and unscrupulous, there's a simple formula for getting attention. It goes like this:

1.       Pick a hot social theme that's on everyone's mind.

2.       Find a celebrity to tie to the theme.

3.       Take the celebrity's words out of context to link him/her to the larger theme.

4.       Write some celebrity career-snuff-porn disguised as social commentary.

5.       Offer your piece for free to The Huffington Post or other blogger-friendly sites.

6.       Use the exposure to puff up your credentials.

You could call this writing technique "putting a face on an issue." Let's see how Keli Goff did it. You can start by looking at her background  on her web site. She's evidently talented and has had some success.  Someday she might be a household name. But at this point in her career she needs to fatten up her credentials to take the next leap.

To start, she needed a hot social theme to plug into the formula. In this case she cleverly picked class friction between the rich and the poor. The budget debate has put a spotlight on that issue. It's the perfect theme for the times. Now she needs to put a face on it. But who?

The obvious choice might be a fat cat billionaire. But most of them are not interesting enough to bring sparkle to a story. Worse yet, billionaires might have the means and the meanness to retaliate. If you're a writer just starting out, you don't want to piss off someone who golfs with publishing tycoons. That's burning your bridges before you even cross them.

Then Goff's radar picked up Gwyneth's interview for Popeater. It wasn't a perfect fit, but with some creative writing, Goff realized this could work. For step one, Goff equated Gwyneth's quote about working hard to "gloating." If you read it quickly, as most people will, you don't notice this sleight of hand. You're predisposed to think celebrities have oversized egos and surely must gloat, so you don't notice that the evidence doesn't match the conclusion. It's not even close. In your wildest imagination, speaking of your own hard work is not similar to gloating. But Goff somehow connects those dots.

Now that Goff has established Gwyneth as a damned gloater, any other charge against her is likely to stick. The reader has been primed. Is Gwyneth also a serial puppy choker? It would seem likely, given her gloating ways.

Next, it's time for Goff to manage the context in a way that makes her case more compelling. Goff notes that Gwyneth credits her work ethic for her success as if it didn't matter that she had famous Hollywood parents and her "uncle" is Steven Spielberg. To Goff, that means Gwyneth is "...under the delusion that she earned everything that she has..." Ouch.

Here's some context that Goff could have mentioned: When people talk, they normally leave out the obvious. If people didn't leave out the obvious, no conversation would ever end. In addition to Gwyneth leaving out the part about her well-known past, she also failed to mention that she's beautiful and talented. She didn't even mention that she is alive, which is totally an advantage. I can think of quite a few advantages Gwyneth didn't mention. Does that mean she's not aware of them? I'm almost positive she knows who Steven Spielberg is. Her background is known by anyone who might read an interview on Popeater. In that context, leaving it out makes sense. When Goff moves the context to the Huffington Post, where readers are far less likely to know celebrity minutia, it looks like a grievous omission.

It's worth noting, in the interest of context, that Goff was born with a few advantages herself. She's beautiful, smart, and apparently had the resources she needed to make it through NYU and go on to get her Master's Degree at Columbia University.  If you ask Goff what made her successful, would she credit her hard work and leave out her other obvious advantages? Or would she answer honestly and say, "I worked hard for what I've achieved, but it didn't hurt that I'm a brilliant, smoking-hot African-American woman in 2011." I'm just saying that people don't generally talk about their advantages. To do so would be...wait for it...gloating.

We demand that our celebrities be role models. Isn't it better if they say in interviews that hard work is the main key to success? Or would we be happier with Gwyneth if she said something more along the lines of "Honestly, if I didn't have connections I'd be a crack whore right now."

Here's some more context: What percentage of well-connected children of Hollywood power couples go on to win Academy Awards and then transition into music careers without hard work? I can think of a dozen or so kids of famous actors who went on to do great things, but don't 95% of them fail to reach the standard of their famous parents? Hard work probably counts for something.

I think Keli Goff has a bright future ahead of her. I just hope she stops saying that children should not work hard to get ahead. (See what I did right there?)
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May 5, 2011
ok knuckleheads, you're not getting it. Ms Goop starts out as a hollywood/nyc brat with major connections and she works it. did I hear competitive spirit anyone? hollywood politics land her an oscar which she didn't deserve - look at her competition that year, makes you weep! motherhood arrives which is way more satisfying to our miss p, but not wanting to give up the spotlight and the $, she maneouvers herself (and you dear public into buying it) into a lifestyle princess on track to become lifestyle queen. yep, she's gonna build a lifestyle $empire. you heard it here first. and the more we yack about her, the more press she receives. it's all about the $. she hasn't done any real acting since the oscar. a pleasant singing voice but not a real singer. the girl can't really move inspite of the workouts. BUT she can control her image and sell a lifestyle. amen!
May 2, 2011
I learned physics from a book written by the father of Joan Baez. Paul Newman and many other famous celebrities had kids who were nothing but trouble and met an early demise. For every successful progeny of successful parents there are probably 100's of successful children of mailmen, roofers, etc. There's just not that much correlation with a single factor.
Apr 30, 2011
Congratulations, Scott, it seems you're a racist:
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 26, 2011
I see people trying to say this article is "racist", or "poor-rich", or any other kind of labels.
I do not see it that way.
Why people should apply labels that quick just because one of the persons in the article has one skin color and another has another one, or because one person was born rich while the other was not.
It's like people is desperately looking for "racist", "poor-rich", etc. hints everywhere. Come on guys! Stop that attitude. If you were living here in Guatemala (where I live) I am very sure you would very quickly find labels according to our culture rather than seeing the events or ideas on their proper perspective.
Apr 26, 2011
I totally agree with @gr8hands
Apr 24, 2011
ps i do not find her that attractive or hot
+4 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 24, 2011
I have been in N.Y. and i have been in L.A., a lot , and if you dont think that having superstar parents and relatives is not a gigantic advantage, you are very naive, and or duplicitous.
this is not to say any particular actor has not worked hard, but for every one that is successful there are 100 that are just as good or better. so, just like professional ball players trying to get drafted, those who have the just right combination s at just the right time(including influential relatives or organizations) get the spot and those who are just as good but dont have just the right combinations dont. We all know that some people that are qualified dont even get in the door.
and from what I have seen coming out of hollywood one of the right combinations is a white skin
Apr 22, 2011
Mr. Adams, I appreciate that you're well-spoken and intelligent. Unfortunately, your argument is offensive. Really, any black (or any person: I don't believe there's a racial motivation) who criticizes rich whites is ambitious and unscrupulous, "cleverly" picking a "hot social theme" to "fatten up" their credentials and "take the next leap" to internet success? Couldn't they just be pissed off by someone's repeated, idiotic comments?

