Gwyneth Paltrow versus online haters like Cindy McCain

Hollywood actress and founder of online lifestyle site Gwyneth Paltrow has been receiving some flak for her statements made during a recent tech forum where she was one of the guest speakers. Not that this is the first time she has been the subject of controversy after stating her opinion about something, but this time her comments had caught the attention of folks who, shall we say, take life a little too seriously than her. One of those folks is Cindy McCain, the wife of ex-prisoner of war and Senator John McCain. McCain called Paltrow “a joke” and challenged her to go out on patrol with some soldiers, most probably so the actress could get some perspective in life.

Gwyneth Paltrow: honesty got her in trouble

Gwyneth Paltrow: honesty got her in trouble

To be honest, while I thought it was harmless, I already knew that Paltrow’s statements would attract more hostility and less sympathy because most people will quickly see it simply as a “celebrity complaining about the negative stuff she reads about herself online”. However, in my opinion, I think Paltrow was on to something and I think McCain overreacted to Paltrow’s use of the word “war” in referring to what she goes through with her online haters.

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I suppose being married to a war veteran and having children in the military makes one a bit too jumpy when others use the word “war” to refer to the struggles in their ordinary civilian lives, which is probably why Cindy McCain thought it was her responsibility to speak on behalf of all the men in the military and emphasize the fact that their struggles – what they go through in the trenches – is so much harder than what celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow go through with her battle with online trolls.

Here’s what Paltrow said about her experience with her online haters:

“You come across [online comments] about yourself and about your friends, and it’s a very dehumanizing thing. It’s almost like how, in war, you go through this bloody, dehumanizing thing, and then something is defined out of it,” she said. “My hope is, as we get out of it, we’ll reach the next level of conscience.”

While most of us are grateful for the “sacrifices” the men in the military make so that ordinary folks like us can continue to “enjoy” our lives, I think none of us, including people in the military or those with relatives in the military are in a position to judge how others deal with their struggles in life. We all made choices. Some chose to be in the military and some chose to make movies.

In fact, people in the entertainment industry, at least those who are really talented, have been used in the past to put people’s spirits up in times of crises. During the Great Depression in the 1930s, child star Shirley Temple kept everyone going.

As long as our country has Shirley Temple, we will be all right,” President Roosevelt declared. “When the spirit of the people is lower than at any other time during this Depression, it is a splendid thing that for just 15 cents, an American can go to a movie and look at the smiling face of a baby and forget his troubles.

One cannot compare people’s abilities and their constitutions in life. Some people who are physically tougher than others — those who can withstand being in the battlefield in harsh conditions — can also be affected by what people say online about them. In the same way, the people who are considered beautiful and have the best things in life can also be affected by what people say online about them. It is likely that if someone wrote nasty stuff about the McCains online, they will get affected too and speak about the horrors of online trolls.

Online vitriol can actually wreak havoc on the subject’s mind. Countless of people have committed suicide after being bullied online. In short, online war games is another thing we humans have to struggle with altogether.

Overreacting to honest opinion: Cindy McCain

Overreacting to honest opinion: Cindy McCain

Sure, Gwyneth Paltrow is a highly-paid movie star. Sure, we can say that she has all the money in the world to buy something nice for herself so she can forget about her haters. But the way I see it is this: when she made her feelings known and told the audience how “dehumanizing” it is to read some of the stuff people say about her, she was just being human. I mean, I don’t think there’s anyone who wouldn’t get affected after reading fabricated stories about themselves that their loved ones could stumble upon one day and believe as truth. Even if it doesn’t affect you initially because you know it’s not true, your mother or your children could get upset by it and eventually, it could affect you. Lest we forget, nasty things people say about you stay online for as long as the site exhibiting it is still up.

The Internet is an amazing opportunity, socially. We have this opportunity to mature and learn, which is the essence of being on earth — to being the closest person we can be to our actual, real, truest self,” she said ahead of her surprise appearance at the Code Conference today. “But the Internet also allows us the opportunity to project outward our hatred, our jealousy. It’s culturally acceptable to be an anonymous commenter. It’s culturally acceptable to say, ‘I’m just going to take all of my internal pain and externalize it anonymously.

