Understanding your girl crush on Jennifer Lawrence

Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence arrive at the Oscars 2013.

Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence arrive at the Oscars 2013. Photo: Christopher Polk

If I were to ask you to pick one celebrity to be your BFF, no questions asked, right now, I’d bet good money on the probability that you’d choose Jennifer Lawrence.

And why not? The Silver Linings Playbook star is a hoot: she cracks wise mid-interview, can spar with the best of them (when Jack Nicholson told her “You look like an old girlfriend” she shot back “Really? Do I look like a new one?”), and if paparazzi photos are any indication, likes to hang out by the beach reading, drinking red wine and enjoying a few “jazz cigarettes”.

The internet is teeming with GIF sets featuring Lawrence’s copious bon mots, and every interview she carries out comes crammed with gags and inevitable references to her hearty appetite. Listicles feature reams of her funniest quotes. “I picked up an issue of Cosmopolitan the other day that had tips for job interviews, because I was like, ‘I need to get better at interviews’,” she told Interview. “The article was basically about how to get someone not to hate you in 20 minutes. Every single thing they told you not to do, I was like, ‘I do that every day’.” She is, in many ways, Just Like Us. (Or at least, Just Like We’d Like To Think We Are.)

Jennifer Lawrence topples over on her way to accept her Oscar for Best Actress in "Silver Linings Playbook" during the Academy Awards ceremony 2013.

Jennifer Lawrence topples over on her way to accept her Oscar for Best Actress in "Silver Linings Playbook" during the Academy Awards ceremony 2013. Photo: Kevin Winter

It’s an ease that suffuses her professional life, too, as her Silver Linings and American Hustle director David O. Russell told Vogue this month, “I remember Bradley Cooper and I saying, ‘Is this kid even paying attention?’ Because she’s goofing around or eating my potato chips or making fart jokes. And then all of a sudden, she comes in, and bam! She’s like a lot of great athletes. You see that they stay loose, and that’s how they can be so in-the-moment while under enormous amounts of pressure. If there’s two minutes left in the game, they can come in and do something extraordinary because their jaw is not getting clenched. Jen stays loose. And then she hits a three-point shot from some ridiculous distance and we all just look at each other and go, ‘Wow.’ ”

More importantly, as Russell notes, Lawrence is a terrific actress. Her work in Silver Linings Playbook was so good that, as far as I’m concerned, she could read the phonebook in her pyjamas for the rest of her career. Instead of taking the easy route, however, Lawrence has stuffed her dance card with all manner of intriguing roles, from megaplex fodder (Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games saga, Mystique in X-Men) to independent fare (the aforementioned American Hustle, depression-era drama Serena).

What’s odd about Lawrence’s positioning as a goofy chick you’d love to hang with, though, is the way in which she appears to have been anointed as such by the media: it’s hard to think of any other actresses who are permitted to let it all hang out like Lawrence, or at least any who are celebrated for it.

Anne Hathaway accepts the Best Supporting Actress award for "Les Miserables" onstage during the Oscars earlier this year.

Anne Hathaway accepts the Best Supporting Actress award for "Les Miserables" onstage during the Oscars earlier this year. Photo: Kevin Winter

A prime example of this strange phenomenon occurred back at Oscar time, when poor Anne Hathaway had the misfortune of being played off against Lawrence’s easy cool. Indeed, Googling “Jennifer Lawrence vs Anne Hathaway” nets a cool 19,000,000 results, and only in very few of them does Hathaway emerge the victor.

Hathaway - who by all accounts is smart, kind, and funny, and who has good politics and lends her fame to a range of fine causes - could never hope to compete on the likeability scale with Lawrence, who by the time she tripped on her way to the podium had been well and truly installed as Hollywood’s Ultimate “Real” Chick. And as Hollywood as taught us time and time again when it comes to women being allowed to stand outside the dominant paradigm, though I’ve now used the Highlander analogy so many times I should probably start paying the filmmakers royalties, there can be only one.

