Anne Hathaway is terrible. This phrase elicits fairly mild reactions from the peanut gallery. “Oh, she’s not that bad” or “She’s pretty and seems kind of nice,” a few moderately ruffled, and very rare, souls may mutter in response. Say something double horrible about Taylor Swift, and you’ll receive a hearty “Here, here!” from Interwebbian folks everywhere. But announce from the pulpit of Internet opinion that “Jennifer Lawrence is awful” or “Jessica Chastain is a bad actress” or perhaps “Beyoncé doesn’t actually run the world” and prepare for the proverbial fur to fly.
Just look at Beyoncé's latest track, "Bow Down," which quite literally barks at her "bi**hes" to "bow down" to her. The general webbian opinion is not that her song is self-centered or arrogant, or even than she's barely on the track, it's that the tune is different, or at the very least interesting. When Vice sought the Lawrence haters in the most hateful of places — yep, hate groups — they still couldn't get anyone to disparage the actress. And then there's the Oscar feature that almost didn't see the light of day: Vanity Fair's defunct Chastain-hating essay, which was pulled from the Internet after the magazine's staff decided its negative claims about Chastain's talent were discordant with their views. Tapping into Internet anger over Taylor Swift's dating habits is easy, but reversing or challenging expressions of love for Web darlings is damn near impossible.
This special set of celebs is so universally beloved by the Internet public, they’re basically Web royalty. We should know — we worship frequently at Lawrence’s, Chastain’s, and Beyoncé’s altars. But why do we all have to agree? Why must we unite like a worldwide Kumbaya circle? And, most importantly, why, when contesting the Internet’s general opinion of a celebrity, must one always don armor fit for a medieval knight? Perhaps it’s because of one resolute and irrefutable truth: The Internet is right and you are wrong.
Vanity Fair certainly felt the pressure. It's what kept the publication from publishing Bruce Handy’s highly critical essay on Chastain, which includes the particularly biting line about her work in Zero Dark Thirty: “I’m surprised it’s being hailed as one of the year’s great performances, and that it has earned her an Oscar nomination for best actress.” A spokesperson for Vanity Fair said the article was pulled because it “ran counter to what a number of people at the magazine believed," but could the subtext of that admission be that they were also concerned that it ran counter to what the majority of the all-powerful Internet believes as well?
It’s more than likely that the answer is "yes." After all, it’s not an uncommon practice for any entertainment publication to respond positively to the outpouring of love for any top celeb. (Just see any of the thousands of articles across the Web spewing love for Ryan Gosling.) But as soon as a publication decries that a Hollywood darling — male or female — is overrated, they've opened themselved up to the ugliest, angriest part of the Internet.
And few celebs prove to be constructed of the same Teflon that coats Mrs. Sean Carter. When Beyoncé was being publicly exposed as a lip-syncher after her performance of the national anthem at President Obama’s second inauguration, the Internet wept but still generally agreed that it didn’t make her any less amazing. Even after her publicist committed a giant snafu by requesting BuzzFeed remove “unflattering” pictures of Beyoncé, a scandal that could ruin many stars in the eyes of the public, the singer’s star remained untarnished. So when Bey told us all to "Bow Down" in her latest single, it's no surprise the overwhelming reaction was more "whoa" than "WTF?" and we continued our worship. Her concert tour still sold out in seconds, she remains the epitome of fierceness, and we’re still calling her King B.
But of all our celeb obsessions, Lawrence may take the cake. During this post-Oscar honeymoon, she is infallible. The Internet’s outpouring of love for the Hollywood anti-It-Girl is so ever-present, it’s practically a sparkling cloud of good feelings with little beams of sunlight cheekily peeking through as it hovers over everything tweeted, Facebooked, Tumblred, Pinterested, blogged, and otherwise Interneted. We, as an online society, L-O-V-E Jennifer Lawrence. Full stop. But when the point is made that Lawerence may not be perfect, watch out. “[People] typically defend her as if they actually know her,” says Chelsea, age 24, from San Francisco who experienced the wrath of Lawrence-lovers firsthand after expressing her distaste for Lawrence's "total exaggeration of cool girl, girl next door-ness."
“I had posted about disliking her after the Oscars on Facebook and my post was the lone one amidst a sea of ‘OMG I want to be Jennifer Lawrence’s best friend! Look, she flipped off the reporters!’ I received very few comments in agreement, unlike an anti-Anne Hathaway post, which blows up your notifications," she adds.
