I had been unaware that a cult of Anne Hathaway haters existed until a Gawker article on the topic that referenced a Feminspire article by Nicole Del Casale. The fact that celebrities can produce such strong negative emotions in people baffles me, but in Hathaway’s case I was even more confused. As far as I know, she hasn’t done anything particularly offensive (I doubt the majority of people who engage in celebrity gossip would be greatly offended by her remarks on sex work, anyway). She is just an actor starring in movies and going about her job.
While Hathaway haters bombard her with banal critiques about the size of her teeth, another star is showered with nothing but love: Jennifer Lawrence. I am guilty as well, but my recent discovery of the world’s collective disdain for Anne Hathaway has made me feel uneasy about the reasons why everyone loves Jennifer Lawrence. As Slate pointed out, sexism is partly to blame for hatred towards Hathaway. She seemingly faces scrutiny for knowing that her performance in Les Misérables was excellent, a trait that in a male actor may be seen as a healthy dose of self-confidence, but in Hathaway is called “shameless jockeying for critical acclaim.” While Hathaway is criticized for taking herself too seriously, Lawrence is applauded for her attitude of taking herself lightly, and I worry that there is sexism in this, too.
I want to clarify that I don’t think there’s anything wrong with Lawrence or with the fact that people like her attitude. What I find troubling is the way her carefree demeanor is praised and Hathaway’s more serious attitude is attacked. The audience seems to consider that Lawrence is “being herself” while Hathaway is putting on a character, but I do not understand why it is not possible that Hathaway is “being herself” as well. It just so happens to be that her personality is not as laidback. This dichotomy of loving Lawrence / hating Hathaway sends a message of how we expect women to behave. Being a quirky, lighthearted woman is rewarded, while a woman who recognizes her own accomplishments is punished.
I am sure that Lawrence knows she is a very accomplished woman. A blockbuster hit and an Oscar are no small feat for a young actor. But one of the reasons she is so well-liked is because she behaves as though she were unaware of it. She is praised for her down-to-earth behavior, but hidden in our admiration for her humility could there be the stereotype that women should be self-effacing? I would not question this if it were not for the stark contrast with Hathaway’s detractors, who criticize her acceptance speeches for seeming overly-rehearsed, as though she were expecting an award. What is so terrible about being well-prepared and knowing you’ve done a good job?
Neither Lawrence nor Hathaway is in the wrong. There is no one way a woman should act, so we should not put down one personality in favor of another. Also, few of us actually know Lawrence or Hathaway, so who are we to judge whether they are being natural or putting on an act? We could just as easily speculate that Lawrence is “trying too hard” to be likable, but we don’t since her behavior fits into our expectations of the way a woman behaves. It’s as though the demure stereotype of old has given way to the manic pixie dream girl (not that Lawrence fits into every aspect of the trope, but she definitely has the quirkiness down).
The kind of behavior we celebrate and the kind of behavior we put down in women can be revealing, and I am disappointed that it still seems that women are expected to downplay their accomplishments to appear charming. I want to be able to recognize my accomplishments without being criticized. Knowing that we have done well should not be considered arrogance, it should be considered confidence.
Do you think the way we judge celebrities reveals our internalized constructions of gender? Let us know in the comments!
Written by Sully Moreno