As we try to navigate the various influences that society is exerting on us in order to lead healthy lives as strong, spiritual, noble beings, we will no doubt come across the influences of celebrity culture, especially if we live in North America. This makes the information available in books such as Timothy Caulfield’s book, Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything? When Celebrity Culture and Science Clash, all the more important.
Unfortunately there is a major challenge with this book: the author treats the topic at hand with the same disdain he claims they have for science. How ironic that this disdain makes him at times sound just as unfounded as those he is trying to debunk! Caulfield’s perspective is narrow, based in few scientific reviews and dismissive of therapies that have been around for thousands of centuries, such as acupuncture. I couldn’t help but wonder at times if he was being paid by someone to promote modern-day medicine. I would have much preferred a perspective respectful of such practices, whatever the scientific claim (or lack thereof) behind them is. The result is that while filled with interesting information and peppered with amusing moments, the book comes off as shallow and the author as arrogant as the celebrities he is trying to debunk.
This is particularly grating when Caulfield, a man, makes light of the pressures women go through that make them vulnerable to the promises that unsubstantiated therapies and beauty regimens make. Most of these women are not stupid, Mr. Caulfield; this is how much pressure they are under, something that is only given a cursory acknowledgment. More irony: his sometimes patronizing attitude is part of the very problem he is trying to contribute to solving. Perhaps it is because Caulfield is aware of these dichotomies lying within the pages of his book that he tries too hard to be funny; unfortunately, he too often throw others under the wheels to make any of his humor anything but hilarious. The most I thought it was is cute.
My verdict? This is a book on an important topic that will have to be revisited. Despite the attitude of the author and the humorless humor, it remains an interesting read with quite a lot of enlightening information. But just like Caulfield is trying to keep readers from falling for the messages and promises that flow from celebrities, readers should be careful not to fall for his sometimes judgmental and limited opinions that are based only on recent sciences and are dismissive of age old traditional medicine. More research will have to be done to widen the scope of the data provided and the attitude will have to be revisited for this book to be great.