Oh, the case of poor Anne Hathaway. The Oscar-winning actress has received an avalanche of bad press over the last couple of years for that most polarizing kind of offense: Being herself.
She’s the kind of celebrity that inexplicably bugs people. She has “too perfect” of an image; a sunny personality that must be fake; a tendency to take herself very seriously. Things really heated up during the 2013 awards season when Hathaway took home many well-earned trophies for her role in “Les Miserables.” But to many, she came off as smug and self-important through the entire process. So despite winning awards, her reputation ended up being greatly damaged instead of enhanced.
Now, Hathaway’s back in the news as she makes the press rounds for the much-anticipated Christopher Nolan film, “Interstellar,” co-starring Matthew McConaughey and Jessica Chastain. In the process, she’s addressed and defended her image, talking candidly about how people’s cruel comments have affected her self-esteem. It’s easy to feel sympathetic, but also tough to watch because she’s fighting a losing battle: When it comes to public perception of celebrities, it is extraordinarily difficult to change people’s minds.
In a cover story for Harper’s Bazaar, Hathaway took a defensive tactic, running down all of the moments people didn’t like. Viewers thought she was being “inauthentic” during her grandiose acceptance speech for Best Actress at the 2013 Golden Globes; Hathaway acknowledges the speech was awkward but only because “I couldn’t tie this moment to what I really wanted to say.”
People also felt it was tacky when on the same night as the entire “Les Mis” cast accepted the Best Musical award, Hathaway grabbed the microphone first to thank one additional person; turns out, that person was her manager of 15 years who was fighting cancer.
Hathaway also defended her Oscar night decision to switch to a Prada gown, which caused a minor controversy when she backed out of wearing a dress by Valentino, a close friend. (She found out last minute that co-star Amanda Seyfried would be wearing a similar gown.)
To the people that already don’t like Hathaway, her excuses still might not be enough. In the article she talks about stumbling across a story online titled something like “Why does everyone hate Anne Hathaway?”
She told Harper’s that finding that story felt like being “Punched in the gut…Shocked and slapped and embarrassed. Even now I can feel the shame.” Hathaway added that her reputation started to cost her roles in movies since directors didn’t like her public image.
Beyond how her reputation affected her professional life, Hathaway expanded on the emotional consequences Thursday in an interview on Ellen DeGeneres’s talk show. DeGeneres asked how Hathaway deals with all the criticism, which amounts to “cyber-bullying.”
Hathaway paused for a long time before answering. “Well, I listened at first. And I couldn’t help it, you know? You try to shut it off and I couldn’t. And then I realized that why I couldn’t was I had not learned to love myself yet,” she explained. “I hadn’t gotten there. And if you don’t love yourself when someone else says horrible things to you, part of you is always going to believe them.”
She continued, saying she just wanted to figure out who she was and not feel dependent on what other people thought. “And it’s been a really cool great journey,” she explained. “I feel like I’ve arrived in a place where, you know, maybe not every minute of every day, but way more than I used to, I have a tremendous amount of love and compassion for everyone else. And best of all I have it for myself, which I never enjoyed before.”
The audience burst into loud applause, and DeGeneres commended her attitude as well.
If only it were that simple. While it’s a great answer and she sounds genuine, Hathaway shouldn’t bother addressing the haters with such a calm, mature attitude. Being reasonable is ultimately useless. The viewing public is strange — generally, the greater online audience tends to decide that they’re going to dislike someone until they’re good and ready to stop.
Also, Hathaway has already found the most valuable way to get back on people’s good side: Focus on what she’s undeniably good at, which is acting. She told Harper’s she started getting back in Hollywood’s good graces once Nolan cast her in “Interstellar,” which shows that the best way to shut everyone up is to prove it it doesn’t really matter what snarky Twitter users think — she’s still going to get roles because she’s talented.
Hopefully after this press tour, Hathaway will make these self-defense explanations a thing of the past. Because if there’s one thing everyone has learned, trying to convince angry Internet commenters they’re wrong is just a losing battle.