The Happy Girl vs. The Cool Girl: Why People Don't Like Anne Hathaway

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by Kerensa Cadenas
March 6, 2013 2:00 PM
30 Comments
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People, especially women, really don't like Anne Hathaway. This isn't something that just started since Hathaway won her Oscar for Les Miserables last week--it's been long festering.

I have friends who refuse to see movies because Hathaway is in them because they say she's annoying, that her mouth is too big and she just plain irritates them. But no one can really ever give a concrete reason for the Hathaway hatred.

After the Oscars a slew of think pieces came out in defense of or against her, usually comparing her with the much-beloved Jennifer Lawrence. In these pieces, writers have confessed their personal Hathaway biases, analyzed why she annoys or also just try to defend her.

In Sasha Weiss's piece on Hathaway for The New Yorker, Weiss comes to Hathaway's defense and says that people don't like her because she's the happy girl archetype. We like our movie stars (and arguably our women) pouting and sullen, not high-energy and ambitious.

Now, look at Anne: she stands with her long arms at her sides, looking directly (even a little pleadingly) into the camera, her smile is toothy and takes up half of her face. It's a look of unfettered excitement and openness, an expression of high-wattage joy that reminds me of none other than a nine-year-old-girl about to dig into a big slice of birthday cake. There's generally only a small window of time when girls have that mien of utter at-homeness in the world--it gets snuffed out in many of them by age twelve or thirteen, when their glance turns inward, scrutinizing. Anne has somehow managed to retain that bright look, and many people would like to wipe it off her face.

As Weiss says that this "bright look" isn't something that's retained by women--it's something that disappears once the female impersonator years hit. But that enthusiasm, that drive, that ambition is something that Hathaway has that reads to people as insincere, merely another act she's putting on.

In contrast is Jennifer Lawrence, whose shot-taking, McDonald's fry-eating, stage-tripping hasn't only not been been critiqued by the media--it's been celebrated. Lawrence is constantly described as 'refreshing' because of her unrehearsed sound bites and biting sarcasm. Lawrence has been constructed as the antidote to Hathaway because she reads as genuine and unrehearsed. But as Anne Helen Petersen writes, Lawrence fills another archetype of femininity--that of the 'cool girl,' which Petersen notes is best defined by this passage in Gillian Flynn's novel Gone Girl.

Men always say that as the defining compliment, don't they? She's a cool girl. Being the Cool Girl means I am a hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes and anal sex, and jams hot dogs and hamburgers into her mouth like she’s hosting the world's biggest culinary gang bang while somehow maintaining a size 2, because Cool Girls are above all hot. Hot and understanding. Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner and let their men do whatever they want. Go ahead, shit on me, I don't mind, I'm the Cool Girl.

As Petersen continues (noting the misogyny that permeates the novel), she reminds us that this is how media works--we are fed these archetypes and then given "real people" to prove to us that these archetypes are fully based in reality.

What does it say that we love Lawrence's "cool girl" and despise Hathaway's (who by the way is a feminist and hosted the Women's Media Center event several months ago) "happy girl?" A couple things. Lawrence is seen as chill, as never trying to hard--which we know can't be entirely true. She's a young actress who is starring in a major franchise and also doing passion projects.  Lawrence is trying plenty hard and working her ass off.

But when we get a woman like Hathaway, who is enthusiastic about her work, poised and always committed to working hard and makes that apparent, she immediately comes off as active not passive. And as gross and unfortunate as it is to say in we know in our patriarchal society passivity is something people like in our women. Look at every criticism that has ever been lobbed at Hillary Clinton for her work and her looks. 

Keep in mind, the more we pit and compare actresses like Hathaway and Lawrence, position them into these archetypes of femininity and complain about them--the more we box in ourselves and foster a community of female competitiveness which is the last thing we should be doing.

Maybe Hathaway bothers you. Maybe Lawrence does. But the sheer vitriol that it inspires (similar to Lena Dunham) helps none of us especially when both Hathaway and Lawrence are worth supporting.


