Culture War Correspondence: The Internet’s Disenchantment with Jennifer Lawrence

KAT: Friends, readers, earthmen, lend us your eyes for another Culture War Correspondence. This week Evan and I will be discussing Jennifer Lawrence. It may sound like a broad topic, but maybe Evan can expand for us why she recently came to his attention.

EVAN: Well, in general there’ve been a number of articles, like this one on Salon, that hint at an impending wave of internet backlash towards J-Law [I will not be referring to her like that again]. This has been backed up by comments on popular image hosting website imgur that sum up to, “still?” and/or “okay, we get it.”

But before we really delve into all of that I think it’d be good if we both answered the question: How do you feel, generally, about Ms. Lawrence?

KAT: Well, I’ve written about her in the past and my opinion tends to be generally the same. She seems authentic to me, and while I realize no one can be truly authentic in the public eye, I enjoy seeing a celebrity in the news that I can relate to.

How about you?

EVAN: Right before I get to my opinions, what would you say makes her relatable?

KAT: Well probably all the things that we keep seeing in various gifs and memes of her. When she trips on stuff, accidentally says a bad word on live TV, gets awkward in certain situations, etc.

EVAN: I also like Jennifer Lawrence. Yes, part of that has to do with the fact that she really is a killer actress [see: Silver Linings Playbook]. The vast majority, though, is probably that she is a pretty girl who talks about food a lot [which I love and interact with more than pretty girls], which is helpful to mention because that’s what people have been ragging on her about.

I mean, over on the Huffington Post writer/blogger Jenny Trout straight-up tells us that Lawrence is a body-shamer.

KAT: Actually as much as I enjoy Jennifer Lawrence that article really does have a point. Her anecdotes about food are “cute” because she is slim and pretty. She’s what anyone who has struggled with healthy eating wants to look like (while eating what they want) but more than likely won’t. If she really does eat the way she suggests (which is probably pretty likely seeing how she is young and probably has decent genetics and a fast metabolism) then it is like a slap in the face to the many women who work hard to be fit without getting the results of a body like Lawrence.

That being said, I’m not sure we can blame her for body-shaming if that really is her reality. It’s like if I got mad at John every time he talked about reaching things on high shelves because he is body-shaming me for being short. Just because someone is aware of the way their body works doesn’t mean they are necessarily shaming others whose bodies don’t work the same way. The only way I can really see J-Law (you started it) becoming a problem is if she is held up as a “fat actress”, which we have seen to some degree.

EVAN: What I thought was really interesting about the Salon article was how they held up Melissa McCarthy as an example of a woman who eats healthy and stays more or less the same size. If she, a larger person, were to have the same attitude Trout is positive that we as a culture would crucify her.

I thought that was so interesting specifically because singer Adele actually made a comment very similar to some of Lawrence’s, and which I actually spoke to a friend about as being kind of awful, if only because of how ultimately harmful it is. Which, in light of some exact quotes from Lawrence, “If anybody even tries to whisper the word ‘diet,’ I’m like, ‘You can go f- yourself,” is pretty darn hypocritical of me, I think.

KAT: Well put. There is definitely a double standard going on. And while I appreciate the effort of people like Jennifer Lawrence (or perhaps her managers) to go against the grain of pop culture by caring less about being skinny,  I want to go on to say is “all it is doing is setting unrealistic expectations that we are all going to look like Jennifer Lawrence if we eat junk food whenever we want.”

EVAN: I do get what you’re saying about it being potentially awful for the self-esteem of millions, but at the same time I think my favourite tweeter/comedy writer/stand-up comedian Shelby Fero really nailed it when she said:

“Again, being totally honest here: Jennifer Lawrence seems a little dumb. About certain things. I don’t say that disparagingly and I don’t mean she has a low IQ or isn’t thoughtful or awesome or intelligent. I do think it’s possible she doesn’t spend free time reading about social justice or learning how to police herself.”

Which is all to say that you’re still right, but I don’t believe she’s to blame, really. Definitely not deserving of outright hate, at least, internet or otherwise.

KAT: Agreed. She certainly isn’t deserving of outright hate, but at what point are any hated celebrities deserving of the hatred they’ve accrued? Before we started this talk we were comparing the way Kristen Stewart is hated to almost the same extent Lawrence has (at least until now) been loved. In fact the two are often seen pitted against one another.

Since Stewart is usually framed as the super grump on certain sites (like Pinterest) Lawrence often appears in memes along Stewart with captions like “J-Law can make ANYONE smile.”

EVAN: Kristen Stewart has a really beautiful smile.

KAT: Haha, would you like to put in a little defense here for Stewart, Evan?

EVAN: To veer off topic a little, I think that as far as The Hunger Games and Twilight films are concerned both actresses are only able to portray their characters as well as they’re written. Let’s be real, everyone, Katniss gets really whiny and emotional and irrational just like she is in Collins’ books.

Kristen Stewart is a fine actress. Also she’s a pretty girl, which as I mentioned above I am into.

