Gwyneth Paltrow face on woman skiing

Lubo Ivanko/Shutterstock DFree/Shutterstock (Licensed)

Gwyneth Paltrow’s ski crash trial is getting the meme treatment—despite the serious stakes for everyone involved

Paltrow is accused of causing life-changing injuries to an elderly man in a 2016 ski collision.


Gavia Baker-Whitelaw

Internet Culture

Gwyneth Paltrow‘s ski collision trial is serious business, with Paltrow accused of permanently injuring a man during a ski crash in 2016. Suing Paltrow for $300,000 in damages, the two daughters of 76-year-old Terry Sanderson claim that Paltrow hit him while skiing at a Utah resort. This collision allegedly resulted in Sanderson suffering brain damage, rib fractures and lasting trauma including changes in personality.

So far, the trial has involved medical testimony attempting to prove the severity of Sanderson’s injuries, while Paltrow’s legal team argues that Sanderson’s health issues are due to natural aging. Paltrow has also countersued for $1 of symbolic damages plus legal fees, accusing Sanderson of trying to exploit her celebrity status.

As the New York Times put it, part of the conflict here is over skiing etiquette, relating to which skier had the right of way—i.e. which person was downhill of the other. Both parties agree that a collision took place, but they both claim to have been downhill, with the other person crashing into them from above.

Sanderson characterizes this as a violent hit-and-run resulting in major injuries, while Paltrow says that Sanderson knocked her down and then apologized shortly after, leaving Paltrow shaken but largely unharmed.

But while this lawsuit has serious stakes for both sides, it’s facing a familiar fate for celebrity trials: Being viewed as entertainment. Paltrow is already a very divisive figure, synonymous with a certain brand of eccentric Hollywood wealth. It doesn’t help that the lawsuit plays into that image, centering around a) a luxury ski resort and b) Paltrow denying that she’s harmed someone—a common point of contention for her diet and lifestyle advice, which is often accused of promoting pseudoscience and disordered eating.

Some of the commentary online specifically targets Paltrow’s courtroom fashion choices, where she’s been photographed wearing oversized glasses and a cream sweater.

“No one has ever looked more like a person on trial for crashing into someone on the slopes of a high end ski resort,” reads one snide tweet, while comedian Jenny Johnson tweeted, “Gwyneth Paltrow looks like she’s on trial in 1987 for hiring a hitman to kill her husband.” Others compared her glasses to Jeffrey Dahmer’s, which: Yikes.

Meanwhile on TikTok, we’re seeing Paltrow face the same scrutiny we’ve witnessed in previous celebrity trials, resulting in viral TikToks with captions like “GWYNETH APPEARS TO NOT REALIZE SHES ON CAMERA THE ENTIRE TRIAL” and “Gwyneth’s acting in this trial is terrible,” criticizing her for having “resting b!tch face.”

While this is obviously a very different situation to last year’s Johnny Depp/Amber Heard legal battle, much of the online commentary here is strikingly similar. Because the court case is being televised, people are easily able to repost attention-grabbing photos and clips, inspiring amateur legal analysis that attracts tens of thousands of views on TikTok.

Spectators are cracking bone broth jokes, critiquing the competency of the lawyers, and mocking context-free clips of Paltrow’s mannerisms. Many seem to be making snap judgments based on a few clips of courtroom footage. And these online reactions are only going to get worse when Paltrow and her family share their personal testimony on camera, which may happen either today or on Friday.

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