Anne Hathaway: In Defense of the Happy Girl (The New Yorker)

Jennifer Lawrence as Gillian Flynn's "Cool Girl"(Anne Helen Petersen)

A Tale of Two Oscar-Winning Actresses: Why Has Jennifer Lawrence Become a Media Darling by Breaking All the Rules, While Well-Behaved Anne Hathaway Is Getting Flack? (Vanity Fair)

Anne Hathaway: Hollywood's most polarizing star (Slate)

Why Do Women Hate Anne Hathaway (But Love Jennifer Lawrence)? (The Cut)


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30 Comments

  • M. | March 27, 2013 2:52 PMReply

    The Love/Hate online chats are just more money in the bank for the PR machines that work it. The ole saying "better to be hated than ignored." Is this time well spent for women?

  • Denice | March 26, 2013 2:43 PMReply

    Anne Hathaway is beautiful and talented, but she does want people to think of her a certain way and that affects how she is publicly. Her Oscar baiting paid off, but it was so annoying and full if it, and her acceptance speech was overly rehearsed and superficial. Jennifer Lawrence is also beautiful and talented, but she won her Oscar way too soon, plus her flipping the bird at the Oscars backstage was classless and disrespectful. And the movie she won for was technically not that great. At all. Lawrence wants to pretend she doesn't care what people think, but after her pot smoking pictures in Hawaii, pretty sure she is trying to attenuate that viewpoint just a little bit. The only jealousy I have of either of these ladies is their fat bank accounts, front row seats at fashion shows and that Jennifer Lawrence got to kiss Michael Fassbender for X-Men First Class (Meooooowwww!!!). Yeah, I said it.

  • Amanda | March 25, 2013 12:59 AMReply

    Also, why are you bringing men into it? Most of the people who resent Anne Hathaway are female. I thought Anne Hathaway Oscar speech to be so tedious and just very pretentious she comes across as a flake and a phony.
    No people don't like Anne Hathaway because she is extremely pretentious and people find her Oscar baiting very shallow. Hathaway campaigned hard for the Oscar and she won so good for her. However, I think the public don't like seeing stars try "so hard" to win the Oscar, do all the talk show circuit, and all the stupid stunts just to win an award. It turns people off and it shows Anne Hathaway to be a very shallow person.

  • Lenore | March 15, 2013 11:42 AMReply

    Call me crazy, I like Anne Hathaway, Jennifer Lawrence AND Lena Dunham. I think they're great, intelligent, captivating women.

  • Shantelle | March 26, 2013 5:38 PM

    I like and identify with parts of Tiny Furniture. Lena Dunham can write a story, just not to completion. However, she really is not that great of an actress. How she won an award for her acting makes no sense to me at all. Plus, she is backhandedly bitter even though she went to great schools including Oberlin (which is not cheap). Waiting for her to improve on either front may be like waiting for Godot.

  • Allison | March 8, 2013 12:38 PMReply

    "We like our movie stars (and arguably our women) pouting and sullen..."

    Sasha Weiss clearly hasn't read any of the ridiculous comments and criticisms chucked at Kristen Stewart. She's constantly "scolded" for being pouty and sullen. Same with Rooney Mara, but on a smaller scale.

  • Yanna | March 7, 2013 7:50 PMReply

    What has Jennifer Lawrence ever done that came off as forced behavior to please a male audience? Because that's what the Cool Girl is about.

  • Val | March 7, 2013 5:43 PMReply

    This article is really reaching. If anything Anne comes off as more passive and girlish than the candid, speaks-her-mind Jennifer Lawrence. Anne isn't hated because of any jealousy or because she's the "happy girl". She's hated because she's perceived as fake or insincere. Her personality just irks some.

    And honestly, a lot of this "hatred" seems to be generated by the media and not real people. I didn't hear of Anne's hate until I read an article about it. It seems the media's trying to stir up another "catfight" between her and JLaw that just doesn't exist.

  • Jordan | March 7, 2013 2:56 PMReply

    Maybe you don't care... in the grand scheme of things, how we react to our movie stars is an insignificant blip... but it seems to me that most of the time when we dismiss celebrities it is either because we feel they are undeserving of their celebrity or because we are jealous of it. In this case, I think it is the latter and that is a problem. Good article.

