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What a difference two years make.
Back in February of 2011, in the fallout from the Oscars ceremony that James Franco slept through, everyone turned to Anne Hathaway as the lone bright spot. She sang! She smiled! She tried to steer the wreckage of a show that had aimed for young audiences in the most desperate, embarrassing way. If there was a single silver lining in that show, Hathaway walked away with it.
Two years later Hathaway is an Oscar winner, and the Internet can't seem to stop writing about why everyone hates her. It's not just a media creation, either: the proof is in the Google:
Why do people hate Anne Hathaway? Because she's a mean theater girl. Because she's too perfect. Because she's trying really hard to seem humble and everyone can see through it. There are a million answers, and weirdly, none of them have seemed quite satisfying to the haters. In piece after piece writers quote people trying to settle on an answer and coming up short. Anne Hathaway fills them with anger, but they have no idea why.
Maybe that means it's time to stop?
I know an essential part of celebrity culture is finding people to hate, and anyone who even glances at a tabloid cover knows that secret thrill of seeing someone whose life used to seem so perfect--Beyonce and the lip synching, Martha Stewart and the jail time, Lindsay Lohan and everything-- immolated in a blaze of bad PR. And just like in real life, when you take one look at the prom queen and know she's a monster underneath, it's more fun to hate the people who aren't as outwardly reprehensible as, say, Charlie Sheen. Food Network star Rachael Ray has made a career of being friendly and cooking accessible, food, but the Internet hate for her practically eclipses Hathaway's. Katherine Heigl was still very much a movie star when the avalanche of hate began for her, and her currently flatlining career can be traced at least in part back to all this hate.
Notice how all these examples are women? Not only women, but almost entirely powerful women, who are either overshadowing their male counterparts-- Beyonce getting more attention than Jay-Z these last few months, Rachael Ray gate-crashing that largely male world of TV cooking stardom-- or daring to criticize them (Heigl calling Knocked Up "a little sexist" was treated as if she'd punched Judd Apatow in the face). Hate for any of these women, Anne Hathaway included, is far from a gender thing-- in fact women are way more likely to have strong feelings of hate for Hathaway than men. But female stars are way, way more likely to come in for this kind of hate than men. When was the last time you hated Hugh Jackman for being too much like a theater kid? Got on Christoph Waltz's case for not seeming humble enough after an Oscar win?
The Anne Hathaway hate explosion has seemed all the more jarring because it's happened at the same time as the ascendance of Jennifer Lawrence, the goofy, always-hungry, super-viral star who went home with her own Oscar on Sunday night. Jennifer Lawrence is awkward, Anne Hathaway is polished. Jennifer Lawrence laughs off her mistakes, Anne Hathaway puts her head down and works harder not to make them. Jennifer Lawrence claims she doesn't read her scripts until the day she steps on to the set; Anne Hathaway loses 25 pounds to play Fantine in Les Miserables and does 20 takes of the wrenching song "I Dreamed A Dream." Jennifer Lawrence is who we'd imagine ourselves to be if we were movie stars-- unpolished but charming, and always herself. Anne Hathaway is probably who we actually would be-- working damn hard all the time, and not always being able to hide it.
By becoming movie stars people accept a contract with the public that we may irrationally hate them; Hathaway is well aware of it, and actually practiced her Oscar acceptance speech in an effort to be more likable. But the reasons to hate Anne Hathaway are at best weak, and at worst sexist. Why are we hating a girl from being talented and not being humble enough about it? Why are we letting our resentment of that one annoying theater star girl from high school be assigned to a famous person we do not know at all? Why is seeing someone actually work for the fame we've given them so horrible? Why do a few awkward acceptance speeches deserve scorn instead of general disinterest?
You are under no obligation to love Anne Hathaway. But hating her feels… boring. And passé, like hating Hillary Clinton for being too politically involved First Lady, or telling the Dixie Chicks to "shut up and sing." Anne Hathaway is a powerful, immensely talented actress with obvious confidence and an ego as large as Robert Downey Jr.'s or Leonardo DiCaprio, or whatever other male actor you're not bothering to hate. Like Angelina Jolie before her, she is a strong woman caught in a bad media cycle that won't let her go. And like Angelina Jolie, Anne Hathaway will have her redemption. By then most of her haters will have surely moved on to someone else. That's how this gross cycle works. Watch out, Jennifer Lawrence-- given how fast Hathaway went from Oscar darling to monster, your turn might be sooner than you think.
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