KAT: I have to side with the above meme and say that in the films I have seen Stewart in I haven’t been overly impressed with her range of emotion. I’m thinking of Snow White in particular here. But perhaps we are getting a little off topic..

EVAN: If you are about to bring Snow White and the Huntsman up as an example of anything positive in a film-related sense then, well . . . yes, we should get back to our discussion.

You mentioned internet hate and I guess the deal is that it’s really our own fault, isn’t it? Yes, Lawrence did the red carpet interview, et cetera, but we’re the ones who gushed over her and posted pictures on Facebook or imgur or what have you, and got so excited about what was ostensibly a person being herself.

Now she continues to do what people are now calling a “shtick” and suddenly our responses are more ugh than aww.

KAT: Yeah, it doesn’t exactly seem fair. But (and this is another reason why I like her) she seems pretty aware of how fickle “the audience” is and how people are bound to get sick of her eventually. At least she seems pretty prepared for it in that video I sent you.

EVAN: So I want to take us to a close, but what I’m about to bring up probably warrants a fair amount more discussion-

Jezebel asks us to brace ourselves for the Jennifer Lawrence backlash that has arguably already started, and pinpoints the problem that is our reaction towards female celebrities and the images we expect them to maintain. It’s very much in the same vein as Beyoncé’s album being so very pro-feminism yet people tearing her down for the sexist line that Jay-Z raps on the track “Drunk In Love”.

KAT: You mean the line refering to Tina Turner being abused by her husband Ike? Yeah, I feel like the is Beyoncé a feminist or not is a pretty big discussion all on it’s own.

EVAN: It directly relates though, doesn’t it? Why are our expectations of female celebs so high? I think it’s safe to say that none of us here at CWR have forgiven Chris Brown for beating Rihanna in the face, but many people have, or have forgotten about it entirely-

KAT: Agreed. Male and female celebrities get a very different critique from their public. This is visible in the way celebrities like Johnny Depp and George Clooney “get better with age” while Madonna is criticized because she just won’t stop trying to be sexy when she’s now “too old for it”. But I think it’s interesting, that around the same time she released her album Beyoncé also wrote this essay on gender inequality; it focuses on how women are still treated with inequality in the workforce.

EVAN: Beyoncé as a pop culture figure in general is far too big for us to bring up right now, though, so maybe we should wrap things up. My summary of all this concerning Jennifer Lawrence is a) she is going to say dumb things and all we can do is hope that it doesn’t get to the point where it borders on outright ignorance and b) the internet is kind of like this a lot of the time:

Comic drawn by Jo B of wealldraw.tumblr.com

KAT: Haha. Yes, exactly. And as much as we tend to expect celebrities to act as cultural spokespersons, we all need to remember that they are just regular people in the spotlight.

Thanks again for joining us here at Culture War Reporters. Let us know if you have any good ideas for our next correspondence. It’s a great reminder that we aren’t just talking to ourselves.

EVAN: At the very least leave us a comment letting us know how you feel about Jennifer Lawrence. Or pretty girls. Or food.

Me too, Jennifer. Me too.

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10 responses to “Culture War Correspondence: The Internet’s Disenchantment with Jennifer Lawrence

  1. I don’t understand why we expect her to be well-read on social justice (and therefore feel validated in judging her for not having straight as an arrow philosophies on everybody’s diet ever). I would like everyone to be focused and intentional about social justice but I’m not shocked when my co-worker makes a bizzare or unsympathetic comment- why should I be horrified if someone else does? Merely because they have a bigger audience? Again that’s not exactly her “fault” in the sense that she’s not on stage to sell a diet plan, demand social restructuring, or anything. Her job is to be a good actress. I’ve never seen a movie with her in it but she seems to win awards and be generally good at her job. Several of her quotes seem to be solidly appropriate in regards to dieting out of fear or for acceptance being completely inappropriate. I think it’s a development of our desire to have the PERFECT (she is sooooo me!) spokesperson- but then we get angry that she’s not as exactly what I think in all situations as we orginally signed up for. Who cares? She’s not totally crazy and she doesn’t seem to hate herself. Good for her. Moving on.

  2. I have never known enough about who Jennifer Lawrence is to be tired of her yet.

    I have long been tired of celebrity worship. A discussion this in-depth about a person who is in movies was not able to hold my interest. I’ve long been depressed at seeing people elevate the contributing artists they see (picking apart the lives of actors) and remaining ignorant of hard-working creative artists behind the scenes (how many people could tell me who directed Gravity or Silver Linings Playbook?).

    • I can tell you that Alfonso Cuaron directed Gravity, which I really liked, but not who directed Silver Linings Playbook, which I also liked. I know that the latter is also responsible for American Hustle, though.

      Directors in general are fairly well known when it comes to names, if anything it’s screenwriters who I think get the shortest end of the stick when it comes to attention and fame.

  3. Evan, I’m pretty sure Silver LIning Playbook would send me into cathartic shock for at least two days- and who has that kind of time?

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