  • Mildred | March 7, 2013 2:40 PMReply

    We don't know these women, really. I'm not saying that their personas are so carefully constructed that nothing of the real woman surfaces, but our knowledge base is limited. Time and time again, people have fooled themselves. Jane Fonda is a strong feminist icon. Whoops! She later states that she was largely mirroring the men whom she was with.

    And I'm not even sure that women in general dislike Hathaway or prefer Lawrence. Where is the evidence for this.

    We are not just fed these archetypes. We demand and consume them. Even the quote from Gone Girl. Is there something wrong with threesomes or anal sex between consenting adults. Why does this have to be defined as doing anything a man wants.

    Nonetheless, I appreciate the post's efforts to put the "debate" into perspective.

  • Jenna | March 7, 2013 7:13 AMReply

    Anne Hathaway IS annoying. Irrelevant of her gender, her "happiness" (Really?? Are you on meth or something?) and her teeth. Perhaps she is not well liked because she comes across as pretentious, is totally overhyped as an actress (acted off the screen by Emily Blunt in 'Devil Wears Prada', did the most shitty British accent in 'One Day' for starters). Case in point on pretentiousness is her speech at the BAFTAs when she thanked Victor Hugo, a writer who has been dead since 1885!!! By way of comparison Cameron Diaz in an ultimate happy-go-lucky girl and well loved as she comes across as natural and being herself - not an ounce of smugness or self obsession. I find it highly insulting that this stupid blog accuses women of being in some way anti-feminist for not liking AH. Stop kissing Anne's happy butt - we can like or not like who we damn well please so give us some credit for intelligence. Also this whole Lawrence v Hathaway is such a load of made up, trumped up rubbish even Fox news would be ashamed to run this crap as an "editorial". Jeez.

  • gm | March 15, 2013 5:04 AM

    Jenna, I don't know Anne Hathaway personally to call her annoying. Emily Blunt's role was a very bitchy role with killer lines, so it is not surprising she stole scenes from both Hathaway and Meryl Streep.

    Anne is a gifted actress. Case in point, I saw her in a production of Shakespeare In The Park's Twelfth Night. It was the first time she did Shakespeare, and she handled the Shakespearean text with ease- and she held her own opposite some of the best NY theatre thespians in the business. Hathaway received critical acclaim for her wonderful performance by all the tough NY theatre critics. Trust me, most A-list movie stars ( including Cameron Diaz & Jennifer Lawrence ) will never have the guts to act onstage - let alone do Shakespeare. I saw Denzel Washington star in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar on Broadway. Not only was his performance bad, but he struggled with the Shakespearean text.

    Any actress that can pull-off Shakespeare, SNL ( always a wonderful SNL host ) , Catwoman, Fantine, and a recovering drug addict in Rachel Getting Married- is very talented in my book. I give Anne credit for diversifying, taking chances, and that is why she will be around for a long time. Hathaway is one of the few actresses that will go back and forth between theatre and film. We should applaud and celebrate that. I don't understand this Lawrence vs. Hathaway crap, but I can't see Jennifer Lawrence act on stage or pull-off Shakespeare.

  • Jenna | March 11, 2013 5:11 AM

    Hi De Pizan, saying something about how lucky you are that Victor Hugo wrote such an amazing role or thanks for great writers like Victor Hugo is one thing but thanking him personally as if he is in the room??? Surely, no

  • de Pizan | March 7, 2013 3:05 PM

    How in the world is thanking the author who created your role pretentious? I've seen actors, directors and screenwriters frequently do that, no matter how long the author has been dead. I think showing appreciation for a great character is far preferable to ignoring the author all together.

  • cole | March 7, 2013 4:23 AMReply

    I love both Anne Hathaway and Jennifer Lawrence. I love how both give everything in them in their works, even though they have to act in a shitty movie. I don't really care those who hate Anne just because she's annoying, has a big lips or whatever. In many interviews, she is friendly, bubbly and always looks so excited with her work. I like that better than those who think they already famous star and just trying to keep cool in front of camera in result of nonexistence expression and arrogant attitude.

  • Julie | March 7, 2013 4:02 AMReply

    I think Anne Hathaway is a good person. I just think she isn't so great at coming across as "the-down-earth-I-could-chill-and-have-a-beer-with-you" type of person. That doesn't mean she's bad. I'm sure she's sweet.

