G marks the Spot: when it comes to celebrity endorsements, the truth is still out there Paula Blair The Skeptic

As recently reported by Michael Marshall on Skeptics with a K and in The Skeptic, actor and goddess-amongst-us Gillian Anderson has taken a slightly Goop direction by founding G Spot, a brand of ‘functional’ soft drinks she’s begun marketing off the back of her role in Netflix’s teen-focused comedy Sex Education.

For those of us with living memory of the twentieth century (hello), Anderson remains synonymous with her first and most enduring big role as Special Agent Dana Scully in The X-Files (1993–2018), a medical doctor initially sent to ‘debunk’ investigations into the paranormal conducted by Special Agent Fox ‘Spooky’ Mulder (David Duchovny). The characters’ skeptic/believer dichotomy has long been projected onto the actors, and provides grounding as to why many of us might be doubly dismayed at Anderson and G Spot’s claims that their drinks are supported with science, as Scully set that same evidentiary standard for Mulder’s hypotheses across eleven seasons and two movies.

However, Mulder and Scully’s archetypes aren’t as clear cut as their brief character descriptions suggest, and avid viewers (hello again) will know that Scully the scientist skeptic is also a practising catholic with blind religious faith, whereas Mulder – although it is never overtly confirmed because he won’t acknowledge it – is indicated as the show progresses to be an atheist or agnostic of Jewish heritage. Indeed, Mulder’s driving force is that he wants to believe. He seeks evidence and sees it in a different way from his partner. The problem is that viewers can be blinkered to such nuances.

Now, it’s a radical idea, but celebrities – including famous actors – are people. And people are fallible. Actors who populate our screens – and Anderson has been on our screens regularly for thirty years as both a North American and a Brit – have more clout than most to sell us something, because the thing they’re most often selling is themselves as someone else. Some of them get quite good at it. So good, in fact, that many in the general public cannot separate the someone else from the unknown-to-us actual humans actors are.

Anderson and Duchovny have said in interviews over the years that they are often approached by fans expecting them to be just like Scully and Mulder, yet they hold the opposite beliefs to the characters they play, with Duchovny thinking accounts of alien abduction belong firmly in the realm of science fiction, while Anderson has described herself as ‘spiritual’ and open to accepting paranormal and supernatural phenomena. This kind of issue emerges frequently in star studies dating back more than a century, but it is becoming harder to distinguish between people and personae in the muddied waters of social media marketing from stars’ own profiles.

When Anderson first came to fame in 1993, we were still on Web 1.0. In my later teens in the early 2000s I was a member of the show’s official website forums, as well as a millennial communicating with friends across the IT classroom via MSN instant messenger. In my small way, I was contributing to the rise of user-generated content that became known as Web 2.0, and that I suspect was in part driven by such fan forums for cult shows that attracted nerdy, tech-savvy audiences. After twenty years of such content bloating the internet, celebrities are well in on it too, with many, including Anderson, using their social media platforms and collaborations with career-influencers to guarantee sales of their own products to their existing following – a reminder that little on the internet is truly free, not even access to our heroes’ ‘real’ lives.

While the G Spot promotions almost reach Carry On levels of sexual innuendo, the website appears to take a more robust approach to listing ingredients and claims. From this it seems that Anderson channeling her current sexually charged role as ‘shag specialist’ Dr Jean Milburn is dovetailing with Anderson’s perceived grounding in skepticism. These two core elements of characterisation have been running parallel throughout her career.

Before Milburn came the voracious and fluid sexual appetite of sharp-minded Detective Superintendent Stella Gibson in BBC’s The Fall (2013–16), while Lily Bart in The House of Mirth (dir. Terrence Davies, 2000) and Lady Deadlock in Bleak House (BBC, 2005) like Dana Scully – possess more intellect than is socially acceptable while burning with stifled sexual potency roiling tantalisingly just under the surface. This isn’t simply a fan projection; there are episodes where Scully is revealed to have been a wild-child (as Anderson was), and others where she rebels against her chaste routine with Mulder.

Anderson’s built-up potency even managed to confuse us momentarily about Margaret Thatcher when she played the former UK Prime Minister in The Crown (Netflix, 2020), so core has sexuality become to her actor persona.

Jean Milburn being framed as a highly qualified and experienced ‘sexpert’ draws these parallel characteristics firmly together and solidifies Anderson’s star persona, which she proclaims in her Instagram bio (see screenshot above taken on 30 November 2023). Not only does she market her drinks with a wink over their health claims, but she also presents her ‘real’ self in conflation with her most recent popular character.

On the surface, the Netflix Sex Education product tie-in with the ‘arouse’ drink is what it is, but with three decades of characters exuding intellectual authority and/or sexual potency, it has a longer and deeper legacy than what’s printed on the can. When Marshall said Anderson as its founder is G Spot, what amounts to Anderson is an awful lot of cultural currency of which Milburn is only the most recent culmination.

A concern is that given the deep associations fueling any claims to expertise, viewers and fans could be all the more inclined to trust promises carried by the cheeky knowing/unknowing fun of the contrived G Spot marketing in which ‘real’ Anderson acts as if she’s fed up playing the sex kitten when she’s never owned it more. As always, we must follow the caution taught by The X-Files to trust no one and dig ever deeper.

Just about every episode of The X-Files reveals a tension between what we think we have experienced and what may have actually happened. What celebrities tell us, via whichever medium, and no matter how plausible, is often as much of a performance as any fiction they act in, regardless of how authentic they intend it to be.

Like any of us, actors are only experts on anything up to a point. Anderson clearly has fun in the marketing of G Spot, and seems to genuinely trust in these products she’s come up with that aim to find the middle ground between wholesome wellness elixirs and tasty soft drinks. But unfortunately, like any influencing behaviour, what she’s selling behind the veneer could, at worst, do harm over time, while at best leaving folk out of pocket for no more nutritional value than the shop’s own more affordable cream soda.

When she’s in her best eye-rolling form, there could be more benefit to health in going back to the source and watching replays of Scully slapping on the latex. In this fan’s opinion, that’s a better use of your time than risking being taken in by what a beloved actor’s long-constructed persona is trying to sell you ‘IRL’.

The post G marks the Spot: when it comes to celebrity endorsements, the truth is still out there appeared first on The Skeptic.

Disappointment over Gillian Anderson’s recent foray into nutritional woo shows how attached we can become to a well-cultivated celebrity persona
The post G marks the Spot: when it comes to celebrity endorsements, the truth is still out there appeared first on The Skeptic.