“So Blake Lively just launched her Goop” is how someone explained Blake Lively’s new website to me a few hours ago. Now, I am not a cynical person. I believe in giving everything at least half a chance. I can acknowledge that Goop is a thing that people care about, even though nobody can figure out whether to spell it “GOOP” or “goop” or “Goop.”
And to the extent that every generation needs their Goop–just like every generation needs a hero or a Highlander or a defining entry in the MarioKart series–Blake Lively seems like someone who could pull that off. Obviously, Leighton Meester would be preferable, but Jessica Szohr would be less preferable, and anyhow Lively seems to have quietly semi-retired from acting and settled down for a life of being merely famous and fashionable living an exciting perpetual life with her sexiest-man-alive husband.
But then you get to the website, which is called “Preserve.” Lively has written an editor’s letter, and just to confirm she wrote it, she also posted a picture of herself writing it. It is fair to say that the picture (above) is the most hagiographical version of the writing process I have ever seen. There is Blake Lively, hair perfectly messy and hanging down in gossamer strands glimmering in the sun(moon?)light flowing into the semi-abstract Room Of Comfort. She’s clearly been writing for awhile; we can see other discarded pieces of paper, which notably don’t actually seem to have any writing on them. But some writers like to discard pieces of paper when they’re frustrated, in the alternate universe where no one ever invented computers and we’re all still writing on pieces of paper and Blake Lively is the Princess of the island nation of Preservania.
Also, close visual analysis reveals that Ms. Lively is pointedly not looking at what she is writing:
Which in fairness was a writing method favored by the Dadaists, who were clearly an inspiration for Ms. Lively.
SO ANYHOW. Some key points from the editor’s letter:
I’m no editor, no artisan, no expert. And certainly no arbiter of what you should buy, wear, or eat.
Arbiter is such a funny word, because the mere fact of saying “I’m not an arbiter” implies that you spent some time on thesaurus.com trying to find just the right synonym for “person who tells people to do things for a living.”
I am hungry, though…and not just for enchiladas. I’m hungry for experience.
Enchiladas? Is this website specifically going to be about enchiladas? You know how Coppola started a vineyard and David Lynch started brewing coffee? Maybe Blake Lively’s thing is going to be enchiladas?
There’s so much life teeming in every pocket of this country. There are people creating magic with their bare hands. Creating things that land at the amazing intersection between art and function. I’ve found that when approached with a curious spirit, people are kind. They’re generous, they answer – if asked. They’ll often open their doors and hearts and let you in. Because people with wisdom have stories to tell, and want them heard. Everyone has a story to tell.
The function of Preserve is part magazine, part e-commerce hub, part philanthropic endeavor and–above all–a place to showcase the power of imagination, ingenuity, quality, and (simply put) people.
“The function of Preserve is part magazine, part e-commerce hub, part raindrops on roses, part whiskers on kittens, part man, part machine, all cop.”
Preserve is a creative space. An indulgent space. A space for pleasure and fun. But also a space for knowledge. A space that honors both tradition and innovation—a space that honors the future, while having a love affair with the past…
Pause to imagine honoring the future while having a love affair with the past. I guess that means, like, throwing a parade in honor of the future, but then slipping away from the parade to go to the apartment you keep uptown for your dalliances with the past, and at some point the past says, “We should just tell the future about us” and you say, “WE CAN’T EVER TELL THE FUTURE ABOUT US!” and then things go all Match Point real quick.
“Preserve” isn’t me. It’s a handful of the most dedicated, soulful, wise, patient people I’ve ever had the honor of working alongside. People who’ve filled the pages of this site with a force of passion, talent and integrity. I’m grateful for our countless late nights building a home out of pixels, light, and imagination.
Pixels, Light, and Imagination: The Internet, by TV’s Blake Lively. But, like, I guess Preserve is partially doing this for charity, sort of? They have a section where they say they want to give 5,000 children a meal, 2,000 children a blanket, and 2,700 children a warm hoodie, which is certainly a good thing insofar as it’s not an obviously bad thing. But this is on the same page where they say: “Let us be clear. We are a for-profit business.” And also: “We are aware that a lot of what we are selling is outlandish in a world where people are starving and have nowhere to sleep. ” So at least there’s, like, some clarity that the whole Preserve experiment is basically an exercise in bourgeois indulgence in the guise of populist traditionalism, all of it constructed within the modern vogue for “authenticity” among a class of people whose lives are defined by inauthenticity at the existential level.
Things get a bit hazier over on the FAQ page. “Are all of the products you carry made in America?” asks no one. “Ah, the good old US of A,” responds Preserve, suddenly accented like a senator from a Frank Capra movie who keeps on tugging his suspenders while an associate fans him with a palm frond.
