Getting shamed, flamed, and filleted on Twitter ten years ago reshaped the actress's view on hate. Then she rejected it.
Ann Hathaway is so over being your bitch.
The Oscar winner for her 2012 role as Fantine in Les Miserables reflected recently on the social media hate she began to receive after her big win.
Although I've never been a Hathaway fan I've always liked her, and I missed all the social media hate a decade ago. I guess I had shit to do or something.
Really, people hated on the woman with the Carly Simon-wide smile and big brown eyes that seem to go halfway around her face? Who charmed me in The Devil Wore Prada, a movie I'd made my friend Vik attend with me because he'd talked me into seeing Nacho Libre the week before and I told him this was the only way I could ever forgive him?
So why Ann and not, I don't know, Marjorie Taylor Greene, who makes it a point to believe six implausible things before breakfast, or Gwyneth Paltrow, who's turned vapid celebritydumb into a billion-dollar business and consciously-ironically sells a candle called This Smells Like My Vagina? (The killer cooch almost set fire to someone's house!)
I guess people didn't like Hathaway's Oscars speech, or her Golden Globes award speech (okay, that one did run on for about a week and a half) and okay I guess she likes to say, "This is actually happening!" the way Mia Farrow did when she wakes up and realizes she's getting it on with Satan.
I mean, Hathaway's an actress. She's on stage a lot. Being so surprised, every time, to find herself on yet another one in front of a whack of people is like that woman with pretty eyes you see on LinkedIn, Instagram or Facebook who's always posting pictures of herself looking surprised, as though she just beamed down from some planet with no cameras.
So yeah all right, I get why Annie's annoying, but still...hate?
"It's a thing"
Not surprisingly, it did quite a number on Hathaway. Strangers all across the world expressed their hatred for no other reason than, as she put it recently at Elle Magazine's Women of the World gathering, 'simply for existing'.
She wasn't cancelled, she hadn't made a joke in 1986 that fell flat in 2013, she hadn't done blackface, she hadn't gone DefCon 3 on the Jews. Critics picked apart her Prada dress, her ten million dollar necklace, her rehearsed-sounding Oscar speech. Some have noted her Oscar arrived just as she'd hit peak popularity, the point at which the audience begins to take you down.
One critic called her a 'classic theatre kid'. She talks like a little girl. Maybe she was just overexposed. And probably there was at least a little jealousy involved.
But listening to her October speech at ELLE’s 29th annual Women in Hollywood event, Hathaway had decided not to let the 'HathaHate' destroy her.
She described how she relied on her husband and friends for support and looked at the online hate with a new perspective.
She realized the hate wasn't so much directed at her as reflected back to her. That the very first person to engage in HathaHate was herself, long before she became a star.
“When your self-inflicted pain is suddenly somehow amplified back at you at, say, the full volume of the Internet--it’s a thing.”
You don't have to do anything wrong to offend the social media hate mobs; they're looking for anyone, anything to pick apart. Twitter has become Gotham City: A social media metropolis of uncontrolled toxic personalities and anonymous psychopathy, where mental illness and derangement is amplified by insular bubbles and, for Americans, a daily reminder that the American dream is a big lie.
The 'supervillains' are mostly ordinary people subjected to relentless witch hunts for overblown, catastrophized minor faux pas's since there aren't enough real villains - Weinstein, Cosby, R. Kelly the Proud Boys - to satisfy the woke mob's intellectually dishonest bloodlust.
Or as Hunter S. Thompson put it in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, "We can't stop here, this is bat country!"
Hearing out the haters
Ann Hathaway had the labia to confront the hate. Although she had learned not to type her own name into Google, she did when she decided to hear out her critics. How much courage did that take? We mortals can do it and probably not find much; when you're a celebrity, it's a far different experience.
Hathaway isn't 'problematic' the way many celebrities are. She doesn't regularly have to walk back tweets like Amy Schumer or address jokes she made in a different decade that don't wear so well today. She's not terribly political, she hasn't raped multiple women in Hollywood and Goddess knows she's no Ye. Like everyone else, she has quirks and expressions and a manner that sometimes get on others' nerves. Before the Internet, she would merely be occasionally annoying; in the social media age, with two generations - Millennials and Gen Z - raised to eschew childhood to workworkwork for an eventual high-paying job which never materialized, they vent their fury at Ann Hathaway or Dave Chappelle, who at least courted their wrath by speaking truth to power with 'transphobic' jokes that made fun of the entitled, privileged masculine personalities masquerading as women.
