Anne Hathaway Is Not Your Friend

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I've been running around a bit giving talks (no idea what anyone would want me to talk about in February) so I'm late responding to the "Why we don't like Anne Hathaway" story. I use "story" very loosely. You can see samples here, here, here and here


Ann Friedman sums up the state of affairs:

Does EVERY WOMAN ON THE INTERNET baselessly hate Anne Hathaway? I took a quick straw poll. "She is that theater kid with good intentions but secretly annoys the shit out of you," said one friend, adding, "You want to be excited for her and you are but deep down you are kind of rolling your eyes." Another replied, "I think someone told her she was America's sweetheart and she believed it." One friend placed her in the category of "really affected drama queens," saying, "I can imagine her non-ironically yelling 'Acting!'" In other words, she's always onstage, always calculated -- not someone with whom you'd want to party or share your deepest secrets. "I am an Anne Hathaway supporter," said a friend who sidestepped the question of whether or not she finds the actress likable. "Sure, she's kind of needy, but so are all actors."

What does it really mean when we say an actress "annoys the shit" out of us, anyway? That we hate the roles she chooses? The paparazzi'd version of her life we see in US Weekly? Her insufficiently funny quips on the red carpet? Or, as Salon asked today, is it her face? In some ways, the point of sitting on the bleachers of celebrity culture is the thrill of judging with impunity. Unlike our neighbors or co-workers, we convince ourselves that famous actors, by dint of making their living entertaining us, have chosen to be judged. And judge we do. (This isn't just a byproduct of our Twitter-enforced instapundit culture, either: "Let's get Entertainment Weekly and play my favorite new game: Love Her/Hate Him," exclaims Will in a 1999 episode of Will & Grace.)
This makes me feel very very old. I'm reading this but the gears of my 37-year old head are... not so good.

Nevertheless, I would like to propose that Hathaway is laboring under forces that, say, Mark Wahlberg is not. I don't really know if Gary Oldman is a "good guy" or not. I'm not really clear that I'd actually like to have a beer with Denzel Washington or Chiwetel Ejiofor. I pay to watch them work and feel no need to expand the relationship beyond those bounds. 

I recognize that there is an entire publicity industry designed to get us to "like" people whom we essentially pay to see work. And perhaps it's fair to judge whether or not that industry has been effective in making you think you know Hathaway in a way that you probably do not. But the fact remains that you don't really know any of these people.

Anne Hathaway is an actor. This is not a synonym for "Homecoming Queen" nor "special friend." She does her job better than most. That should be enough.

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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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