No matter what Lawrence does, including flashing that middle finger at reporters at the Oscars Press Room, we as a pop culture-obsessed society still love her. It doesn’t matter that she was caught smoking something that looked a lot like marijuana on her vacation: It just makes her more real and hey, it’s only a little weed — certainly nothing to start a dramatic intervention campaign over. (Apparently, only Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus merit that kind of watchdog attention.) Her dress slipped up to reveal a sheer lining at the SAG awards, but that’s no big deal; meanwhile, Rihanna is shamed every time a sheerish shirt becomes transparent behind the unnatural glare of a paparazzo’s high quality flash. Lawrence’s incidents appear a bit more ridiculous written out this way, but admit it: Ninety-nine percent of us reacted with that exact level of nonchalance. And those who didn’t were thoroughly chastised and reprimanded for their contradictory opinions.
Take, for example, the Daily Mail Online in the UK, who followed up Lawrence’s “pot” pics with a post showing Lawrence in a heated, possibly angry phone discussion almost immediately after she toked. The article’s narrative suggests that the phone reaction is proof Lawrence is at the end of her rope, but the majority of commenters on the Mail’s site chastise the publication for drawing such a conclusion about the beloved actress.
Going back a little further, we can find celebrity punching bag Lindsay Lohan tweeting condescending remarks about Lawrence, saying, “And no1 should ever mess with a legend, such as Meryl Streep,” failing to realize that Lawrence was quoting The First Wives Club (“I beat Meryl!”) in her Golden Globes acceptance speech. Twitter was not amused. Everything from “like u should be judging anyone???” to “chill out” to a few responses bordering on NSFW flew Lohan’s way, followed by a barrage of blog posts reprimanding Lohan for “throwing shade.”
It may appear that it’s just London’s favorite gossip rag and the widely dismissed Lohan who seem to be stirring the Lawrence hate, but they’re not alone. There are perfectly normal people who simply don’t like Lawrence or her sweetheart status. Yes, really.
“I've just never been impressed with her," says 22-year-old Andy White from Sacramento, Calif. "I mean, she has acting chops, but so do plenty of other people. I just don't get why everyone runs after her.”
New Yorker Molly Osmond, age 37, shares White’s perception: “I think some of Jennifer Lawrence's appeal was as the Anti-Anne [Hathaway] … we were already being told by the media that she was charming and real and funny, so anything she did automatically fell into those categories,” she says.
But these people — much like the blogs, sites, and celebrities that take at aim at Lawrence and other celebs held in widespread, borderline hyperbolic good favor — get their fair share of flack for their unconventional opinions. "My friends are shocked," White says. "Especially my Tumblr friends, so I keep it to myself. It's better that way."
"[Lawrence] is everyone's little darling right now and God forbid anyone says something negative about every girl in America's new imaginary BFF," says Chelsea, who’s also been the victim of the unpopular anti-Lawrence opinion.
In fact, when I put the word out on social media that I was looking for those who haven't boarded the Lawrence train, I too got overzealous responses, including one friend who says he “will punch” anyone who dislikes the Silver Linings Playbook star. Sure, most people are likely joking when their over-the-top responses threaten bodily harm or question a friend’s logic, but there is something that changes the way you look at someone when they defy such a seemingly absolute truth, be it about Lawrence or some other universally beloved heroine.
Our ability to get close to these celebrities through on-camera interviews, paparazzi photos capturing their everyday moments (they walk their dogs and take out the trash because they’re not 16th century British monarchs!), projects with cult followings (Lawrence’s The Hunger Games and Beyoncé’s 4 are integral to our cultural consciousness whether we like it or not), and the necessity to see footage of these stars “behind the scenes” has bred a best friend culture in Hollywood. When we can learn this much about a star, it’s almost required that we feel a certain bond with these famous faces. After all, we know more about their lives than we do about some of our friendliest coworkers. And, as we all know, you can criticize your friends but as soon as someone else does, it’s on.
Unfortunately for those who don't care for Lawrence or Beyoncé (or even the Ryan Gosling and Channing Tatum, for that matter), the Internet worships them. Like a good friend, they bring out the best in Internet culture — Lawrence's behavior is endlessly GIF-able, Beyoncé has a never-ending supply of fabulosity, and Gosling and Tatum's impossibly charming existences are primed for endless galleries of normal-but-sexy behavior — and the Internet is not okay with you disparaging its best friends. Speak your peace, but know that when you do, your words, no matter how eloquent, will filter into the contrarian category. The Interwebs deem you an outsider and you can bet it has about 25 reasons (in GIF-form, no less) why you are dead wrong.
Follow Kelsea on Twitter @KelseaStahler
[Photo Credits: Kevin Mazur/WireImage; Lia Toby/WENN; Roger Wong/INFphoto; Dan Jackman/WENN; FameFlynet; Iam.Beyonce.com]