The Persecution of Anne Hathaway and Our Culture of Celebrity Misogyny
Apparently everyone hates Anne Hathaway, and the Academy Award-winning actress knows it.
Following criticisms of her “false, cloying sense of earnestness” at her awards show acceptance speeches back in 2013, Hathaway admitted, “it does get to me.” Later that year, the actress was spotted shopping for self-help books. Now in a new interview with InStyle, Hathaway explains, “For a very long time I felt I was being hunted, and it made me very unhappy. But in the past few years I’ve been working on changing the script inside my head.” The 32-year-old Intern star continued, “Life’s too short to be anyone but yourself. Let the chips fall where they may.”
Proclaiming that she cries “all the time,” Hathaway spoke out about the stress of living in the spotlight: “There was a stretch of my life when I wasn’t comfortable being myself. I didn’t think I was good enough. So I pretended to be someone I wasn’t.” She also alluded to the 2013 New York Times article “What is Anne Hathaway Doing Wrong?” saying, “That [New York Times story] was written by a man. Among the women I’ve worked with and met in my industry, I feel supported.”
Reading through the comments on a #Hathahater Jezebel article or Buzzfeed listicle, one encounters a unique brand of apathy, disrespect, and bitter hatred. Pop culture enthusiasts hate Hathaway in the same illogical, visceral way that Republican presidential candidates hate women who want to get abortions—also all women, in general. To hear the Internet tell it, Anne Hathaway isn’t just unlikable; she’s a public menace who must be analyzed, criticized, and neutralized. She’s more overhyped than Meek Mill and more think piece worthy than Miley’s cultural appropriation.
After her acting career took off in the early aughts, Hathaway quickly became the most widely-discussed and controversial Princess of Genovia ever seen. Blogs from Crushable to BuzzFeed dissected the star’s infamous lack of appeal; the New Yorker asked, “Why are you so annoying?”, while Howard Stern declared that “everyone sort of hates Anne Hathaway.” The San Francisco Chronicle named her “The Most Annoying Celebrity of 2013.” Derek Hartley, host of SiriusXM’s gay issues channel, OutQ, wrote, “Anne Hathaway practically demands that we love her… I’ve seen less aggressive bids for our attention on Grindr.” And when the gays are throwing shade at the musical theater-loving star of The Devil Wears Prada, Brokeback Mountain, and Les Misérables, you know you’ve got a problem.
Like so many celebrity issues of our time, Hathahate is one part astute, nuanced cultural commentary, and two parts gross, unlovable Internet trolls perpetuating the war on women from their mothers’ basements. On top of sexist interview questions and errant fappenings, no female celebrity should have to deal with a male BuzzFeed columnist soliloquizing on his dislike of “her face,” along with the fact that she “looks stupid” and “ruins everything.”
But professional misogynists (read: unemployed men) aren’t just getting off on criticizing Hathaway—they’re getting together. In a rom-com worthy plot that’s even more gag-inducing than Love & Other Drugs, Hathahate is apparently being used as a bonding mechanism, bringing together lonely, anonymous Internet avatars by the almighty power of aggressive cyberbullying. The New York Times quoted Dr. P.M. Forni on the Hathahate phenomenon: “The sensation of belonging to a group of like-minded people activates the pleasure centers of the brain,” Forni said. “So at a certain point, something like what has happened to Ms. Hathaway acquired momentum, and people were willing and eager to be part of that momentum.” Dr. Jack Goncalo added that Hathahate is just another example of mob mentality, saying, “people don’t want to think.”
If science says it’s fun to hate, then anecdotal evidence suggests that it’s even more fun, and a whole lot easier, to hate women. Everyone knows how hard it is to be a woman in Hollywood. If you’re not getting paid a whole lot less than your male co-star, then you’re being defined by your romantic relationships, or fat-shamed for your recent weight gain. Despite making up less than 31 percent of all speaking or named characters in box office films, female stars seem to receive a majority of the public criticism and scrutiny.
But no actress illustrates Roxanne Gay’s pronouncement that “young women in Hollywood cannot win, no matter what they do” better than Anne Hathaway. Hathaway’s filmography is full of classics, from the critically acclaimed (Rachel Getting Married, Brokeback Mountain) to the simply beloved (The Devil Wears Prada). She’s spoken out about violence against women and the commodification of women’s bodies in the media. She can actually sing. She took that Trainwreck joke in stride. She even suffered through co-hosting the Oscars with a visibly high and taciturn James Franco—and was declared unlikable for actually deigning to make an effort.
“Trying hard” is just one of the facets of Hathaway’s much-discussed unlikability. Apparently, the fact that Hathaway worked hard (and is constantly working hard) at everything she’s got, from her professional life to her public image, is downright despicable to an American public that demands total authenticity. Hathaway is polished and reserved—there are no cracks in her public veneer, and no questioning her sincere desire to perform well and to please. This determination is tragically undervalued in a world where female celebrities are taught to pursue likability over professionalism. In order to be well-liked (or simply not hated), a woman needs to shoot for “genuine” status—think Jennifer Lawrence tripping at the Oscars, or joking about her publicist chastising her for eating a Philly cheesesteak. Never mind the fact that Lawrence is also a sample-sized, flawless actress with a meticulously manufactured public persona—she has the good sense to act like an average everywoman who doesn’t take herself too seriously.
As The Cut noted, “we simply don’t find successful, ‘perfect’ women very likable.” Or in other words, if you’re an accomplished woman in the public eye who doesn’t want to belittle herself, ham around for the camera or trip down the stairs, then the Internet won’t hesitate to give you an extra push.
Hathahate is a whole lot bigger than one woman and her mouth. As a movement, it speaks to the kinds of women we like (the silly, self-effacing beer drinkers) and the ones we don’t (the self-important, serious, try-hards). It speaks to our insane obsession with genuineness and “reality,” despite living in a celebrity culture where every interview and appearance is largely artifice, and our misconception that a “real” woman can’t be powerful or polished. It illuminates how many hoops a woman has to jump through to be perceived as likable, as well as the double standard by which female likability is so much more important—and so much harder to attain—than its male counterpart.
The widespread misogyny that fuels Hathahate isn’t contained to the thirty-mile zone; it’s why the perpetually under-liked Hillary Clinton has to humanize herself with a Pinterest board boasting “Granddaughter Gift Ideas,” while Donald Trump can call women pigs and elicit a stadium-sized round of applause. Despite committing the cardinal sin of unlikability, it’s about time we granted Hathaway clemency and turned our critical gaze inwards instead. In the words of another problematic fave, Lena Dunham, “Anne Hathaway is a feminist and she has amazing teeth. Let’s save our bad attitudes for the ones who aren’t advancing the cause.”