    I think it's hard to pick out your public persona and decide how your going to act in interviews and acceptance speeches and stuff like that. And so, I think Anne does the best she can.

    I think it's a public speaking thing i.e. Anne has more of a stage fright thing going than Jennifer does.

    I know when I've done public speaking and I'm feeling really comfortable, I'm good at coming across down to earth, funny and likeable. Then, when I've done public speaking where I'm super nervous, then I talk like a robot or tell weird jokes or just come off awful. So, I still think Anne is sweet; I just think she's very poised when she gives award speeches. Jennifer's seems more comfortable in the speech award situations. So, I'm team Jennifer and team Anne. Their both cool.

  • elizabeth frank | March 6, 2013 8:25 PMReply

    OK, is this a real thing? Is this an actual phenomenon or something cooked up in the press? Jezebel, etc.? I am a writer, critic and filmmaker and I do not know a SINGLE PERSON who engages in this stupid, infantile, demeaning catfight of Anne v. Jennifer. Do people really (REALLY?) spend their time "hating" Anne Hathaway? 'Cause I've got a whole slew of other things for you to hate, real things, that may affect your lives, laws and legislation, crime and inclusion. You know what? I can't wait until "Les Mis" is out of circulation -- I hate musicals. But I don't blame Anne Hathaway for being in a musical. This Anne v. Jennifer is only a more "genteel" version of madonna v. whore. Women v. women. Ridiculous and press-generated. Shame on you, Women and Hollywood, for playing into it.

  • Annie Lux | March 7, 2013 11:25 AM

    You tell 'em, Elizabeth Frank! This is a bunch of crap. I don't know anyone who thinks like the author of this piece believes, it appears, that everyone does. Perhaps she needs a new social circle. Perhaps, as Ms. Frank observes, she needs to widen her world view and start caring about something that actually matters. In either or any case, this is the kind of mean-spirited garbage that serves no purpose except to perpetuate stereotypes that have been doing disservice to women for generations. Stop it. Just stop it. (For the record, I enjoy and admire both young actresses. But who cares, really?)

  • Loren | March 6, 2013 8:11 PMReply

    Lest us remember that these are the roles they have been cast in and not exactly who they are. Go Anne. Go Jennifer. Women let's stay out of this toxic vitriol.

  • jamie | March 6, 2013 7:38 PMReply

    Maybe I'm a "happy girl", but I honestly prefer Hathaway to Lawrence. They are both very, very talented, pretty, and successful. The beating Hathaway took in the lead up to Les Mis was just plain cruel and said more about the Jealousy and feelings of inferiority of the commenters than they said about her.

  • Alexandrea Merrell | March 6, 2013 6:45 PMReply

    Women are taught from infancy to compete. Who is prettier? Thinner? More glamorous? More charming? Who do the men prefer? It creates an environment where picking apart and destroying other girls is part sport - part ego salve.

    Anne Hathaway has a multiple of traits that put her squarely into the frame of the "mean girl" in most women. She is impossibly thin, glamorous, pretty, graceful, talented, rich, and famous oh and she pulls it all off with a shy smile that makes her endearing. And worse yet....she is unobtainable. The makeup of her physical characteristics are unobtainable. What she has achieved is unobtainable by all but a small handful of women....ever.

    Women hate Anne in the same way that they hated the head cheerleader in high school that could sing, got straight A's, looked like a small town Princess, volunteered at her church, and never got drunk or knocked up, and was always nice. Women hate her, because they feel inferior in her presence. That of course means that she "must" be fake.

    Conversely, Jennifer fell (a fear of most of us who have walked across a stage), she smokes, drinks, flipped off the paps, and seems like someone who we either imagine we once were or who we could hang out with. She doesn't make women feel inferior, quite the opposite, she makes people feel like they are already at her level or better. She is just "one of us" who made it.

    Its a no win situation. If Hathaway drank and smoked and acted up (Lindsey Lohan) women would carver her up for wasting her talents, gifts, and advantages. If she focuses on her craft by being precise and rehearsed (generally a requirement) then she is a sociopath? Its all just pretty pathetic really.