To those who dismiss Paltrow as just another dumb blonde, I think they are being narrow-minded. In fact, you can say that Paltrow is different from celebrities like Paris Hilton or Kim Kardashian who come across as space cadets. In contrast, those two don’t seem to get affected by what people say about them. I only say this because they don’t seem to care if they become the world’s laughingstock. I guess it’s good for them because they can simply continue to party. The only downside is, they appear uncaring and self-centered. I would rather have Gwyneth Paltrow anytime. Her views are okay. At least she is trying to remind online abusers to think about other people’s feelings before writing their obscenities down. Maybe people like Cindy McCain should join her on the red carpet to get some perspective on what a celebrity’s life is like.

27 Replies to “Gwyneth Paltrow versus online haters like Cindy McCain”

  1. I normally agree with your commentaries but this time around it seems you are just a Gwyneth Paltrow fan. Honestly, yshe is in a position to make the world a better place and she chooses words that are hurtful. No matter the honesty she is not a normal person like you and me. She is definitely not stupid and she knows what she is saying specially I am sure she is surrounded by a bunch of publicist that know what to say, but the reality is that she is a spoiled and definitely disconnected person. She has no concept of what real suffering is or what it really feels to be chastised. She is a classic example of first world problems.

    1. Hello Bee Maeda

      I don’t mind it when people disagree with my views. But I do mind when people assume I am this and that just because my views do not jibe with theirs. Well, I do like wearing skinny jeans just like Gwyneth but it doesn’t mean I am a rabid fan of hers. I do not even go to her website or follow her on twitter. 😉

      Honestly, yshe is in a position to make the world a better place and she chooses words that are hurtful.

      I think you are expecting too much from a celebrity. She’s an actress not a politician. I fail to see which part of what she said was “hurtful”. She didn’t say anything bad about the people in the military and she didn’t belittle their efforts in the war either. All she did was compare her experience with online haters to that of people in the battlefield. Maybe it was a bit exaggerated but who are we to judge how things affect people? It’s no secret that she is going through a divorce with her husband, which could explain why she is in a vulnerable state of mind. She normally ignores her haters.

      The point is, just because celebrities have a lot of money doesn’t mean they should be subjected to online abuse. Sometimes what seems like a no-big-deal situation to us could be a big deal to those who are actually involved in the situation themselves. It’s like when we see young kids making a big deal about kids stuff but we dismiss it as trivial not realising that their young mind can only handle so much of the world around them.

      1. “I think you are expecting too much from a celebrity.”

        Doesn’t that now ‘dismiss Paltrow as just another dumb blonde?’ I thought we’d already agreed that precisely because of her popularity, Gwyneth Paltrow has a platform on which she can expound on issues, however profound or inane. And that because of her celebrity, she is in a unique position, rightly or wrongly, to shape public opinion. Can’t have it both ways.

        As you say — let’s put it in context.

        The fact is that it wasn’t too long ago when US combat troops were routinely expected to take part in parades; when soldiers were PROUD to wear uniforms off post and when that wearing a uniform was sufficient for free entry into a movie theatre or the New York Museum of Modern Art or the New York Ballet and the MET.

        To-day, the US military, Americans who support them, and even those who study war, are held in a great deal of contempt. Society’s so-called ‘intellectuals’ despise soldiers. Many of the ivy league universities delight in mocking uniforms. This last one is ironic considering quite a number of these institutions were endowed by land grants and were founded in the expectation that their graduates would become the core of officers serving in the various state militias.

        Nor is this limited to the university. Popular culture — reflected in and heavily influenced by Hollywood — regards the profession of arms and the study of military arts as either an anachronism or a joke, an object of contempt and derision. There is a palpable sense that the current US administration, the media and the public in general, have a low esteem for the military.

