Why should celebrities have to explain their moods to the public? NUIG Sin's Deirdre Leonard looks at the 'Hatha-hate' phenomenon.
In 2013 Anne Hathaway won an Oscar for her role in Les Misérables and made a speech that is still ridiculed today. Quoting from the iconic song 'I Dreamed A Dream', Hathaway quipped that ‘it came true’. Many critics and viewers argued that she came across as insincere and awkward at the time, something that led to a wave of hate for the actress among the public. The term ‘Hatha-hate’ was coined, as Hathaway went from beloved star of movies like The Princess Diaries, to one of the most mocked figures in Hollywood of the last few years.
Speaking to The Guardian while on a recent press tour for her movie Colossal, she spoke of feeling ‘very uncomfortable’ accepting her award. “You win an Oscar and you’re supposed to be happy. I didn’t feel that way,” Hathaway recently stated, in an unusually raw admission.
Having played Fantine in Les Misérables, the actress spoke of how she ‘lost [her] mind’ immersing herself in the role of the troubled prostitute and ‘it hadn’t come back yet’ at the time of the Oscars. She shaved her hair, spent time researching prostitution and lost weight for the role and ‘portraying pain’ like that took a toll on the actress.
Hathaway was widely criticised for her public appearances and acceptance speeches during the movie’s press tour, with the same argument of insincerity being floated around amongst the press. This was on top of the public’s relatively fresh memory of her 2011 Oscar hosting gig alongside James Franco, which was deemed to be one of the worst shows in recent history. Both hosts appeared stiff, awkward and many found the show to be dull. The Oscar win in combination with this led to a snowballing of public hatred that still affects her public image today.
Of course, this growing public disdain did not go unnoticed by the actress. Speaking about the tarnishing of her persona, she knows that ‘it sucks’. She tried ‘to pretend’ that she was happy and as a result, ‘got called out on it, big time’. It’s clear that Hathaway has put the past behind her, citing the feelings of embarrassment as a lesson learned: “You only feel like you can die from embarrassment, you don’t actually die.”
But why should she have to justify these feelings from almost four year ago? And why were the public so quick to throw her off the pedestal they put her on in the first place? Hathaway’s story is one of an unfortunate multitude in Hollywood’s past, where the public’s love for a celebrity can change based on one unfortunate situation - an unflattering image that’s spread across the web; a media created feud that spirals out of context and control; an anxious and panicked star trying to fake ‘uncomplicated happiness’ accepting an award.
The public are quick to declare love and even quicker to shift allegiances when it comes to celebrities. It’s part of a wider cultural problem we have as a society where we treat stars as ‘untouchables’, people who are immune to mistakes or bad days and when they do have them, we’re only too quick to click on an article or retweet a tweet that shows them in this unflattering light.
For making this statement, Hathaway will undoubtedly be judged. People will say ‘she’s only an actress, it’s not that hard’ or dismiss her claims as a PR stunt to try and win back public opinion. In reality, this is an admission of anxiety from a star, someone who felt the pain of the character she lived as for months on end and who understood that this ‘pain is part of the collective experience’ of humanity. She’s a person who is uncomfortable with the larger trappings of fame and for the most part, has been incredibly genuine and warm throughout her career.
But the Hatha-hate will continue until we find another celebrity to talk about. The cycle of the public’s love-hate relationship with stars may never end, but perhaps it’s time that it should.