I have never really been a fan of Jennifer Lawrence. One might even say that, over the past few years of her meteoric rise to fame, I have actively, enthusiastically disliked her. By actively disliked I mean something bordering dangerously on a kind of irrational hatred, the sort of irrational hatred we reserve for celebrities and people we don’t know.
I’ve always been bothered by the idea that someone is a “breath of fresh air” because she eats hot dogs and likes football. I found the novelty of Lawrence’s “cool girl” persona grating. But I’ve realized my issues with Miss Lawrence have little to do with her, and everything to do with a Hollywood landscape so obsessed with “It girl” culture that it sets actresses up for failure and backlash.
“You can’t live your whole life behind your phone, bro,”Lawrence chastised. “You can’t do that, you’ve got to live in the now.”
This statement drew criticism. She seemed to have been going for deadpan humor, but social media users complained that she had been needlessly mean and insensitive. Rather than being the chill, relatable girl we’ve all come to love, Lawrence was a snippy diva no longer charmingly mystified by yet another award won.
Jennifer Lawrence criticising a guy for living life behind a screen seems dumb for someone who's just won an award for being in a movie
— Felicity Morse (@FelicityMorse) January 11, 2016
Apparently, we have reached “peak Lawrence.” Her popularity is slowly turning into overexposure and her I-Don’t-Give-A-F**k attitude, once charming, is now just entitled actress bitchiness. According to Mic writer Kevin O’Keeffe, the moment solidified a kind of dethroning of Lawrence as “It girl.”
But “none of this is Lawrence’s fault,” O’Keeffe adds. “This is how Hollywood works. Actresses are hot one second and annoying the next. Anne Hathaway, Gwyneth Paltrow and Kate Winslet can empathize.”
Strangely, even though I myself have never particularly cared for Lawrence, I find this apparent Hollywood inevitability, wherein starlets like Hathaway, Lindsay Lohan, and Gwyneth Paltrow can lose their likability so easily and so arbitrarily, a bit horrifying.
This isn’t to say that actresses can do no wrong, or that celebrity culture isn’t by definition all about consumption and disposal. After all, there are legitimate reasons to dislike Lawrence, ones that have nothing to do with a moment of “rudeness” or how authentically “chill” she seems.
There are her past transphobic and homophobic remarks (she once described herself as “so d**e-y” because she was a tomboy), her somewhat insensitive comments about weight and eating disorders, and her dismissal of valid complaints about the whitewashing of her “Hunger Games” character Katniss Everdeen.
It’s fascinating how easily we’ll collectively ignore the string of messed up things she’s said in favor of propping up her cool girl image, then freak out when she is “rude” — as if being rude is worse than being homophobic. As if being “rude” is the absolute worst thing a woman could ever be.
The problem with the way we talk about starlets like Jennifer Lawrence (before they even begin to “age out” — Lawrence is only 25) is the fact that we are so intent on there only being one. Lawrence has, without a doubt, played into and benefited from her “It girl” status in ways that older women and women of color would never be able to. That must be acknowledged. But while I personally don’t care for Lawrence or her acting, the idea that she must be dethroned so that another “It girl” can capture our hearts and minds is frustrating.
It’s not enough to just acknowledge that Hollywood is sexist and messed up and pits women against one another. What are we doing to change it? Why does the conversation about the “It girl” constantly center on a rotating cast of white, conventionally-attractive actresses? Who says that they cannot all exist and thrive alongside each other? Why must we pin all our hopes and dreams on one young, white, thin woman at any given time, knowing full well that the time will come when we decide to take her down a peg?
Male stars are afforded a kind of complexity that not even Lawrence, with all her power and privilege, gets to enjoy. They’re allowed to be assholes (see Tom Hardy) or super earnest to the point of obnoxiousness (see Joseph Gordon Levitt), or messy (see Robert Downey Jr.), or overexposed (see Chris Pratt). They’re allowed to exist and thrive at the same time as other male stars. They are allowed to be “It” even after whatever made them “It” to begin with fades.
Lawrence was snippy with a reporter, and suddenly she’s public enemy number one. David O’Russell, who frequently casts Lawrence in his films (to play characters 10 and sometimes 20 years older than she actually is), is known for being difficult, hot-tempered and verbally abusive to female stars. His career is at its peak. Why is that?
I still don’t get the appeal of Jennifer Lawrence. I still have major issues with her obliviousness to her own privilege, but I’m done resenting her for a persona that has largely been thrust upon her. I fell into the trap of focusing my resentment on her and not the Hollywood system that props up actresses like her while largely ignoring actresses who, no matter their talent or charm, will never be granted “It girl” status simply because of their age or race.
This exclusion could be rectified if we resisted our urge to give every female star that comes to prominence a “type” that she can’t possibly live up to. There’s a reason why the Manic Pixie Dream Girl and Chill Girl and Bad Girl tropes become tedious: real women are far more nuanced, and far more interesting, than any archetype we can force upon them.
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