It’s hard to imagine a celebrity who’s achieved quite the cult of likability as Jennifer Lawrence has, and she told Marie Claire that she knows that her status as everyone’s BFF simply can’t last forever. In fact, she hit upon the catch 22 for female stars–likability is a trap. You’re screwed if you do and screwed if you don’t.
“Nobody can stay beloved forever. I never believed it, the whole time. I was like, just wait: People are going to get sick of me. My picture is everywhere, my interviews are everywhere. I’m way too annoying because I get on red carpets and I’m really hyper, most likely because I’ve been drinking, and I can’t not photobomb somebody if it’s a good opportunity. But it’s something I always tell myself: ‘You need to calm the f–k down. You don’t want to constantly be a GIF.’”
Lawrence is right–she won’t stay lovable forever.
Female actors are are criticized for their personalities no matter which way they go, and it is a uniquely female problem. We comment on the likability of male stars with different language–we call them charming or funny–not likable. But female actors get the likability tag for displaying basic appealing human traits, as if the default for female actors is “unlikable.” The terms we use to define a female actor as likable tend to be things that Lawrence exemplifies–klutziness, goofiness, lack of refinement, a relaxed, easygoing emotional state, and that prized sense of “authenticity,” that all say “this is not a normal girl. This girl is fun.”
Already, Lawrence has received backlash for her “authenticity”–backlash that claims it’s manufactured for publicity. I personally have doubted that her public personality isn’t some PR-crafted act, and this is a demonstration of how actresses are screwed if they do. It doesn’t take too long for the likable to become too schticky for people to find palatable–we want our female actresses to have personalities until we get tired of letting them talk.
Look at the example of Anne Hathaway, who went from lovable dork in The Princess Diaries to the world’s most hated female celebrity. It was sometime in 2012 when things started to go south for Hathaway, who suddenly seemed like every insufferable musical theater kid you knew in high school. I cringed alongside the rest of the world during her Les Miserables Oscar acceptance speech (the “It came true” moment). Hathaway had gone from warm, inviting, and funny to completely unpalatable. I don’t think her personality changed–I think we just got tired of her. At some point, we grow tired of hearing our female celebrities talk.
There is also the issue of age–Lawrence will age out of the sexy klutz stage at some point or another. Lawrence is allowed to be a big clumsy dork/pseudo BFF because she’s super hot, and so her personality becomes socially acceptable. But at some point, she won’t be a sex symbol–the funny ingenue thing is a lot less appealing once people stop finding her attractive. And then what will she be? Unlikable? I have a feeling that Lawrence’s future is “crazy,” according to Tina Fey’s incisive definition.
[T]he definition of “crazy” in show business is a woman who keeps talking even after no one want to fuck her anymore.
Lawrence is right. The world will tire of her as it has already begun to, because female stars have shelf lives for their personalities. It’s a sickening double standard that doesn’t apply to male actors, and a grotesque reality of the institutionalized sexism of celebrity culture. It’s hard to watch and shouldn’t be the case, but of course, we won’t be able to tear our eyes away.
Photo: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images