We absolutely adore our country and the wonderful products that emerge from its fascinating, multi-faceted culture. Everything you’ll ever see on PRESERVE comes from companies that are based in America and keep their production happening right here on our soil. Eventually, we hope to link with our brethren in Central America and follow in our founder’s footsteps by merging with Canada. ;)
Translation: “Eventually, we hope to export our production to Eastern Europe, where a generation of Slovenian orphans named after Josh Schwartz protagonists will make artisanal scarves specifically designed for warm-weather wear.”
But now let’s really drill down a bit here and check out one of the first blog posts, which is about a barbecue.
Allow us to be so bold as to posit that a barbecue is an inherently medieval affair. From where do we arrive at this conclusion? Pray consider it, dear reader: the customary American cookout is a fundamentally Gothic idea, updated with modern values and cuisine. The gathering involves communal seating, shared plates, festive music and fire-prepared victuals shoved into food-messed face-holes sans cutlery. With those same descriptors, one harkens back to ye days of olde, to the court of Richard the Lionheart, to the Canterbury Tales of Chaucer, to Lords and Ladies locked in scenes of chivalry.
WHAT IN THE F— MADNESS IS HAPPENING?
Preparations for the fête champêtre hatch in the spirit of simplicity: Bid some courtly dudes and dope-looking damsels hither, stock the larder with beauteous burgers (beef, turkey or veggie), augment the ale supply and call forth a noble disc jockey.
COURTLY DUDES AND DOPE-LOOKING DAMSELS?
Maidens and squires arrive at their leisure, on their own time, with their own ideas about how the feast shall unfurl. Some are here to court the opposite (or same) sex—it is summer, after all—some to tipple, some to sup. There are rule-followers, regulators, rebels.
Someone has been watching too much Game of Thrones at a bar that only serves locally brewed terrible beer and hamburgers made out of toothpaste made out of sustainable rhinoceros.
At once structured and chaotic, the great American BBQ is, indubitably, a rollicking repast. To create such a wicked wassail demands, first and foremost, a cast of characters as colorful and damned as Dante ever envisioned.
Oh god, please tell me they’re not about to list the cast of characters in some kind of Bizarro Bourgeois Barbecue FanFic.
Firstly, consider the SUMMONER, our noble host.
His or her foremost duty is to implore the guests that they may gather at a particular time and place. As a tithe to their invitation of daylong indulgence, the Summoner may demand supermarket stops for last-minute necessities. “Fetch me alluring ales, sparkling sips, cheese puffs,” he or she requests via smartphone text message, “marshmallows for s’mores and a bag of baked goods to boost our bounty of buns.”
You know that whole plotline on Arrested Development where Charlize Theron plays a character who seems like a Manic Pixie Dream Girl but actually has a serious mental disability? I feel like Blake Lively’s website has inadvertently crossed an equivalent uncanny valley, where the artisanal movement suddenly becomes a LARPing party that actual LARPers would refuse to participate in.
The feudal Lord of the event is the GRILL MASTER. Sought-after and highly esteemed, this individual reigns supreme over the communal oven.
So, Leonardo from Ninja Turtles, basically.
Our villain, the TROUBADOUR (in modern parlance, Mister DJ) approaches his task with all requisite seriousness, with nary a token of regard for the sonorous inclinations of others. A fair damsel doth seek mellow music to accompany her meal? Let’s try Yoko Ono on eleven. Too much? John Cage at mid-volume then. What, you don’t like avant-electroacoustic? Okay fine, Laura Nyro. There, everybody’s happy.
So Raphael from Ninja Turtles, basically, if Raphael was a music snoot in addition to all his other personal dysfunctions. But so, like, serious question: Who is this for, exactly? Is it for people who are actually cool/pretentious/choose-your-own-definition enough to enjoy John Cage and Laura Nyro and have a passive disregard-mixed-with-simultaneous-hard-won-respect for Yoko Ono? Is it for people who bring DJs to their barbecue? Is there a Venn Diagram of people who enjoy Renaissance Faires and people who enjoy hot dogs slimed with hot sauce made just like someone’s Russian grandmother used to make hot sauce?
As the festivities reach their zenith, knights and knaves, jesters and jezebels, maidens and wenches claim their seats at a long wooden table in the backyard-cum-feasting hall, tearing into large portions of flavorful fleshes and vivacious vegetables doused in sensory overload inducing spices and sauces. Surreptitiously spiked punches are imbibed, corn is stuck in teeth, seconds and thirds and fourths and fifths are had. All assembled speak in the vernacular about the pressing Instagram-based concerns of the moment.
Aw geez, this thing is probably going to do pretty well, isn’t it?
Fireflies appear as dusk descends. Grogs are guzzled, desserts devastated, and sparklers begin to scintillate. But first, the SUMMONER turns down the tunes, raises a glass and reminds the beautiful and unruly crew what a fine olde tyme this day has been.
Anyhow, there’s a light-up map of the USA carved out of, like, sustainable sequoia wood or something, and the lights are laid out in the path of Bob Dylan’s 1978 USA tour, and it costs more than a Playstation 4. So I guess that’s something, by virtue of being not nothing.