Are we al­ready hatha-hat­ing J-Law?

THE LIFE CY­CLE OF AN ‘IT’ GIRL IS SHORTER THAN EVER: WHY DO WE REVEL IN CHAM­PI­ONING AND THEN TEAR­ING DOWN FE­MALE CELEBRI­TIES?

Marie Claire (South Africa) - - CONTENTS - WORDS ANNA HARTFORD

crows rise in fright­ened flocks; on a dis­tant hori­zon, the omi­nous build­ing of cu­mu­lous clouds… Can you hear it? Can you feel it? The Jennifer Lawrence back­lash is ap­proach­ing. If you’re sen­si­tive to the dy­nam­ics of pop cul­ture, you might have had an in­kling for a while now that this was on its way. All the way back to early 2013 (an­other world!), when she was on the cover of Time’s ‘100 most in­flu­en­tial people’ is­sue, af­ter win­ning the best ac­tress Os­car for what was es­sen­tially a role in a rom-com. Back when her ev­ery eye-roll was trans­formed into a dot­ing GIF or video or meme, and CNN sent out a break­ing-news alert when she cut her hair, and it seemed im­pos­si­ble for her to do any wrong. Did J-Law just say act­ing’s stupid? I love her! Did J-Law just fall over? I love her! Did J-Law just say she’s been sh*tting in her pants? I love her! What a goof­ball! And she’s so real, you know.

Oh man, look­ing back, no part of it seemed built to last. ‘Area Woman Has No Idea She Will Hate Jennifer Lawrence 7 Years From Now,’ a head­line in the spoof news­pa­per The Onion read last year. The only thing they got wrong was the time frame. Seven years is now an aeon for an ‘It’ girl: that’s the kind of lengthy run ‘It’ girls had back in the Eight­ies and Nineties, when they were called ‘sweet­hearts’ and we still had at­ten­tion spans. Nowa­days, boy oh boy: We eat ‘It’ girls for break­fast. Our cars run on ‘It’ girl fuel. We use ‘It’ girls for in­su­la­tion be­cause they’re safer than as­bestos. Our col­lec­tive ap­petite has be­come so vo­ra­cious that it’s ex­posed in­ad­e­qua­cies in our lan­guage: we des­per­ately need a past tense for ‘It’ girl. How about ‘Out’ girl? Kris­ten Ste­wart: It and Out. Si­enna Miller: It and Out. Anne Hath­away: It and Out. The re­volv­ing door is in a per­pet­ual spin, and J-Law is be­ing shoved along.

To duly tem­per these procla­ma­tions: the full back­lash fate could yet be avoided, es­pe­cially if Lawrence and her reps are savvy enough to by­pass over­ex­po­sure, which it looks like they might. ‘She’s go­ing to have a long break for a year where she won’t do any­thing. It’s been non­stop for her and she de­serves a rest,’ Har­vey We­in­stein, the Sil­ver Lin­ings Play­book pro­ducer, told the UK’s Sun. Re­ports claim that Lawrence was in­tensely re­lieved not to win the Os­car for her per­for­mance in Amer­i­can Hus­tle, with ‘a source’ say­ing ‘she didn’t want to go through what Anne Hath­away ex­pe­ri­enced’.

Ei­ther way, the cul­ture of J-Law adu­la­tion is pal­pa­bly chang­ing. The first high-pro­file back­lash ver­dict ap­peared in New York Mag­a­zine in De­cem­ber last year. ‘Is Jennifer Lawrence Kat­niss-ing Us?’ the head­line asked. Some­thing about her obliv­i­ous-new­comer rou­tine felt a lit­tle prac­tised the sec­ond year round. You can’t be the ir­rev­er­ent out­sider while si­mul­ta­ne­ously be­ing the dar­ling of the in­ner cir­cle. Also, and we know this now, you’re only al­lowed to trip at the Os­cars once. In the ar­ti­cle a Lawrence quote is used as omi­nous fore­shad­ow­ing: ‘ Ev­ery­one is very fickle. They like me now, but I’m go­ing to get re­ally an­noy­ing re­ally fast. Just watch.’

And lo: the New York piece spawned a host of oth­ers. A sam­ple: ‘Jennifer Lawrence Back­lash Be­gins ( Crush­able), ‘Jump­ing off the Jennifer Lawrence Band­wagon’ ( Fla­vor­wire), ‘Brace Yourself for the Jennifer Lawrence Back­lash’ ( Jezebel), ‘What’s be­hind the Jennifer Lawrence Back­lash?’ ( The Huff­in­g­ton Post). Re­ports of a back­lash are, in some re­spects, self-ful­fill­ing (the back­lash is just the re­ports of the back­lash, af­ter all), but only in

the same re­spect that the pre­ced­ing re­ports of adu­la­tion and per­fec­tion were self-ful­fill­ing. ‘It seems im­pos­si­ble – even for a so­cial me­dia news cy­cle des­per­ate for celebrity fuel – to make J-Law into a vil­lain just be­cause of bore­dom,’ a blog post on a US glossy mused. Don’t un­der­es­ti­mate bore­dom; wars have been fought for less.

