How many professional advisers do you think Gwyneth Paltrow has? Lawyers, PR specialists, business managers, personal assistants – she will have a small army of people on her payroll whose job it is to give her wise counsel on matters of her business life and public image.
So, we can only assume she overruled them all to end up in a courtroom in Utah, defending herself in an unwinnable case rather than settling out of court for $300,000 (Gwyneth is worth around $200m).
She herself won’t have thought it as unwinnable, of course, and was propelled by a sense of indignation, self-justification and outrage, a not unfamiliar state of affairs when celebrities find themselves dealing with the impediments of the real world (cf Lindsay Lohan, James Corden, Philip Schofield).
But surely someone in her team must have advised her that even if she ended up winning the case, she’d still be a loser.
Let me explain. Ms Paltrow is in court – a projected eight-day hearing with every moment televised – because seven years ago, she was involved in a skiing accident with a retired optometrist, Terry Sanderson, who ended up with broken ribs, and, he claims, brain damage.
Who caused the accident is what is primarily at issue here. Yet as this is essentially a straightforward question of whose word we can trust, and, no matter which way the evidence points, most people seem to have made their minds up about who’s to blame anyway, the focus inevitably shifts to the minutiae.
For instance, the cost of Ms Paltrow’s carefully-curated, expensively-styled courtroom outfit (gold necklaces costing $65,000, Celine handbag worth $1600, etc etc), how much she spent on ski lessons for her four children on that ill-fated week (around £7000. “It’s pretty expensive,” Ms Paltrow said of Deer Valley, the resort in question), and the fact that, after the collision, Ms Paltrow didn’t hang around to see if Mr Sanderson was all right, but skied off to have lunch followed by a massage.
Ms Paltrow should be experienced enough in the ways of the world to know that when the inner machinery of a celebrity’s lifestyle is exposed to public gaze, any sympathy for their cause evaporates. The consumption, the wealth, the privilege, the gilded existence – it never makes a pretty sight, and a courtroom is the harshest environment for such details to be laid bare. She should have had a word with Johnny Depp before she decided to take the stand. And it’s not as if she doesn’t know what public mockery feels like, what with her vagina-scented candles, her rectal ozone therapy and her Paleolithic diet.
That said, I find it hard to have sympathy for either plaintiff or defendant. Skiing, rather like this type of litigation, has always struck me as a rather pointless exercise. It’s brutally expensive (as someone once said, it costs you an arm and a leg to break an arm and a leg), and, as we have seen, potentially dangerous. What’s more, it’s environmentally ruinous. Leave aside the deforestation, the effect on wildlife and the fossil fuels used to power ski lifts, obscene amounts of water are employed to provide artificial snow because the real stuff is in short supply as a result of climate change.
With every day in court that passes, Gwyneth Paltrow’s reputation is going downhill fast. And even if it turns out that she has right on her side, it will be the most Phyrric of victories.