Take a Breather, Fantine
The Cult of Hathahaters: Will It Hurt Anne Hathaway’s Oscar Chances?
The blogosphere is teeming with snark about the Les Miz star’s polarizing personality. Where did all that animosity come from—and could it keep her from Oscar glory?
Run a Google search for “Anne Hathaway” and “annoying,” and 1.5 million search results are returned. Try “Anne Hathaway” and “hate,” and that number spikes to a mere 28.5 million.
Somewhere between breaking out as the spunky, frizzy-haired Princess of Genovia to belting her way through the Les Misérables score to her second Oscar nomination, the 30-year-old actress has found her public persona morph from endearingly goofy Disney starlet to, apparently, insufferable A-list movie star. “Of all the actresses in her generation, I can’t think of someone as polarizing as her,” Dave Karger, chief correspondent for Fandango and longtime Oscar guru, tells The Daily Beast. The growing perception—an attitude only fueled by an ever-growing, ever-snarkier army of entertainment bloggers—came to a head Sunday night when she won the Golden Globe award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance as doomed Fantine in Les Miz.
It was a speech carefully crafted to come off as surprised and humbled, but was instead so carefully rehearsed that it was branded contrived and a tad pretentious. She feigned false surprise: “Woo. This is happening,” she panted. The phrase “Thank you very much for this lovely blunt object that I will forevermore use as a weapon against self doubt” was used.
The cult of Hathahaters responded with, at this point, expected vitriol. Twitter measured 19,685 tweets per minute during her speech—second only to Jennifer Lawrence’s. A sampling of the reaction of Twitter: “Can’t watch the Golden Globes anymore b/c Anne Hathaway called her award a ‘weapon of self doubt’ and I threw my pizza at the TV and shattered it,” said @JuliaMat. Joked parody website someecards.com the next morning, “May your Monday not feel like one prolonged Anne Hathaway acceptance speech.”
It’s a typical reaction from the group. Even those who objectively acknowledge her talent still can’t get past her personality. “The best performance of 2012? Anne Hathaway in Les Misérables,” tweeted @ivancommajoseph. “The worst performance? Anne Hathaway in Faux-Surprise Golden Globes Speech.” But where did this community of such passionate distaste come from? And, as tuberculosis claimed poor, desperate Fantine, will the intensely negative reaction to Hathaway’s award-circuit appearances ruin her chances at what was once considered her sure-thing Oscar?
The arc of Hathahate is like one of those U-ish parabolas from algebra class. Her star-making debut in The Princess Diaries introduced the world to a young, ceaselessly peppy, eager-to-please ingénue—the real-life incarnation of Rachel Berry from Glee. The overly theatrical demeanor that she’s so often zinged for now was present then in full force, but was quickly overshadowed by a series of interesting career moves. Quickly, Hathaway became cool.
She appeared to toss her Disney roots out the window to star in an shrewd mix of gritty, adult projects—Brokeback Mountain, Rachel Getting Married—and more mature, commercial hits—The Devil Wears Prada. Then, in 2008, the rug was yanked out from underneath her when she and then-boyfriend of four years Raffaello Follieri split after he was arrested for allegedly scamming investors by lying about ties to the Vatican.
She was conned by the con man—and splashed across tabloid covers as Hollywood’s latest tragic heroine. She was sympathetic, breaking into tears over the whole ordeal during an interview with W magazine just three weeks after the scandal broke. Putting on a brave face and dutifully hitting the publicity circuit to promote her stunning turn in Rachel Getting Married, public perception was that Hathaway was tough and strong and a bit of a badass.
Then that off-putting, desperate theater girl came back—only this time she was more famous. She’d host SNL, guest on talk shows, or storm the Oscar stage like a whirling dervish of borderline maniacal energy to co-emcee the 2011 ceremony. With each public appearance, her detractors found her more and more irritating, with loathing hitting overdrive following the Oscars stint. Gone was Hathaway the survivor; back was the chipper aggravator.
As Crushable.com’s Alexis Rhiannon puts it, “She’s always putting on accents and flittering around apologizing for mistakes that she didn’t make, and I just don’t get it. I don’t find her perfection charming. I find it annoying.”
To those who already hold that opinion of her, Hathaway’s done nothing to ingratiate herself during her big Les Miz Oscar push and trophy domination. She uses phrases like “I felt like I sprouted a pair of wings and lifted off of the ground,” to describe her experience shooting the film. At the National Board of Review Awards, the cast of Les Miz won Best Ensemble. Co-star Amanda Seyfried managed to sputter a few words before Hathaway commandeered the microphone to accept, leaving poor Eddie Redmayne fidgeting in the background. After winning Best Supporting Actress at the Critics Choice Awards, she spent the first portion of her speech chastising the organization for misspelling her name in a clip reel.
Her spontaneous dash to the microphone when Les Misérables won Best Musical or Comedy at the Golden Globes to thank people she forgot to mention in her already two-minute-long Best Supporting Actress acceptance speech already may have rubbed viewers the wrong way—but they may not know that directly before she did, the award show’s producer told the audience to keep speeches short because the show was running late. “I haven’t forgotten to thank anyone because I haven’t started yet,” Les Miz producer Eric Fellner said after, throwing his star under the bus.
The attitude toward Hathaway is a publicity nightmare, and it’s spun so out of control that it’s become spoofable. Satrical news site The Onion said it best in a parody article that ran last September—showing how far back the Hathahate extends. “Area Woman’s Baseless Hatred of Anne Hathaway Reciprocated,” the headline reads, with made-up quotes from Hathaway reflecting back the Internet hatred toward her: “You can tell Cathy Lerro’s totally in love with herself, even though she’s really just fucking annoying.”
When buzz over her performance in Les Misérables was at its peak in December, Buzzfeed published a post naming all the reasons people hate Hathaway—her face, she looks stupid, she ruins everything—but, tellingly, the last item on the burn list was, “More often than not, there’s no real reason.”
Ms. Hathaway certainly has her fans, too. It even looked like the tide against her was turning with a celebrated turn as Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises—President Obama, for one, called her the best part of the film. And not everyone was turned off by her Globes speech—Karger says many in the ballroom were touched by her tribute to Sally Field, and awards aficionado Charles Bright of Goldderby.com thought the moment was among the night’s highlights. On Twitter, one @notoriousbanana said her “speech at the Golden Globes made me a fan.”
But with almost instantaneous disgust flooding the Internet with every awards stop she makes, it’s hard not to wonder whether the girl who was a lock to win is now talking her way out of the Oscar.
Karger, for one, isn’t so sure. While it’s likely that Oscar voters are aware of the backlash to her personality, the phenomenon is clearly far more potent in the blogosphere than it is in the Academy. In really tight Oscar races, any little thing can count for or against a contender; he says Hathaway is so far and away the Best Supporting Actress frontrunner that “I don’t know what she’d have to do to screw up her chances.” Look to the case of Mo’Nique’s Best Supporting Actress win in 2010. She was asking to be paid for appearances during Oscar season, which was unheard of, and the media and industry insiders were raking her through the coals for the behavior. But she still won—and likely by a large margin.
An aversion to an Oscar contender’s personality or even a bad speech does have the potential to hurt a vulnerable actor, Karger says, but Hathaway’s performance has been so lauded that her frontrunner status is Teflon at this point. “She’s so far out that her haters are just going to have to accept it.”
Hathahaters gon’ hate.