In 2012, during peak Hathaway (she played Catwoman in the year’s biggest film, The Dark Knight Rises, and won an Oscar for her role in Les Mis), the public decided that they didn’t like Anne Hathaway anymore. Some of that had to do with the fact that Hathaway often appeared disingenuous in her attempts to curry favor with her audience, and some of it had to do with the rise of Jennifer Lawrence, who seemed so incredibly genuine that the contrast between the two most prominent actresses of the year did no favors for Hathaway.
But as the public is wont to do after a celebrity is beat up over trivial, nonsensical things for long enough, they swung back around on her. In fact, mention Hathaway’s awkward relationship with her own public persona these days, and the Internet is quick to come to her defense.
Hathaway, who has been speaking a lot about the initial Hathaway backlash this month while promoting Interstellar, even addressed some of the mistakes she made in 2012, specifically a Golden Globes flub that I scarcely recall (via Harpers):
As she was preparing for the Golden Globes, Hathaway had just come off a wave of press that focused on her losing weight and shaving her head to play Fantine. “I damaged my health during Les Mis, which I didn’t want to mention in case it seemed like I was courting sympathy,” she says. She was exhausted, flu-ridden, and frustrated about the lack of interest in the character and in the issue of sexual slavery. So when Hathaway won the award for Best Supporting Actress, she was “weirdly presentational. One of the things I’ve been accused of is being inauthentic. And they were right—but not for the reason they thought.
“I couldn’t tie this moment to what I really wanted to say,” she continues. “And that’s on me, because Lupita did it,” she observes of Lupita N’yongo’s graceful speech on winning Best Supporting Actress earlier this year for 12 Years a Slave. Hathaway “fumbled through the end,” got offstage, and realized that she’d forgotten to thank her manager of 15 years, who was battling cancer. “One of my most regretted life moments,” she says. When Les Misérables won for Best Musical or Comedy, Hathaway asked the film’s producer Eric Fellner if she could say something else. “While everyone was still getting onstage, I spoke. I should have gone after everyone else. I own that; it was rude. People saw that as grabby, I guess. I don’t know.”
Hathaway said that, following her Oscar win, she had a lot of difficulties landing another role because of the way the public perceived her until Nolan — who gives no f*cks — came along and cast her in Interstellar, which has led to the resurrection of her career and her reputation.
What I find most interesting about this is not the initial backlash — which was real and pervasive, although her Oscar hosting stint was just as much to blame — but how fiercely the public (and by that, I mean, the Internet) has come to her defense. The about-face began even before Interstellar, really, and in a way, it was heartening to see. We did like Hathaway all along. She was amazing as a Catwoman. She crushed it as Fantine (and deserved that Oscar), but we picked on her like the family member who had let it go to her head, who needed a little humbling.
But the second that backlash went mainstream, the Internet changed course, like a kid who makes fun of his Mom but wouldn’t dare let anyone else do the same. We will accept a little humbling, but cross that line, we will f*ck you up.
The backlash and the backlash-to-the-backlash almost seems to exist separate from Hathaway herself, who hasn’t really even changed that much. She’s the same great actress, but she still seems to struggle in interviews to connect, and she still seems to care a little deeply about how we feel about her, whereas someone like Jennifer Lawrence doesn’t give a sh*t, which is why she’s so beloved.
But we have changed. What we initially saw a certain lack of self awareness and desperation now feels different. She’s reaching out. She still wants us to like her, but we’re now more amenable. She’s not “out of touch”; she’s occasionally awkward, just like the rest of us!
That’s no longer a character defect; it’s a source of empathy. It turns out, the Disney princess with the perfect life and the perfect smile also has her flaws, and it is through those flaws that we can finally connect.