        Enter Cindy McCain. Wife of presidential candidate John McCain; a man who, before serving in the US Senate, was a POW in Vietnam. Two of her children are in the US military. John IV attends the US Naval Academy. James is a marine stationed in Iraq. The McCain family has a tradition of public service as well as military service. In 1988, Cindy McCain founded the American Voluntary Medical Team (AVMT) — a non-profit organization that organised trips for doctors, nurses and other medical personnel to provide MASH-like emergency medical care to disaster-struck or war-torn third-world areas such as Micronesia, Vietnam (before relations were normalised between them and the US), Kuwait (arriving five days after the conclusion of the Gulf War), Zaire (to help refugees from the Rwandan genocide), Iraq, Nicaragua, India, Bangladesh and El Salvador. She led 55 of these missions over the next seven years.

        If anyone is qualified to expound on the experience of serving in the military during wartime, the tremendous sacrifices they make, the effects this may have on soldiers’ families, and the devastating effects of war on civilians, Cindy McCain and her family certainly fall into that category. And yet, the McCains scrupulously avoid drawing attention to either their family’s tradition of military service or their sons’ current active status in the Navy and/or Marines, preferring instead to keep that aspect of their lives out of the limelight.

        Considering the disrespect with which the industry Ms Paltrow is a member of has depicted the military, it isn’t surprising that someone who is proud of their military heritage would take offence at a seemingly dismissive, offhand remark — comparing the effects of rude, even vicious commentary posted anonymously online to the physical and psychological trauma soldiers and their families experience in war — that reduces the men and women in America’s armed forces to nothing more than participants in some online role-playing game. They’ve become less real, less tangible; like shouting matches on Twitter and Facebook.

        Ms Paltrow does not deserve to be excoriated by faceless ‘trolls’ online, but this simply cannot compare with all the military give up for their country. It is a disservice, especially to the generation that is currently fighting two wars for an American public that quickly lost the will to either win them or end them.

    1. @neil tristan yabut

      So she shares her lifestyle with the rest of the public and her lifestyle happens to include hiring a Pilates trainer for an hour at an average cost of a Chinese factory worker’s annual salary and you have a problem with that? Gees…I think it is time for you to accept that life is not fair. No need to hate privileged people.

      Of course she is not dumb. She just turned her lifestyle blog into a multi-million dollar business. That says a lot about her capacity to see something the average person cannot.

  2. Do you really think only politicians can make a difference in the world? That may be the most naive counter i’ve ever heard. But ok, fair enough that you think that way. I think she can make a difference because she can be a role model to a lot of people. If what I say can command as much attention as she gets I honestly think I can make a difference in the world. My 2 cents. With this said, I am not a Gwyneth Paltrow hater nor am I a fan but I believe that comparing negative comments about you on twitter is not remotely close to someone going to war. If you believe this is ok, then I may have misunderstood your beliefs. Again, I normally love your editorials I find that they are aligned with what I believe except for this one.

    1. @Bee Maeda

      I cited politicians because they actually make policies that affect millions of people’s lives. They may not be the only ones who can make a difference in the world but I think expecting celebrities to fight for other people’s causes will just lead you to disappointment.

      Of course celebrities can command more attention than the average person. Isn’t that why Paltrow is in hot water now? However, we can’t expect them to have the same values as the average person. They are fighting their own battle for relevance in the world. Some of us might think that their money can solve everything but most people in the entertainment business are the most insecure lot in the world. So of course she of all people will get affected by negative comments. Their image is part of their business.

      Like I said earlier, the point is, we cannot judge how people react to bullying online. We are all different. Some can handle hate comments well, some can’t. Just to give you an example, I always thought that this regular commenter here was tough enough to handle trolls but unfortunately, when he published his own article, it turns out he couldn’t handle the haters and dissenters. Let’s try and put ourselves in other people’s shoes before we judge them.

      BTW, we can’t always agree on everything. From time to time you will read views from me that you will not agree with. That is a guarantee.