“Much of what we love about Lawrence should also translate to love for Hathaway”, wrote The Cut’s Ann Friedman at the time. “J.Law drew props for confessing ‘I’m starving!’ on the red carpet, but Hathaway has also described how she and Devil Wears Prada co-star Emily Blunt ‘would clutch at each other and cry because we were so hungry.’ Are these really that different?”

In the New Yorker, Sasha Weiss went a step further in her compelling essay In Defense Of The Happy Girl, suggesting that the broad championing of Lawrence could be boiled down to the fact that, unlike Hathaway, she isn’t “girlish”; internalised misogyny at work, in other words: “Let’s take a quick survey of the people who were applauded for their red-carpet performances. A pale, limping Kristin Stewart with her perennial teen-agery pout and a bruise on her arm; Jennifer Lawrence, who is casually funny and naturally sarcastic and is most famous for her tomboyish roles [...] Bruised teen-agers: likeable. Women who seem a little like men, or like they can hang with men: likeable.”

The thing is, few people seem to be able to comprehend the possibility that Lawrence’s cool dude persona could very well be just as calculated as Hathaway’s poise; just how real, after all, can you truly be when you’re a part of what Joni Mitchell sagely called the star-maker machinery?

Then again, whether or not she’s really “real”, there’s something to be said for the fact that purely by existing in her own offbeat way, Lawrence is altering the perception of what it is to be young, female and famous. Who knew that all this time, all we needed to disrupt Hollywood’s narrow notion of successful femininity was more fart jokes?

 

28 comments

  • We have no idea what any celebrities are really like, and therefore gushing over them is quite silly in my opinion. These people are ultra-trained by their PR teams to present a certain image, if they're smart they'll present this image even more realistically. Jennifer might well be a cool chick, I'm just saying there is no real way to gauge this. I guess I'm tired of the idolisation of Hollywood stars in general, there are so many more interesting people out there. Ironically many celebrities that probably were once cool turned into total narcissists because of all the adoration they received.

    Commenter
    Mellah
    Date and time
    August 30, 2013, 8:52AM
    • This is the point that many writers on this site so often just completely fail to grasp - Jennifer Lawrence's attitude to life has nothing to do with it being what the media and others have allowed her to do, but what she has allowed herself to do.
      Even if the media didn't like her, she gives the impression her response would be along the lines of "look at how many f***s I give". She might even take pleasure in the opportunity to constantly piss them off.

      Hathaway seems nice enough, but like a lot of Hollywood actors (both male and female) it is fairly obvious that she is constantly trying to maintain a positive public persona, and as a result can come off slightly ingenuine, or at least a little on edge.

      In a shallow Hollywood world filled with phonies and obsessed with image, Lawrence gives the impression she is comfortable with just being who she is, and people love her for it. And even if they didn't, that she probably wouldn't care.
      While unlikely, her public persona may indeed just be one big elaborate ruse as you say.
      If that is the case, I'd say that just confirms how good an actor she is.

      "Who knew that all this time, all we needed to disrupt Hollywood’s narrow notion of successful femininity was more fart jokes?"
      All that is needed to disrupt Hollywood's narrow notion of successful femininity is to stop trying to live your life based on other people's expectations.
      True freedom will not come from being free from judgement, but from being immune to it.

      Commenter
      Markus
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      August 30, 2013, 8:55AM
      • I completely disagree - I do not feel what she does is "just Jen being herself" as much as it's her "brand" and her "schtick". She has a public persona, no less than it is for any other celebrity who has a public persona. JLaw's brand is "normal, kooky girl who doesn't care" and I believe she plays up that persona. The kind of success she has achieved does not fall in her lap. She has a job, and she does it very well.

        Commenter
        missminute
        Date and time
        August 30, 2013, 3:49PM
      • You say you completely disagree, but none of your points are really at odds with what I've written.

        Lawrence could be actively playing up the persona, or it could just seem like she is playing it up because she is an actor and thus everything seems slightly played up.
        Either way, to play up a particular persona you have to actually have that existing persona to begin with.
        Hathaway could not play up a laid back persona because nothing she has done has ever indicated she is laid back. It would end up just coming across as fake.