Plus, your logic doesn't hold water. I appreciate the fact Gwyneth doesn't gloat. But she shouldn't claim, as the saying goes, that she hit a home run after being born on third base.

[You did a good job discrediting the argument that has apparently been made by the imaginary person in your head. If you would like to comment on the viewpoints of any corporeal beings, that would be welcome. -- Scott]
-18 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 22, 2011
I think Goff actually did mean for people to be mad at Paltrow for working hard. Working hard is a challenge and an unforgivable affront to the monobuttockal masses who are unable to apply themselves seriously to anything.
-16 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 22, 2011
Scott, you didn't mention Miss Goff's pandering to the inherent Bush hatred over at HP (don't poke me, I don't like him either, but that's unimportant) by implicitly equating Miss Paltrow with him.

It's really a cheap shot, and it makes me wonder how Miss Goff feels now that she has joined the likes of Rivera and O'Reilly in the smarm market.
Apr 22, 2011
As a fan of #15(UF and Broncos) my guess is that she did not "Thank God." I a liberal progressive and hard core believer am also a fan of free speech....
Apr 22, 2011
Well, for the record, I didn't know Paltrow was the child of a stars or related to Spielberg. On the other hand I never heard of this silly controversy either.

So many important issues of the day and Huff Post makes a sensation out of ....Paltrow's lack of humility. Why, because its the only issue that will garner enough comments. The readers enjoy what they publish, the HP isn't anymore evil than the readers who read it. Its just a business, using a business model that works.

Apr 22, 2011
I saw Gweneth Paltrow interviewed on PBS a few years ago. She said something like, "There's always interest to see how the children of famous parents turn out. When I was getting started, that got me some meetings..." You can watch the whole interview

Many people attribute their success to their hard work and other's successes to good luck. I was impressed that she recognized both in her life. (Or maybe I was just impressed because I'd seen a lot of her in Shakespeare In Love.)
Apr 22, 2011
i love it. i just checked and the entire blogosphere is enraged. one good comment was that putting a monkey on GW wasnt racist because GW wasnt black. nevermind the fact that humanity in general evolved from a similar path, regardless of color. all the people i read that disparage you seem to be focusing on the things that keep racism and bigotry alive (all of the Differences). if you dont want racism, dont think about race, etc. and to go a little on the edge here, most people who dont have anything feel like it isnt their fault. BS. i was born into dirt poor family with no education. my parents didnt graduate high school. i didnt let that stop me. i studied, joined the military for the GI Bill, and graduated college.

there is a way to get where you want from here, walk.
Apr 22, 2011
Nice try, Scott.
Apr 21, 2011
I'm loving the "media is an amplifier for stupidity theme" you got going on. It's !$%*!$%*!$ for me. Keep it up.

One of my buddies in politics explained it best when he said "the electorate is no deeper than a headline."
Apr 21, 2011
Paltrow's "everything," not her "anything." Where the heck is that "edit" button?
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 21, 2011

I think that you and the author are taking Paltrow's "anything" a little too far. I could be wrong, but I seriously doubt that was what she was saying. We all make statements like that from time to time when we feel that we need not state the obvious that we all benefit from !$%*!$%*!$%*! time and time again. Just because somebody says, "I've worked hard for everything that I have," that doesn't mean that they are implying that they were abandoned at birth and dumped out of a plane flying over the african plains forcing them to fend off lions and hyenas as a toddler.
Apr 21, 2011
This blog needs an "edit" button. Darn weed and lack of sleep.
Apr 21, 2011
When Scott pointed out Goff's "sleight of hand" in equating working hard to gloating, it reminded me of an article I read long ago by Tom Wolfe, attacking an essay by an art critic. The art critic's essay began, "Art is intellectual." Then it continued on, dealing with implications of that premise. Wolfe said if you want to slip something by a reader, assert it as a very short statement of fact. Don't say, for example, "No one can dispute that art is intellectual." That will raise something of a red flag in the reader's mind, causing him to think about whether or not the statement is true.

Goff seems to have learned the lesson well.
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