      1. George Clooney is a big example. And YES I am judging so as you by calling Cyndi McCain a Paltrow hater. We are all doing the same thing, lets not try to think we don’t judge at all 🙂 … With this said I believe in people that promote positivity rather than promote negativity. So instead of GP saying the things she says she can do it in a way where its a bit more friendlier. I have friends that died in Iran and still have friends serving in Afghanistan, so YES what she says is offensive no matter how much people want to justify it.

        1. @Bee

          So in what way did Paltrow’s statement disrespected or offended the men who serve/served in the military?

          Of course McCain is a Paltrow hater. She ridiculed her online. She overreacted just like some here.

        2. If you don’t get that it offends me by her comparison then you wont get it. HOW can anyone compare war to a negative comment. If this does not register in your brain then we are in totally different wave length. It is offensive to me because I have friends that serve the military who have been shot, lost limbs and some died. NEGATIVE COMMENTS from fans does not equals being in a war. THAT exact comparison is offensive its like minimizing the effort of what they go through when being in a battle field. IF this is not offensive to you then that is your opinion and I am not here to convince you and you are not here to convince me by writing your commentary as if its ok. IF a majority of people find this offensive they may have reasons that are personal to them, why JUDGE them? IF you don’t want to be judged then don’t judge us because of what we feel is offensive.

          AGAIN, I am OFFENDED. IF you are not that’s your call.

        3. Again, you expect too much from celebrities. You are disappointed in Gwyneth because she doesn’t do what George Clooney does. At least be happy that she doesn’t do drugs and that she seems to be a good mum. In her own way, she is trying to make a better world for her kids.

  3. BTW, I find what she says offensive is my point of view and this specific article seems to justify that its ok to say those things and no one should be offended with the comparison.

    By comparing the negative comments about her to a war is pure and utterly offensive to me and I know to a lot of military people serving in my country have been offended as well.

    This is my last post as I think I have made my point. I believe that as a writer there are certain things you will have to accept that people like me who have been affected personally will read your article as being too outside the realm of what it feels to know someone that died in a war vs someone saying something negative. TO be honest the things said about her are sometimes warranted, she is totally clueless to what it is for normal people like us that live normal lives in the US.

    Thank you for the interesting debate on this issue.

    1. I’m sorry, but you failed to convinced me why her statement offended you.

      TO be honest the things said about her are sometimes warranted, she is totally clueless to what it is for normal people like us that live normal lives in the US.

      I don’t think she forces her views or lifestyle on anyone. Like I said, I am not even a subscriber of her blog. I just watch some of her films. I just wrote this article because I wanted to make a point about bullying online.

  4. To a hammer, everything looks like a nail. To a parent with a son at war, every mention of “war” that catches their ear pulls their consciousness into a dark corner of their psyches within which all other context or interpretation of the word “war” is shut out.

    Gwyneth Paltrow is a perfect target. She’s a famous celebrity that offers a direct contrast to obscure grunts in foxholes. The rewards Paltrow gets for being who she is and doing what she does, does not compute when placed beside the same ratio applied to a soldier in battle. Being angry about those things, whilst quite understandable, will not change anything.

    The United States is a great nation because of both (1) its soldiers and (2) its celebrities.

    We just need to recognise that soldiers are parts of collectives by design and they are specifically trained to regard themselves as so. Celebrities, on the other hand, contribute to society as individuals. And so celebs like Gwyneth wield their influence and behave accordingly on the back of their individual clout — a manner vastly different from soldiering which is neccessarily a collective effort. Wars are won by armies — not individual soldiers. Celebrity, on the other hand, is achieved by individuals.

    No need to be sensitive about that. It’s just the way it is.

    1. Isn’t that a bit simplistic? Like Gwyneth Paltrow, a certain soldier’s relatives may feel oppressed when soldiers are reviled and disparaged. As it was previously pointed out, it doesn’t necessarily mean ALL of them will feel that way. Nor does it mean that all soldiers feel they should be rewarded in equal measure as Ms Paltrow for their service, even if their sacrifice merits it. Most people who have served in the armed forces are more practical and pragmatic than that. They don’t require Jane Fonda to hold their hand to watch a movie that has a firefight in it.