        "The kind of success she has achieved does not fall in her lap. She has a job, and she does it very well"
        As I said, she is a good actor. And if the entire laid back persona is a complete farce with absolutely no comparison to the reality, then she is a damn good one.

        Commenter
        Markus
        Location
        Canberra
        Date and time
        September 02, 2013, 11:50AM
    • @Markus - said like a true man that doesn't have billions of eyes and ears on them every single minute of the day. Hollywood doesn't need anything (other than some new ideas). It is the those billions of every day people that suck furiously at the teat of celebrity voyeur that drive the market. If people didn't care about photographs of some star on the beach taken from 3 kms away with a 600mm lens then the tabloids wouldn't sell. The fact is they do sell and they sell well so these actors and performers and entertainers are stalked day and night by paparazzi. Add to that the expectations on the them for PR for their latest piece of work and they are constantly being watched, probed, quizzed and judged and when they give nothing away then the press simply make things up about them to fill the pages. Try and live a normal life, or not care what people think under that sort of spotlight.

      Commenter
      Diff'rent Strokes
      Date and time
      August 30, 2013, 9:37AM
      • And they are paid handsomely for their troubles, as well as provided with social privileges us mere mortals could only dream about.

        The other thing people don't often take into account is that many actors actually crave that spotlight. A lot of those shots of actors caught going about their daily life are staged by the actors and their management and notified to the local rags in advance.
        I've read a couple of interviews with top LA papparazzi confirming exactly that, and that the real money is in getting shots of actors who have no interest in this Hollywood sideshow, such as de Niro, Streep or Nicholson.
        While it will not always be easy, it is not outright impossible for actors to separate from the public spotlight and live a relatively normal life. If that is actually what they want.

        "@Markus - said like a true man that doesn't have billions of eyes and ears on them every single minute of the day."
        What I said about not living life based on trying to gain everyone else's approval applies to everyone. So unless you are trying to directly compare the public scrutiny of a Hollywood celebrity with millions of people worldwide watching their every move back to your own daily struggles as a woman to try and label me as somebody who just couldn't possibly understand what being judged feels like, I really don't see what me being a 'true man' has to do with anything.

        Commenter
        Markus
        Location
        Canberra
        Date and time
        August 30, 2013, 10:30AM
    • Hollywood stars (as in those the ten or so studio execs decide who will be "stars") can not even fart without the permission of their agent, manager, accountant, handler, mother, whoever. Nothing they say is "off the cuff" and everything they do is calculated and signed-off on by a team of grey-haired men in suits. Really Clem. I would have thought you, of all people, would understand this. I've never seen JL interviewed,but I can assure you the characteristics you are discussing is merely her "persona". As is the other actress. My close friend works on Hollywood films and I can 100% assure you - these people are OWNED by the studios and producers. Completely and entirely. I'm shocked you've bought into the illusion. (And anyway - that Silver Linings movie was rubbish. Over-primped, over-hyped A-listers "slumming it" in a shiny Hollywood version of an Indie film. The thing my wife - the one with the Masters in English Literature- and I couldn't get past was the reality that people in the real world just don't talk like that.). Get real Clem. Or start writing puff pieces for Vogue.

      Commenter
      karlmarx
      Date and time
      August 30, 2013, 9:52AM
      • Oh, your one close friend works in Hollywood? Well, that's that then, clearly everything the rest of us who live and work here know is a LIE!

        Commenter
        Clem Bastow
        Date and time
        August 30, 2013, 11:11AM
      • Ha, yeah, all those stars are constanly hooked up via ear piece to a crack team of publicists who feed them the general dirge they provide during press conferences. Maybe Anne Hathaway should just hire Jennifer Lawrences crew and then she'll become a media darling as well?

        And as for Silver Linings Playbook not being like real people talk - I agree, all movies should accurately portray the banality, shallowness and inarticulateness of most everyday conversation

        Commenter
        Uncle Snapper
        Date and time
        August 30, 2013, 12:11PM
      • I really quite resent someone as breath-takingly self-aggrandising as you taking the name of one of history's greatest social thinkiers for your screen name.

        Commenter
        Igomi Watabi
        Date and time
        August 30, 2013, 3:39PM

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