Do We Still Hate Anne Hathaway?

The Oscar-winner is back in the spotlight again and the cult of ‘Hathahaters’ is ready to pounce again on her ‘unlikability.’ But does her work in Interstellar stave them off?

11.05.14 10:55 AM ET

Did you know that there are celebrities who are more disliked than Anne Hathaway?

It’s true. It’s been proven by science.

New York Magazine’s Vulture website commissioned a study of what it calls “E-poll likability data” to survey Hollywood’s biggest stars and unearthed a shocking truth. Shocking truth! There are, it turns out, at least 48 Hollywood celebrities that people like less than Anne Hathaway. And there may even be more out there! Down is up! Up is down! We don’t all hate Anne Hathaway!

Should you need a refresher, this is all ostensibly so surprising because back in the winter of 2012 and the spring of 2013, we were a nation in the midst of a movement united by a singular cause: Hathahate.

Perhaps ascribing a distaste for the Oscar winner and soon-to-be Interstellar star is an overstatement. But there was an inescapable, vocal, rage-fueled, zeitgeist-seizing cult of fly-by-night culture critics who would not stop talking about Anne Hathaway, an actress who did such unspeakable things as “give an Oscar speech that was too long,” “use words like ‘the craft’ to describe acting,” and “smile too big sometimes.”

That Vulture article winnowed down these perceived hatred of Hathaway to two things: “she tries too hard, and she’s overexposed.” That’s certainly kinder than a piece that ran in Salon in 2013 that blamed the way her face is shaped. Seriously. (If there was one thing that might talk a person out of wanting to become rich and famous, it’s that scientists might one day give quotes to respected news outlets talking about how your bone structure is such that the world has no choice but to loathe you.)

Hathaway is now back in the spotlight promoting her turn in Interstellar, which comes out this Friday, thus ending a hiatus from the public eye that began pretty much as soon as she marched off the Kodak Theatre stage, Oscar in hand. That time away, apparently, has done wonders to solve her “overexposed” problem. Didn’t you hear? There are nearly FIFTY celebrities more hated than her right now.

But still, even while taking a time out from the red carpet Hathaway has remained a part of some bizarre sisterhood of celebrities, joining the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow, Lea Michele, and Cameron Diaz. These are women who we are obsessed with not in a fan-like way, but in a bully-like way, whose likability we pick apart until we rule that their inherent personality should be enough to ruin them forever. And we try our best to make sure that they know it.

Imagine, for one minute, that you are told that as part of your job you will be forced to sit down and engage in forced conversations with strangers whose sole goal is to get you to self-analyze your own character. And now imagine that each and every one of these strangers is asking you why everyone hates you. Not if you think they do. They are telling you that they do. And they want you to tell us why.

Such has been the plight thus far of Anne Hathaway on the Interstellar promo tour.

At each stop—each interview, each TV appearance, each fleeting glance or moment of eye contact with bystanders who remember what it was like the last time she ran this rodeo—she’s being forced to address the too-actress-y, over-eager, perceived-inauthentic elephant in the room: the overwhelming hatred of her two years ago.

“What are we supposed to do—pretend like it didn’t happen?” she told Harper’s Bazaar in a recent interview when “Hathahate” came up. “People treated me a certain way. But I’ve grown from it. This whole thing has made me a way more compassionate and loving person. And I don’t feel sorry for myself.”

Hathaway says she discovered that everyone hated her accidentally. She was brainstorming a Funny or Die video about celebrity pregnancy rumors and was googling her own as research when an article titled “Why Does Everyone Hate Anne Hathaway?” surfaced. How freaking awful.

How did she feel? “Punched in the gut,” she said. “Shocked and slapped and embarrassed. Even now I can feel the shame.”

And the punches keep coming.

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Despite the fact that she’s been out of the public eye for the better part of two years, Hathahate is slow to dissipate. Earlier this month an utterly asinine report surfaced that the actress refused to shake an Argentinian journalist’s hand at a press conference in Los Angeles because, according to the journalist’s manic tweets, she was afraid of catching Ebola.