      Likewise, not a lot in the US military are overly concerned that an actress like Gwyneth Paltrow makes millions of dollars with one movie while anonymous ‘grunts’ get by on middle class wages, playing with equipment worth millions of dollars. That issue doesn’t really come up except in idle conversation.

      What soldiers — especially career military — can be sensitive about is when a segment of society not only displays contempt for the military but also dismisses and derides the values they believe in wholeheartedly, that commit them to serve, and, if need be, sacrifice their lives. That ultimately is the root of Cindy McCain’s reaction to Ms Paltrow’s comment that tended to trivialise the military in a time of war.

      No need to be sensitive about Mrs McCain’s tweet. She’s a woman who is proud of her family’s military heritage and their tradition of public service. It’s just the way it is.

      1. @Johnny

        My question is, which part of Gwyneth Paltrow’s statement “displayed contempt for the military”? Which part “dismissed and derides the values they believe wholeheartedly”?

        Paltrow did not discuss the Iraq war. She didn’t discuss any particularly war. It was obvious to me that she just used the word “war” to emphasise the torment she feels when she reads the nasty stuff written about her. I think some people are overreacting to her use of the word.

        Like I said in the article, we all make choices in our lives. Those who joined the military made their choice. They weren’t drafted. Some of them chose to join the Iraq war, a war that in my opinion, was completely unnecessary. There were so many lives lost in that war only because some bureaucrats thought it was a good idea to invade Iraq. But I digress…

        Sorry, but I wasn’t being sensitive about McCain’s tweets. I think she was being a bully herself. It’s funny to see that just because they are in the military she already thinks she has the moral high ground.

        1. Ilda,

          I agree. This isn’t the venue to discuss the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan.

          I think we’re talking over each other’s heads here. My intention was to elaborate on the reasons behind the Paltrow-McCain exchange.

          I didn’t specifically refer to Ms Paltrow as displaying contempt for men and women in uniform, nor did I indicate that she discussed the Iraq war. I said that the INDUSTRY she works in — one that has made her millions — and American society in general, tends to disparage the US military. It portrays the armed forces as caricatures: either incompetent fools or despicable reprobates. For the most part, Hollywood derides any sympathetic portrayal of the military as jingoistic or unintelligent, unless soldiers are cast as dupes, victims of a corrupt bureaucracy.

          I submit that this is the context in which Mrs McCain sent out her tweets. The Paltrow-McCain exchange plays out at a time when public esteem of the profession of arms is at a low ebb. It is a time when the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are, for the American people, no more real than video games. Is it any wonder that they fail to appreciate the sacrifice and commitment of those who serve? Is it any wonder then that in that environment, a member of a military family might feel slighted if a prominent Hollywood personality (such as Gwyneth Paltrow) issues a comment that seems to dismiss their service as fodder for gossip that will be interesting for all of five minutes and then forgotten?

        2. @Johnny Saint

          This isn’t the venue to discuss the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan.

          Actually, since a lot of people were offended by Gwyneth’s statement, it is becoming apparent to me that part of the reason some people become so sensitive when mentioning the word “war” is because of the unjustified wars in recent history. It seems people do not want to highlight the “mistake”.

          I didn’t specifically refer to Ms Paltrow as displaying contempt for men and women in uniform, nor did I indicate that she discussed the Iraq war. I said that the INDUSTRY she works in — one that has made her millions — and American society in general, tends to disparage the US military. It portrays the armed forces as caricatures: either incompetent fools or despicable reprobates. For the most part, Hollywood derides any sympathetic portrayal of the military as jingoistic or unintelligent, unless soldiers are cast as dupes, victims of a corrupt bureaucracy.