    At the end of the day. People can choose to slam others of work on themselves.....we all know what most people choose.

  • caro | March 14, 2013 12:35 PM

    +1

  • Anonymous | March 6, 2013 4:26 PMReply

    Women have very good instincts. Instead of shaming their survival instincts, you should look more seriously into WHY they don't like Anne Hathaway. It isn't jealousy, or cultural training, or backlash. Plenty of women love Meryl Steep, Rachel Weisz, Cate Blanchett, Helen Mirren, and other talented, awarded and accomplished actresses who don't beg for approval or act fake.

    Anne Hathaway reads as a Narcissistic Personality Disorder. The natural reaction when seeing a sociopath is your skin crawls. If you read interviews with her directors, Hathaway is praised for how precise and rehearsed she is. The same thing we hate about her speeches...she has to practice to appear human, but still reads as fake and insincere.

  • bahbara | March 22, 2013 3:13 PM

    Thank you for saying that. I found the whole tone of this piece offensive, as the writer is basically saying "if you find a certain woman irritating, well, you are just plain wrong, your thinking is wrong, something is wrong with you, you have no business being irritated," etc. Hathaway creeps me out. I don't know why, but when people creep me out, whether they're a super-smiley desperate-to-be-adored-by-everyone girl, or that PUA guy at a cocktail party whose smile makes your skin crawl because the muscles around his eyes betray a calculating personality, I trust my instincts and run the other way. Now, maybe Hathaway is just really really shy and is faking a Disney protagonist's spunky cheeriness, and that's the artifice I'm picking up on. If so, that's something she needs to work on...it's not the fault of those who are rubbed the wrong way.

  • Ava | March 20, 2013 3:23 PM

    Wow, thank you for saying this. I was kind of thinking along those lines but thought that if I said it, people would think I was being unfair or wrong. I myself am intuitive and she has been really rubbing me the wrong way for a while now. It was validating to read your comment.

  • caro | March 14, 2013 12:44 PM

    she's the female Patrick Bateman!!!!

    your point of view or the one of @Jenna illustrates your problem with Hathaway:she's perfect(too perfect to be honest?),she wanted to win,she's narcissist,she deserved to win and you're jealous

  • Juli Parker | March 6, 2013 3:57 PMReply

    For me, it's not about NOT supporting one or the other or stereotyping. As a theatre actor and director and feminist critic, it's about whose acting I genuinely like. That's it. It doesn't make me like Hathaway MORE because she is a feminist if I don't like her acting or the movies she chooses to make.

  • kasey | March 6, 2013 3:29 PMReply

    I don't understand the Anne Hathaway hate as she is talented, hard working and an activist. I may not like all of her movies but that is not a comment on her as a person. Hathaway appears to be a woman who would be a lovely conversationalist and friend. (of course that appearance is filtered through media exposure). Metaphorically pitting two talented women, older to younger, against each other does no good to anyone and generates a false competition that works to the detriment of both women. I agree that Jennifer Lawrence has been framed as the cool girl and I'm sure that comes with a whole other level of pressure considering she is just 22.

  • Ted | March 6, 2013 2:38 PMReply

    Why do we care?

  • Jenna | March 7, 2013 7:12 AM

    Anne Hathaway IS annoying. Irrelevant of her gender, her "happiness" (Really?? Are you on meth or something?) and her teeth. Perhaps she is not well liked because she comes across as pretentious, is totally overhyped as an actress (acted off the screen by Emily Blunt in 'Devil Wears Prada', did the most shitty British accent in 'One Day' for starters). Case in point on pretentiousness is her speech at the BAFTAs when she thanked Victor Hugo, a writer who has been dead since 1885!!! By way of comparison Cameron Diaz in an ultimate happy-go-lucky girl and well loved as she comes across as natural and being herself - not an ounce of smugness or self obsession. I find it highly insulting that this stupid blog accuses women of being in some way anti-feminist for not liking AH. Stop kissing Anne's happy butt - we can like or not like who we damn well please so give us some credit for intelligence. Also this whole Lawrence v Hathaway is such a load of made up, trumped up rubbish even Fox news would be ashamed to run this crap as an "editorial". Jeez.

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