celebrity

We need to talk about the "unforgivable sins" of Anne Hathaway.

It’s hard to pinpoint the exact moment Anne Hathaway became the coriander of Hollywood.

For years, the 36-year-old actress has been both universally loved and violently reviled by the public in accordance with whichever way the popularity pendulum happened to be swinging. There were also a brutal few years in the past decade when criticism of the actress named after Shakespeare’s wife well and truly drowned out the praise. And the undeniable feat of her extensive box office earnings.

Looking back now, it’s hard to believe that her entry into the public sphere was as enchanting and well received as it was at the time, but I guess that’s just how things play out when Disney is the puppet master of your early career days.

Anne first came to attention in her debut film role as geeky school-girl-turned-royalty Mia Thermopolis in 2001’s The Princess Diaries. It was one of those perfect career eclipses where film critics, movie-goers and media alike were all completely beguiled by the newly-minted young actress, who looked like a fairytale come to life. In those early years, of course, Anne had a get-out-of-jail-free card in the form of youth and sweet inexperience, attributes that will always allow you a certain level of cache as long as you remember to toe the line.

It was not until landing a major movie role in 2006, as frumpy writer turned glamorous magazine assistant Andrea “Andy” Sachs in The Devil Wears Prada that Anne was bumped up to true leading lady status. However, what should have been the making of her as an actress who was in equal parts as likeable as she was bankable, was actually the role that lit the tiniest spark in what would be become a fire of hatred against the star.

While it is hard to believe that starring in a well-loved comedy could tarnish your personal brand, Anne and Andrea were never really separated in the public eye. Now, over a decade after the movie was released,  it was actually her co-star, the actor Stanley Tucci, who was able to pinpoint why Anne was the only member of the main cast who walked away from that production without an extra string of popularity added to her bow.

While talking to journalist Dolly Alderton on her podcast Love Stories with Dolly Alderton, Tucci voiced his sorrow that Anne’s performance in the film was never celebrated as her colleagues’ were, which he summarised was due to the fact that each of the other cast members were tasked with creating broad, comedic and memorable characters, while it was Anne’s job to “just react to them”, something he argued was a much harder and more thankless job.

While The Devil Wears Prada stars Emily Blunt and Meryl Streep became even more universally beloved thanks to their roles as the sharp-tongued Emily and the iconic and complicated Miranda Priestly, Anne was saddled with the legacy of a more serious and straight Andy.

Ironically, it was this Andy Sachs streak of seriousness, hard work and ‘playing the good girl’ that would eventually lead to the universal hatred of Anne Hathaway and the creation of a zealous group of anti-fans known as ‘Hathahaters’.

Anne first came to attention in her debut film role as Mia Thermopolis in 2001's The Princess Diaries. Source: Getty.
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Since this is all taking place in the court of public opinion, it has to be said that the first official crime of Anne Hathaway took place in 2011, when she agreed to co-host the Oscars with actor James Franco as part of the Academy's bid to make the awards show more appealing to a younger demographic.

Despite the fact that Anne was in peak movie star mode that night (or, more likely, because of it) dancing, singing and changing outfits no less than 10 times in one broadcast, she ended up being internationally panned and ridiculed for the gig. The blame was placed on her much more so than the barely-alive-on-stage Franco, due to the fact that she, in her own words , came across as  “slightly manic and hyper-cheerleadery on-screen.”

More so than movies roles or the critique of her acting ability, it would actually be award shows and circuits that would go on to be the undoing of Anne Hathaway and fuel the public tide of derision that mounted against her.

In a perfect world, 2013 should have been the year of Anne Hathaway.

She was nominated for a slew of awards thanks to her portrayal of the doomed Fantine in the all-star, big screen adaption of Les Misérables. Much was said in the press at the time about her powerful performance, the huge amount of weight she'd lost in order to faithfully portray the character and her enchanting singing voice, yet it all began to unravel the moment the actual accolades started rolling in.

During that awards season Anne won a Golden Globe, a Screen Actors Guild Award and a BAFTA Award, all in the Best Supporting Actress category, before finally nabbing the top prize: an Academy Award.