So why does this hap­pen? Why do we build them up, but­ter­cups, just to break them down? The first thing to say is that none of us is go­ing to stand at the pearly gates and think back proudly on our re­la­tion­ship with celebri­ties. Part of the joy of fol­low­ing celebrity cul­ture is the spe­cial, dis­hon­ourable per­mis­sion it af­fords to sim­ply let your prej­u­dices run riot: the Slate con­ver­sa­tion, Willa Paskin noted that the ob­ses­sion about the ‘real’ celebrity (who is the ‘real’ Jennifer?) is far greater with women than it is with men. ‘[Men] are al­lowed to just be ac­tors and weirdos and who­ever they are with­out the “who­ever they are” part be­ing an­a­lysed as an­other per­for­mance.’

As we’ve seen, ‘who­ever they are’ is in­evitably not good enough. Usu­ally what hap­pens in the tran­si­tion be­tween It and Out is that some new woman comes along and per­fectly re­veals the in­ad­e­qua­cies of her pre­de­ces­sor. Part of the ini­tial Lawrence eu­pho­ria seemed to be in­formed pre­cisely by the de­sire to cel­e­brate some­one an­ti­thet­i­cal to Hath­away: that’ll teach you for be­ing you, ei­ther-or is un­clear, but ap­par­ently there’s only one way to be a cel­e­brated woman at a time. Okay, so are you fol­low­ing? Now it’s more ‘real’ to ad­mit that suc­cess takes work than it is to act like it’s a lark. Let’s all be like Lupita! And we can rest, for surely we will all love her for­ever.

But of course we won’t. Pro­vided she stays in the lime­light we’ll quickly find some­thing ir­ri­tat­ing about her ca­sual con­fi­dence, or de­cide she’s a sell-out or pre­ten­tious. By 2016 we’ll be right back to say­ing, ‘I wish we could see more of that chick – who was she? – so multi-tal­ented and pro­fes­sional and sweet… Oh yes, Anne Hath­away.’ There’s an­other Onion head­line, which I can’t re­sist here: ‘Woman’s Base­less you can wan­tonly love or hate celebri­ties with no ex­pla­na­tion re­quired. Here we sit, with our dead-end jobs and split ends and crappy re­la­tion­ships, check­ing if we can af­ford any Groupon spe­cials for the long weekend, but when we pick up a tabloid, sud­denly we feel su­pe­rior to the most fa­mous people in the world. Sud­denly we’re de­cid­ing whether they live up to our supreme stan­dards of ac­cept­abil­ity (‘Oh, she looks like a horse, she dresses like a tart, she can’t act, she has the worst taste in men’). We’re sit­ting there ‘feel­ing sorry’ for Jennifer Anis­ton and think­ing Jes­sica Simp­son should hit the gym. It’s not pretty, but it’s pre­cisely be­cause it’s such an un­governed cesspit that our tem­per­a­men­tal re­la­tion­ships with these stars can be so re­veal­ing about cul­tural at­ti­tudes in gen­eral.

And what they re­veal seems es­pe­cially per­ti­nent in­so­far as women are con­cerned. There’s no ‘It’ guy, as a panel of writ­ers for Slate pointed out in a dis­cus­sion on the im­pend­ing J-Law back­lash. The ten­dency to li­onise and then slaugh­ter is par­tic­u­lar to fe­male celebri­ties and (for the most part) their fe­male fans. We like to wor­ship them, and then we like to teach them a les­son. In Anne! It’s the grass-is-greener the­ory of women. We thought she was so tal­ented and smart and hard­work­ing, then along came Jennifer, and sud­denly ev­ery­thing that once looked like a strength be­came a flaw: Anne’s false and prac­tised and try­ing waaaay too hard. Jennifer is laid-back and breezy and nat­u­ral. Let’s all be like Jennifer!

But, watch out, there’s al­ways an al­lur­ing op­po­site to what­ever some­one has to of­fer. And sure enough: ‘I’m just so ready for some­one from that elu­sive mid­dle ground be­tween Jennifer and Anne, and I think I’ve fi­nally found it in Lupita [Ny­ong’o],’ wrote Alexis Rhi­an­non in an es­say on Crush­able. ‘She’s real enough to ad­mit that she works hard… but also pro­fes­sional enough to ac­knowl­edge that she’s got re­ally eff­ing good at it.’ Why on earth we’re pre­sented with this in­ter­minable Ha­tred of Anne Hath­away Re­cip­ro­cated.’ The ar­ti­cle cov­ers Hath­away’s dis­like of a woman she’s never met, named Cathy Lerro. The whole thing makes the ab­sur­dity of these re­la­tion­ships pretty clear. ‘You can tell Cathy Lerro’s to­tally in love with her­self, even though she’s re­ally just f*ck­ing an­noy­ing,’ the spoof-Hath­away pro­claims. ‘ Ugh. Just hear­ing her name makes me kind of ill. And that voice.’

Also, and we know this now, you’re only al­lowed to trip at the Os­cars once

KRIS­TEN STE­WART

JENNIFER LAWRENCE

LUPITA NY­ONG’O

ANNE HATH­AWAY

ANNE HATH­AWAY

MAK­ING A COME­BACK

SI­ENNA MILLER

SI­ENNA MILLER

MAK­ING A COME­BACK

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