Gwyneth Paltrow is currently in the midst of a civil trial for a 2016 skiing accident at the Deer Valley Resort in Utah. The actor allegedly crashed into Dr Terry Sanderson, a retired optometrist, who sued her. He is seeking damages worth $300,000. But in Taylor Swift fashion, Paltrow is countersuing for $1 and claiming he crashed into her instead.
According to Sanderson, she lost control of her skis and collided with him, causing serious damage that includes a brain injury and four broken ribs. He says the accident has had lasting effects, not just in terms of physical injuries, but also resulting in personality and behavioural changes. Paltrow’s version of the story is completely different.
“I was skiing and two skis came between my skis, forcing my legs apart and then there was a body pressing against me and there was a very strange grunting noise,” The Guardian quoted her testimony in court. “My brain was trying to make sense of what was happening. I thought, ‘Is this a practical joke? Is someone doing something perverted? This is really, really strange.’”
While the picture of what actually happened is still murky, the trial has become the internet’s newest subject of ridicule. Videos of hilarious (but honestly, kind of bizarre) interactions between Paltrow and the plaintiff’s lawyer are going viral all over Instagram and Twitter. The attorney said she was “jealous” of Paltrow’s height and that she “probably had a better ski outfit” than everyone else on the slope. Whatever her strategy was, it seemed very, very strange.
— Jay (@theshamingofjay) March 24, 2023
Further, Paltrow received criticism for drinking green juice and texting during the proceedings. People also mocked Sanderson for a seemingly out-of-touch comment by his attorney about how he is unable to enjoy wine tastings since the accident. It’s being hailed as the “whitest trial of all time”.
This is officially the whitest trial of all time https://t.co/CRh8atNcMU
— Dan Amira (@DanAmira) March 22, 2023
During the Depp v. Heard trial, we witnessed something similar. The case was far more serious and complicated, but it became a social media spectacle nonetheless. Those who were keeping up with it did not hold back from sharing their opinions (some of which sounded more like verdicts) online. Legal experts believe that in such cases, the real facts become obscured. Popular opinion takes justice into its own hands.
Some arguments against televised trials suggest that it can change the behaviour and experiences of the participants of the trial too. This happened in the OJ Simpson case, which gained a cult-like following. Today, social media adds a whole new dimension to it. A larger audience now has access to the trial and can form and influence public opinion about it. Most people may not even keep up with the trial itself. They can easily base their views on a nuanced issue by selectively watching social media clips. These views then circulate, regardless of whether they have any truth or reasoning behind them. Not too long ago, Amber Heard was getting called every misogynistic name in the book. Today, Gwyneth Paltrow is “reckless” and “dangerous”.
That’s not to say that one should refrain from forming opinions about such a trial. But it’s probably best to take what we see and hear on social media with a grain of salt. We can’t escape being bombarded with content that’s going viral. What we can do, though, is look at this content through a media-literate and responsible lens.
Dr Sanderson will testify soon and tell his side of the story. Until then, and maybe even after, we will be in dark about the truth. But most people have already chosen sides. It’s the natural urge to have when an event involving a celebrity is so highly publicised. One can only hope this won’t affect the due course of justice, although that’s an idealistic verdict to pray for.