About a year ago, Anne Hathaway hatred was gaining steam as Les Misérables was set to open. Now, poised on the brink of another Oscar campaign, Jennifer Lawrence seems to be waiting in the proverbial wings to face her fate as the next young actress due for a backlash.
In a story published today at Vulture, Jordan Hoffman wonders if Lawrence, known for her McDonald's-loving everygirl demeanor, is actually "Katnissing" us, meaning she's just putting on a show like her character in the Hunger Games series is instructed to do. Hoffman writes:
She may indeed be a free spirit and an independent thinker, but her swift climb to the A-list is based on something very specific: She's an extremely talented actor, not just a pretty face. And all actors are trained fakers when you get down to it.
Hoffman, for what it's worth, admits that his take is cynical, and he also commends Lawrence for her talent at the media circus. "In effect, Lawrence is giving the people what they want — by reminding us that what we want is bogus," he explains. "And all it takes to do that is to be someone who colors just a tiny bit out of the lines." Hoffman's take isn't specifically anti-J-Law, but it adds to a creeping sentiment out there: maybe we shouldn't be so taken with Lawrence's whole fry-eating, aw-shucks persona. Writing for The Wire after Lawrence talked about bowel movements on David Letterman's show, Richard Lawson wrote "I suppose it's all charming, but I feel a bit of artifice and aggression seeping into Jennifer Lawrence's whole 'aren't a I lovable good-times gal, just a real clumsy cut-up' shtick."
Reading disingenuousness into Lawrence's public image feels like the first step toward a total rejection of it, which can only be a bad sign for Lawrence, who—for better or for worse—will likely be out in force in the coming months. Lawrence is good in the upcoming American Hustle. So good, in fact, that she probably deserves another trip to the Oscars as a nominee. (She won the New York Film Critics Circle prize for supporting actress today.) Her performance is comedic and balls to the wall. She drinks, smokes, kisses Amy Adams, and raucously lip syncs "Live and Let Die."
So what will have happened by the time the ceremony rolls around in March? Will Lawrence be still our favorite GIF-able goofball? Or will we all be tired of the antics we've now deemed just an act?
It's worth looking at Anne Hathaway as a cautionary tale. Lest you forget, starting with the premiere of Les Misérables in December, Hathaway Hate was a persistent trend, generating think-pieces galore. Whatever path Lawrence takes this year won't be akin to Hathaway's campaign. Lawrence, having won last year, probably won't appear very desperate for a second award at the tender age of 23, whereas Hathaway came off as perhaps wanting her statue a little too much. While, for the most part, Lawrence is still very much beloved, Hathaway had been stoking the fires of public opposition since her nightmare turn as an Oscar host in 2011. Still: what's the difference in saying that Lawrence is putting on a show for our benefit and complaining that Hathaway comes off as too eager to please?
In many ways, it's part of a trend with Oscar-winning actresses, with everyone from Gwyneth Paltrow to Helen Hunt to Kate Winslet—yes, even once indestructible fan-favorite Kate Winslet!—subject to the tsking disapprovals of The People. With Lawrence poised to contend for a second Oscar in as many years at just the start of her career, wouldn't her odds at a similar backlash double? It's simple math.
Ultimately, with the distance of a year, the irrational anti-Hathaway sentiment feels pretty ridiculous. The collective Internet taunting of a woman for wanting to make us like her comes off as silly and, well, mean with some time removed. Maybe, as Hoffman notes, Lawrence's self-awareness will save her. She knows the way the tide turns, telling the Huffington Post that "everybody is very fickle. They like me now, but I'm going to get really annoying really fast." The question then is just how fast.