          I read your first comment again but you weren’t very clear about who you were referring to when you said “segment of society”. First, I never get the impression that the entertainment industry has been “displaying contempt for the military” and “also dismisses and derides the values they believe in wholeheartedly”. Maybe there has been directors who made films to express their anti-war message in the past but I would have thought their message is directed at the bureaucrats not the soldiers themselves. Let’s not forget that the soldiers just follow orders.

          I really think that people read too much into Gwyneth’s statement. It’s ironic that those who felt offended by her use of the word “war” – those who tell her to “toughen up, princess” are the same people who got offended so easily by a comment made by a celebrity who they think is dumb. In short, if they think she is dumb, why are they making a big deal of her statement? They are more laughable to me.

          People who claim to be “tough guys” need to harden up and learn to ignore statements from celebrities.

  5. Different strokes for different folks … I am not here to convince you on the things I believe are right/wrong. I respect your opinion and if that is how you feel about GP then good for you. I think the view may explain it better than I can about her comments.

    1. @Bee Maeda

      Sorry for the delayed reply. I was busy the whole day.

      Unfortunately, the transcript of the discussion of the girls in The View did not really explain why Gwyneth’s statement is offensive to them. Like I said to Johnny Saint, she didn’t even refer to any particularly war. She used the word to emphasise how hurtful it is for her to read some of the negative comments from the Net. I think some people are blowing this out of proportion.

      Look, I really do not want to argue. I was merely trying to raise another angle to this issue. Don’t forget, this is GRP where we beg to differ. I am not known for jumping on the bandwagon. It’s so easy for people to just go with the popular opinion and crucify Gwyneth without trying to understand where she is coming from.

      1. GP if she is as smart as one may want to believe should know better. I dont know if you know this or not, but in the business she is at they are taught on how to respond to certain questions that are thrown at them. Why do I know this? Because I had to be interviewed once in my career and I was actually coached on how to reply, what to say and what not to say. She could have chosen words that are not as sensational. I mean, I hate Kris Aquino for the reason that she has the Hand and Foot disease. I think its quite similar here. With this said, what she said may not be offensive to you but to people that have known war might think differently thus the reaction. You are far from being attached to the comment made.

        Again, different strokes for different folks, don’t make it like its a bandwagon thing! It is personal for some of us.

        1. @Bee

          I’ll just copy and paste parts of my response to JS:

          I really think that people read too much into Gwyneth’s statement. It’s ironic that those who felt offended by her use of the word “war” – those who tell her to “toughen up, princess” are the same people who got offended so easily by a comment made by a celebrity who they think is dumb. In short, if they think she is dumb, why are they making a big deal of her statement? They are more laughable to me.

          People who claim to be “tough guys” need to harden up and learn to ignore statements from celebrities.

  6. Some people just put too much importance on what other people have to say about things connected to them.

    The thing is, we all have our own lives to live, or make that our own battles to fight. Some might not see your battle the same way with you and hence do not put the same kind of emotions towards it as you.

    Paltrow will never know realities of war the same way that other people will not know the struggles and battles that she has been through (or going through). But it does not make one’s effort any less or more than the other. For all you know, people are speaking the same way towards something which is also a raw nerve to her and is also hurt the same way.

    People should stop highlighting ones struggles as the most difficult because it will still be relative depending on the individual.

    1. @Joeld

      I’m glad you get the point. It’s quite unfair for some to always feel like they are being ridiculed even with the most benign comment from a celebrity.

      1. If she say’s struggling in life is a battle other than war, people might even connect with her. She’s just been misunderstood out of context.

        1. @yup

          Yup. Perhaps it was simply a wrong choice of word. Unfortunately, some people chose to feel “offended” and proceeded to crucify her on social networking sites before understanding where she was coming from. Some folks always feel the need to play the victim card.

    2. It’s like that character in Anchorman II, Jack Lame (Ron Burgundy’s nemesis). He somehow heard Burgundy and his team talking about him clear across an entire office floor filled with office workers then came at them shouting “What was that?? What did you say??!”

      It was hilarious! 😀

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