The problem was, with each award show appearance she would unwittingly but very publicly break one of the cardinal yet unspoken rules of acceptable public female behaviour through her enthusiastic demeanour and emotional acceptance speeches.

After her Golden Globes win, in which she said "thank you for this lovely blunt object that I will forevermore use as a weapon against self-doubt" she was accused of being too flurried, too emotional and too sickly sweet while appearing on stage.

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Later in the night, she was accused by many on Twitter and in the show's media pit of putting on "The Anne Show" when it appeared during the broadcast that she cut off a Les Mis producer in order to thank her own management team—before he got a chance to say his piece about Best Musical.

(It was later revealed that Anne impulsively spoke up because her longtime manager had been diagnosed with cancer and she wanted to show respect, but even that extra hint of humanity was not enough to save her.)

During the Oscars ceremony held just a few weeks later, she fared even worse in the spotlight.

Fresh off an awards circuit where her overall popularity had taken a hit, Anne showed up in a dress that appeared to personally offend the public thanks to two ill-placed darts on her chest. It was actually due to a last minute switch and she would later go on to reveal the panic behind the decision saying "everybody hates me and I just really needed a dress",  coupled with a gushy acceptance speech where she lovingly cradled her statue on stage and whispered, "it came true".

When written out here, it appears especially ludicrous that her sins that night included being emotionally overcome with her own success, sincere in her disbelief and stoic in her decision to discuss the 'craft' that got her to this point, rather than spout off witticisms to the waiting gaggle of red carpet reporters.

It all just goes a long way to show that the only thing the public hates more than a successful woman, is a successful woman who is thrilled with her own triumph.

What was especially damaging to Anne that year was that the other actress doing the media rounds and scooping up awards alongside her was none other than perennial awards show darling Jennifer Lawrence. Of course, media commentators and the public could not help but pit the women against each other.

Jennifer of course, who won Best Actress that year, was the ultimate Cool Girl at every turn as she worked the circuit cracking jokes, adorably tumbling on stage and interrupting red carpet interviews to ask if there was food inside.

Standing alongside her, Anne's genuine sincerity rankled even harder.

"Everybody hates me and I just really needed a dress" Anne remembers thinking the night before her Oscar win. Source: Getty.
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Due to the fact that Anne has eyes and a working internet connection, she was also well aware of the existence of the Hathahaters and the stream of public vitriol against her at the time it was well and truly on the rise.

The day after the Golden Globes, while Googling pregnancy rumours about herself so that she could script a Funny or Die video, Anne came across a viral article called Why Do People Hate Anne Hathaway?

On realising the extent of the hatred against her, Anne went on to tell Harper's Bazaar years later that it was like being "punched in the gut" and saying she felt "shocked and slapped and embarrassed. Even now I can feel the shame."

Usually scoring an Oscar would strengthen a performer's career and offers would start flooding in, but in Anne Hathaway's case the sins she had committed onstage cancelled out the cache that comes with such a win.

"I had directors say to me, 'I think you're great. You're perfect for this role, but I don't know how audiences will accept you because of all this stuff, this baggage,'" she told  Harper's Bazaar .

Six years on from her Oscar win and Anne has been undertaking what appears to be a carefully calculated plan to improve her likeability.

Nothing about her excellent on-screen presence or commitment to bringing compelling characters to life has changed,  but these days she comes across as more self-deprecating than sombrely sincere. She poses on magazine covers with taglines asking fans to 'kiss and make-up' with her and pokes fun at herself via her Instagram account, even hauling herself over the coals for her past Oscars hosting gig this year.

The worry here is not that a rich, successful and very talented actress was immensely disliked, but the fact that at some stage of their lives, almost every woman in the world has been Anne Hathaway. Trialled unfairly in the court of public opinion, ridiculed for not playing the Cool Girl and scorned for publicly believing in their own success and hard work.

If you look at what she has achieved, Anne Hathaway is truly a force of nature, and maybe it's us who owe her an apology.

For more stories like this, you can follow Mamamia Entertainment Editor Laura Brodnik on Facebook.  You can also visit our newsletter page and sign up to “TV and Movies”  for a backstage pass to the best movies, TV shows and celebrity interviews (see one of her newsletters here). 

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