Anne Hathaway’s hatred was rooted in misogyny – and a new generation can’t stand it
IIn case you haven’t heard, Anne Hathaway is cool again. Just like Zooey Deschanel. And Taylor Swift. In pop culture’s gladiator ring, predicting who will get a metaphorical thumbs-up or thumbs-down is an increasingly daunting task. Step back and watch the process long enough, and the seemingly random fluctuations of who’s in and who’s out can leave you with a jolt. In the last rework, it looks like we decided to give our favor to a few familiar faces. More precisely, faces once considered too soft, too impatient, too open. The most important: too serious.
Our sudden acceptance of serious stardom isn’t just a fluke – it’s a symptom of a much larger cultural shift. As a new generation comes of age, new values, priorities and perspectives also come into play. A millennial preference for irony, sharpness and sarcasm has been gradually suppressed. Seriousness is required, just like the stars who have embodied it the most.
Zooey Deschanel was the indie queen of the 2000s, an archetypal wide-eyed weirdo with a bundle of Smiths albums under her arm. The image crystallized in 2009, with her role as the titular love interest in the romantic comedy 500 days of summerthen two years later via his sitcom new girl. With polka dots, vintage clothes and a peter pan collar, she became the poster child for the twee and “manic pixie” movements that dominated the era. A few years earlier, a young Anne Hathaway was anointed into Hollywood royalty via Disney’s The Diary of a Princess (2001). In 2006, his turn in The devil wears Prada had made her a household name and a burgeoning cultural icon. In every interview she exuded a smiling energy, I’m just happy to be here. Taylor Swift also made her way onto the scene in the 2000s as the epitome of golden-haired, angel-voiced goodness. She was the ever-polite, ever-humble country star. She wore her heart on her sleeve. She was unfailingly friendly.
As the 2010s progressed, however, people grew disenchanted with this brand of non-ironic seriousness. “I’ve tried for years to figure out why I don’t like Zooey Deschanel,” a 2011 article in The New Republic began. “I always knew I wasn’t alone: a quick Google search will reveal many female writers who have issues with the independent actress.” Deschanel was falling out of favor. “She’s an unsettlingly childish, even childlike childishness,” the writer said, adding that she’s “programmed to speak and behave exclusively like a lovable eccentric.”
As for Hathaway, his infamous Oscar acceptance speech in 2012 – “it came true!” she was beaming – spawned a movement of so-called “Hathahaters”. Apparently his seriousness off and on screen was boring; it was rubbing us all the wrong way. “She’s got this theater kid thing where she takes on the vibe of every situation she’s in. […] but hugely overcompensates every time,” cried one reviewer at Hollywood.com. “She always looks like she’s performing, and her favorite act is that over-the-top humility and kindness.” By 2016, Swift’s downfall had also begun. #TaylorSwiftisOverParty was number one on Twitter that year. “Taylor Swift is not like other celebrities,” proclaimed Vice. “She’s worse.” Clearly, what had first been considered quirky and cute had become squeaky and goofy over time. We rolled our eyes and outright threw serious fame out of our good graces.
But in recent years, the mood has changed again. The ambivalent freshness has lost its luster. Now, images of Hathaway are plastered all over Twitter as a new cast of dedicated fans gush about her Mod-inspired Cannes fashion. “I love seeing Anne Hathaway succeed…thrive…look great,” wrote a fan. “I won’t forget when the internet decided to hate her for no reason in the 2010s.”
Deschanel is also back with “twee” fashion – the mid-2000s aesthetic that relied on quirky, cute and quaint – make a comeback on TikTok and new girl back to popularity during the 2020 lockdown. “The show embodies chaotic good at its finest, which is why it’s the perfect antidote to such a bad and chaotic year,” said one . writer noted at the time.
As for Swift, she has experimented with a number of personas. After her sunny, country-pop persona garnered backlash, she experimented with the brooding and badass Reputation (2017), followed by Shiny Pink Lover (2019). By 2020, however, she had fully embraced a more authentic version of herself via the mystical Folklore and Still, albums that emphasized heartfelt songwriting rather than explosive production. In a viral keynote the singer-songwriter gave at New York University in May, she even made the case for serious pride. “Learn to live with grimacing,” she said. “I’m a big advocate for not hiding your enthusiasm for things.” She added that she sees a “false stigma around eagerness in our culture of reckless ambivalence”, and that it “perpetuates the idea that it’s not cool to want it”. You could say she was referring to the anti-seriousness movement of the 2010s that saw Hathaway ridiculed for – gasp – actually wanting an Oscar, or Deschanel for openly taking advantage of his silly ukulele.
It is impossible to examine this movement, however, without addressing ongoing gender biases with Hathahaters or twee-scorners. After all, it’s hard to think of many male celebrities who have been subjected to similar levels of derision for simply being themselves. It’s clear today that it wasn’t just that we didn’t like serious women – we didn’t believe it. “The Anti-Hathers were a stark reminder that women in public contact have no right to want things, or they’ll be sentenced to an eternity in internet hell,” said Jill Gutowitz. wrote for Vice in 2019. “The baseless hate was textbook misogyny.”
The recent comeback of these celebrities does not depend on what they have actually done. On the contrary, it marks a change in our culture’s attitude towards seriousness itself – and in particular the seriousness of women. The young people driving this change seem to reject nervousness, self-mockery and judgment at every turn. Smoking, drinking and partying rates are falling. Meanwhile, trends such as “hot girl summer” and “main character energy” promote non-ironic, outspoken self-esteem. They’re a generation sick of being told to calm down, and they’re looking for serious celebrities to idolize in the process. And who better to choose than those rejected by their generational predecessors?
The likes of Hathaway and Deschanel aren’t alone in this either. Other happy types of theater kids are also having fun, from Andrew Garfield to West Side StoryIt’s Ariana DeBose. Attempts to mount similar backlash are also quickly reduced. Take it lightly scathing daily beast play in January about DeBose’s enthusiasm, love of music and shameless acting West Side Story co-star Rachel Zegler. He claimed – derisively – that she was “becoming the new Anne Hathaway”. The dismissive response to the piece proved that an appetite for anti-serious criticism just isn’t really there anymore. “We won’t do that again,” seemed to be the general reaction.
For the younger generation, there are more pressing questions than deciphering whether Zegler’s painfully candid Instagram Stories — full of messages to herself from “the Universe” — deserve condemnation. Or Drew Barrymore’s recent wild calls for running outside in the rain. In the grand scheme of things, our current crop of serious celebrities – with all their rambunctious, rambunctious theatrical energy – are ultimately harmless. This leaves a cultural atmosphere devoid of irony, which may inspire older generations to roll their eyes. But after years of belittling and questioning women for nothing but their personality, it’s a change of mood that can only be positive.