In defense of Anne Hathaway: Unfazed by trolls and bullies, the Oscar winner maintains a thick skin in showbiz
It's time to shift the conversation from the toothy grin and the sheepish girl and talk about Anne Hathaway - talented star, dedicated UN Goodwill ambassador, and fierce performer
Not many Hollywood stars have been subjected to such harsh-worded, often vague, but strong criticism as Oscar-winning actress Anne Hathaway.
What's even more bewildering about the negative feedback against this fairly young thespian is that it has got less to do with her acting mettle and more about her physical features, her toothy smile, a "happy girl" public image, and the fact that she has strong roots in theater.
In fact, after scouting the Internet for a few minutes, it appeared that most of the critics are bugged that Hathaway has a devil-may-care attitude about her. She is not your typical 'it' girl, who will whine and writhe in the public; she is hardly angry or sullen or even pouting.
If anything, Hathaway's unconstrained energy is reflected in her feminine yet strong poise, her honest doe-eyes gleam; her hearty smile is proof that the actress has developed a thick skin, much required to survive in Hollywood.
But how did we come to this stage - where a happy girl's archetype is despised but someone who mixes goofy and gawky with a filter-less mouth and an occasional fall in her Dior Haute Couture gown (read Jennifer Lawrence) is the instant object of online affection?
“Everyone sort of hates Anne Hathaway,” SiriusXM radio host Howard Stern once said, explaining his and the legions of haters' - who have embraced an Internet moniker, “Hathahaters,” - point of view.
He further added that 'The Devil Wears Prada' actress comes across as "so affected and actressy". Indeed, Stern is entitled to his opinion, but how does this "actressy" argument hold ground, especially when it's used to attack an incredibly-talented star's professional credibility?
To be honest, Stern, like many others (including some serious op-ed writers) are just a part of the system, which loves to hate. And even though Hathaway kind of shrugs off the flak, saying "what the world feels about me has nothing to do with me", the sheer vitriol she faces is outrageous.
A real-life extension of her fictional characters
When Robert Downey Jr took over the mantle of billionaire-cum-philanthropist playboy Tony Stark aka Iron Man; the world couldn't help but be in awe of the star, having found several parallels between his on-screen portrayal and real-life personality.
But the same can't be said for Hathaway, who essentially, has become an extension of several of her fictional characters.
As Andrea Sachs, Hathaway brought to life an aspiring journalist, starring alongside the one and only Meryl Streep (who in turn told the story of Vogue editor Anna Wintour as Runway's boss Miranda Priestly). In 2015's comic drama 'The Intern,' once again, the actress played an ambitious character opposite veteran actor Robert DeNiro - Jules, who single-handedly runs her e-commerce site and a failing household in the lights of her husband's extra-marital relationship.
Even her earliest role, as Princess-to-be Mia Thermopolis, reflects Hathaway's leaning towards the strong, grounded, and spirited personification.
There's no secret to Hathaway's choice of genre - barring a few exceptions in movies like Les Miserables, One Day - the actress has shown a knack for light-hearted stories, with roots deeply set in reality.
And as a result, there's a sense of rehearsed perfection in all of these roles - almost making the characters appear like an extension of Hathaway's personality or vice versa.
But is this, though, reason enough to detest her genius, her perfect portrayals?
“We simply don’t find successful ‘perfect’ women all that likable,” a New York magazine's piece stated, trying to answer the question. The theory is re-instated by best-selling author Roxane Gay as well, who adds: "Young women in Hollywood cannot win, no matter what they do.”
Attention-seeking or a victim of online exaggeration?
Using a slew of memes and sly jabs, an old photo-series posted in 2012, tried to explain "Why Do People Hate Anne Hathaway?" In the process, the piece put together some questionable comments and online critiques - such as the actress "looks stupid", "she ruins everything", "She thinks she's cool when she's really boring", and "she's worse than Vanessa Hudgens, who is terrible" - to make a point, which, honestly, to the rationale mind doesn't make much sense.
These hate-laced articles, unfortunately, became the order of the day following the 2013 awards season, when Hathaway won both an Oscar and a Golden Globe for playing Fantine in 'Les Miserables'.
Responding to the controversy and the hue and cry over the Oscar win, the actress had proudly quipped at the time, "How the world feels about me has nothing to do with me. How other people treat me has nothing to do with me."
"But if anything that anybody said resonated with me as something I’d like to work on for myself, I took it in like that. And to that extent, I feel like I got to shortcut a lot of my growth. To that extent, even though I wouldn’t have chosen to go through it, I still found a way to be grateful to it," she said.
Her comments, however, did little to ward off the negative press that she garnered in the aftermath of her winning the Academy award. In fact, her stint as a co-host with Hollywood star James Franco at the 2011 Oscars was made a part of a renewed conversation that was used to ridicule Hathaway. From being called "overly dramatic" to "chipper" and a "desperate theater girl", the critics came out all guns blazing.
All of this is especially ironic, considering the fact that the crowd's response to Franco ranged from mild to subtle; but Hathaway went on to become a trending topic for viral discussions such as "terrible Oscar hosts" or "awkward moments in the history of Oscars".
A loud mouth for advocating affordable childcare
While it's nothing extraordinary for Hollywood divas to support socially-relevant causes, Hathaway has gone out of her way to lend voice to the cause of women empowerment.
As a keynote speaker during the UN official commemoration of International Women's Day in 2017 in New York, the actress, who is UN Women Goodwill Ambassador broke many a stereotype when she chose to advocate paid leaves for expectant fathers.
"Paid parental leave is not about taking days off work; it is about creating freedom to define roles, to choose how to invest time, and to establish new, positive cycles of behavior," the actress said, raising important questions like "How many of us here today saw our Dads enough growing up? How many of you Dads here see your kids enough now?"
Inequality is a deep-rooted menace, and it surely cannot be eradicated by not equally voicing the issues faced by both men and women, and Hathaway, aptly stressed on this aspect in her keynote address. She has shared her piece of mind on few issues closer to home as well - for instance, sexism in Hollywood.
Explaining how she was let down by cooked-up rumors of conflict on the sets of 'Ocean's 8' - more so because it's an all-female led cast - the actress, without any hesitation, slammed whirlwind media reports for their caricature-esque portrayals of women.
"[It] me feel very sad that certain aspects of the media have tried to conjure up stories about how we don't get along," she said addressing the Ocean's 8 reports, adding, "It's nonsense and it's demeaning to everyone, to half of the world. It's come up (in the press) for a few of us and I'm over it, I'm so over it. Stop it. Stop trying to reduce our gender to a caricature, you know?"
It seems like the biggest bone of contention against Hathaway is that she is desperate, thriving too hard. However, when a talent of her stature resorts to such means, even if that's the real case, it reflects poorly on showbiz and the crooked ideas about how women should be, rather than Hathaway.
Perhaps, we can try shifting the conversation from the toothy grin and the sheepish girl, and put Anne Hathaway the talented star, dedicated UN Goodwill ambassador, and fierce performer under the spotlight - it might actually make for better debates between now and Hathaway's next release.
*Ocean's 8 arrives in theaters on June 8.