Sometimes the truth hurts -- especially when it's an embarrassing truth and someone calls you out on it in public. Gwyneth Paltrow, whose image, particularly in cyberspace, has taken quite a drubbing in the last year or two, recently called out her critics (or anyone who doesn't appear to be her biggest fan) with her version of truth telling.In an interview with Popeater, Paltrow addressed just why she believes she has so many critics by saying:
"I think my work ethic is the reason why I'm successful. I think that a lot of people don't want to put in effort and it's easier to not change, not do something good for you... [They're just] pissed off at someone else doing that. Everything in my life that's good is because I worked my ass off to get it and to maintain it."
Who can argue with that logic?
Actually allow me to do just that.
Let me start by saying that I happen to be someone who does not hate Gwyneth Paltrow or "GOOP" (whatever that is). I think she's pretty and talented, and on a side note her Oscar gown this year happened to be one of my favorites, but this interview finally made me understand why she engenders such enmity among so many. It's not because she's pretty and talented (okay, that may be part of it). It's because, like a lot of privileged people, she's under the delusion that she earned everything that she has, and then has the audacity to gloat about it.
In an age in which America's class-divide is greater than it's ever been, our patience has simply waned for the George W. Bushes and Gwyneth Paltrows of the world -- people who were born on third base and act like they hit a triple. America was founded on the idea that everyone has equal opportunity to carve out their piece of the American Dream, but increasingly that's becoming less and less of a reality. And there's something infuriating about listening to people born into the Dream -- silver rattle in one hand, silver spoon in the other -- lecture the rest of us on how easy it is to obtain -- if we're just willing to "work our asses off" like they do.
As I noted on The Dylan Ratigan Show, Gwyneth, for instance, was born to Hollywood royalty. Her father Bruce was one of television's most legendary directors of shows like St. Elsewhere and her mother is the acclaimed actress Blythe Danner. I've heard nothing but great things about her family -- a rarity in Hollywood -- and I think it's wonderful that she was so fortunate to have that. But when you credit landing one of your first film roles to "your Uncle Steven," as in Steven Spielberg, who directed a young Gwyneth in Hook, you have officially relinquished the right to say that "Everything in my life that's good is because I worked my ass off to get it."
Now I'm not going to spend this entire post whining about nepotism. It has been a fact of life as long as there's been civilization. (After all, what is a monarchy except formalized, societal nepotism?) But I am going to whine, for a moment, about how ubiquitous it seems to have become recently -- not just nepotism, but the attitude of entitlement among some who have benefited from it.
It seems like there used to be an unspoken pact between those who were born into privilege and the rest of us to keep all out class warfare from breaking out. They would quietly go about spending their money in respectable, socially beneficial ways -- philanthropies and such -- and we wouldn't publicly point out that the only way they got their job, record deal, book deal, political appointment etc. was because of the last name of their parent or their spouse. But not only have people begun riding their families' coattails more publicly (Donald Trump, Paris Hilton, Tori Spelling, Ben Quayle, Megan McCain, George W. Bush, Jenna Bush, Ms. Paltrow, the list goes on), but it's become par for the course for these same people to dismiss allegations of nepotism out of turn, which would be funny if most people weren't too busy trying to figure out how to pay for college to laugh.
No one likes to discuss inherited privilege because it goes against the very idea of what America stands for, but it dominates every corridor of power in our country. Countless elected officials have benefited from being born into politically connected families (click here to see a list.) But you'll never hear John McCain say, "Of course my life is a little easier than most Americans' because I was born white and male into a powerful family and then married rich, which means my kids are going to have pretty awesome lives too." Similarly despite not being an exceptional student, former President George W. Bush magically gained entrance to Yale University and Harvard Business School, in part on the strength of his family pedigree. The irony? He opposed affirmative action programs, deeming them unfair.
So what does all of this have to do with our politics? Well if your last name is Bush (or McCain or Kennedy for that matter) you don't need affirmative action programs, or Pell grants for college or an extension of unemployment benefits if you find yourself out of work, and your kids won't either. Why? Because you had the privilege of being born into privilege. And this is ultimately the issue. People should not be punished for being privileged. They can't help that anymore than the rest of us can help NOT being born into privilege. But it would be nice if they would extend the rest of us the courtesy of acknowledging their privilege, and not simply pretend that their success is built solely on a combination of hard work and chutzpah. But it seems like increasingly all we get to hear -- from members of Congress and now Ms. Paltrow -- is that if we're just a bit more disciplined and willing to work a little bit harder, we can achieve the same Dream as the privileged classes.
Of course that is certainly possible. Oprah Winfrey is living proof of that. But I wonder how much faster Oprah may have become Oprah if her last name were Paltrow or Bush, instead of Winfrey.
So maybe Gwyneth is on to something. Maybe we all are just a teensy-weensy bit jealous of her and her life. Why wouldn't we be? Her life is pretty great and she didn't have to work as hard as the rest of us to earn hers. Instead of bragging about the terrific homerun that she hit, perhaps she should just say "I can't help it that I was born on 3rd but I ran as fast as I could and played as hard as I could, to win the game and now I'm doing what I can to help others who weren't born with a silver bat."
This piece originally appeared on TheLoop21.com for which Goff is a Contributing Editor.