The report caught fire, smoking the cult of Hathahaters out of the woodwork. They, in turn, fanned the flames with glee. Their borderline baseline distaste for a person they did not know had become a sport, and the off season was finally over. Play ball! Take your swings at Anne Hathaway!

Naturally, Hathaway’s publicist called bullshit on this report. The star had a cold. She didn’t shake anyone’s hands because she didn’t want to spread it, the publicist said. That could be true. It could also be true that she really was an insufferable lunatic afraid of catching Ebola from the plebeians. But it probably wasn’t. And that’s the problem.

There’s a part of the Harper’s Bazaar feature that’s both tragic and fascinating. Hathaway talked about how, after winning her Oscar, the offers didn’t start to pour in, as the narrative should go. Instead, it turns out the whole Oscar season and its reigning theme of Hathahate made her a Hollywood liability, rather than a commodity.

“I had directors say to me, ‘I think you’re great. You’re perfect for this role, but I don’t know how audiences will accept you because of all this stuff, this baggage,” she said. But Interstellar changed that. “Once it was announced that I was doing Interstellar, thankfully the phone started ringing again.”

Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi epic could then, in turn, also change public perception of the star.

To begin with, she’s excellent in the film. That should not come as a surprise, maybe. This is the woman who won an Academy Award for her most recent role, and she’s reteaming with the director who helped her create what just might be the definitive Catwoman performance.

But with talk about likability drowning out discussion of talent, even as an Oscar sits on her shelf, a strong, affecting, un-showy performance in a very showy film from an actress who is so often belittled for being too showy is an important thing.

To describe the plot of Interstellar would take up more time than one of Hathaway’s award show acceptance speeches—zing!—but the shorthand is that she plays an astronaut who travels with Matthew McConaughey’s character through a wormhole to search for another planet for the endangered human race to live on.

She’s not singing through her snot while shearing her hair. She’s not slinking around in a leather catsuit. She’s not batting her eyes at romantic leads, suffering pratfalls, or undergoing unnecessary makeovers. She’s a confident, intelligent woman just confidently and intelligently doing her job. Most importantly, she doesn’t care about being liked.

But Hathaway, thanks to all of us despicable people, does need to care about being liked. Not being liked by us, as she said, actually cost her work. It’s through that lens—viewing her not as a victim of Hathahate but as the cause of it, embarking on crisis management—that her press tour has been fascinating.

Earlier this week she gave an interview to Jimmy Fallon on his talk show that was posted on YouTube as “Anne Hathaway Ranks Her Embarrassing Moments.”

“The thing about me and embarrassment, you have to remember, is that it all happens on a scale,” she said. “So on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 is just like being a person walking down the street, and 10 is, for me, co-hosting the Oscars with James Franco. Which, by the way, is only tied with being honored to accept an Oscar whilst wearing a dress that I knew made it look like my nipples were erect.”

This is just such an excellent thing to say. It was self-aware, self-deprecating, and self-confident. It was both humble—she acknowledges that she can be a bit much—and a humble brag—she’s copping to embarrassing herself while casually mentioning that she HOSTED AND WON AN OSCAR. She’s both asking for forgiveness and flicking off the haters. It’s brilliant.

If Jennifer Lawrence had said something like this, it would go viral as yet more proof as to why she is so perfect and so deserving of being your best friend. That’s a measure these days of whether a celebrity is a good celebrity, right? Whether or not we could see ourselves as being best friends with them?

Maybe, then, the Hathahate phenomenon is a blessing in disguise. Now she has the opportunity to show that she has a sense of humor. That she’s heard what we were saying. That she both understands it and thinks we should be ashamed of ourselves for it, because she was a little bit annoying but we are awful people for turning that into a national news story. Yet she’s willing to be best friends with us anyway.

Now, then, such things are the problem of the 48 other people we apparently hate more than her. Your move, Chloe Grace Moretz.