In such a toxic soup, hate goes from DEFCON 5 to 1 overnight, or even in a matter of hours.
Hathaway confronted the hate, then went within and explored why these comments hurt so much. She emerged more self-aware, realizing she'd been a HathaHater herself, "since I was 7."
"When it happened to me, I realized that this wasn't it. This wasn't the spot," she said. "When what happened, happened, I realized I had no desire to have anything to do with this line of energy. On any level. I would no longer create art from this place. I would no longer hold space for it, live in fear of it, nor speak its language for any reason. To anyone. Including myself."
She rejected the hatred she saw. The ugliness she encountered online, the dark corners of the human psyche, she understood expressed the haters themselves. She called it out as "a culture of misplaced hate, unhealed hurt, and the toxicity that is the byproduct of both."
She rejected it, and vowed not to let it tarnish her art anymore.
The positive lessons she drew from her experience was that if we can learn to hate, we can unlearn the hate, and we can learn to love, or love again, if we make that choice.
Hathaway displayed courage her haters don't: She looked within and addressed the unhealed hurt that drives all our lives. She came to recognize her haters were nevertheless fallible humans like herself, that "There is a brain there. I hope they give themselves a chance to relearn love."
There's one learning she drew that we've all heard a million times, which we almost uniformly ignore because it sounds so trite and cliche: That you have to learn to love yourself in order to take back your power from those whose ugly statements you believe.
We say we love ourselves when in fact we don't. We can take joy from our accomplishments or our relationships or whatever makes our life meaningful, but still be destroyed by an anonymous online hate mob, or even just one nasty comment, who'd rather ruin others' lives than to have the balls or the labia to address their own ancient hurts and grievances, as Hathaway has.
Our reluctance may be attempting to avoid the rampant narcissism that has come to define two generations who were raised to believe everything they did was trophy-worthy and that their own feelings about anything outweigh anyone else's.
If nothing else, we may ask, don't we suffer from too much self-love?
It's not self-love so much as self-delusion. With suicide rates skyrocketing in all demographics since the early 1990s and Millennials described as the most depressed generation in history ever, maybe the alleged self-lovers simply deny to themselves what they know deep down is true.
“We don’t have enough time to discuss all the myriad causes of the violent language of hatred, and the imperative need to end it," Hathaway said in her speech. "Because there is a difference between existence and behavior. You can judge behavior. You can forgive behavior or not. But you do not have the right to judge — and especially not hate — someone for existing. And if you do, you’re not where it’s at.”
This is what's especially noteworthy about Hathaway's experience: It had less to do with her behavior than her very existence. I wish her language was more direct and less Hollywood-fluffy, and I hope she'll develop more confident, direct speech if she chooses to evolve and express herself in the direction she's begun.
What I noticed about Hathaway's old awards speeches as I watched them on YouTube is that she might have been annoying, but she was highly supportive of her fellow actresses.
She regularly named, praised and looked at them while she spoke. Her Oscar speech sounded 'rehearsed', I believe, because she'd thought carefully about all the people she wanted to thank and had memorized a long list so she didn't accidentally leave anyone out.
Celebrity hate-offs, especially for women, are a regular 'thing' on the Internet and often start with slags and slough-offs from speeches or quotes in gossip magazines.
Paris hated Nicole; Kim hates Sarah Jessica; Miley hates Nicki. In the olden days, Joan hated Bette, William Randolph hated Orson, Sophia hated Jayne.
Maybe what the HathaHaters hate most about Hathaway is she refuses to hate back.
There's nothing more irritating than a target who refuses to be triggered.
Maybe Hathaway has learned to truly love herself, and not let the haters who merely pay lip service to self-love, who run like scared children from spiders from their own imperfect, injured souls, rule her own soul anymore.
Along the way, she's taken a hard look at how women are treated in Hollywood, and how they treat each other, and rejected that negative energy, too.
"Be happy for women. Period. Especially be happy for high-achieving women. Like, it's not that hard," she told the Elle conference.
Ann Hathaway no longer cares. She's taken back her power. Deal with it, haters.
Did you like this post? Would you like to see more? I lean left of center, but not so far over my brains fall out. Subscribe to my Substack newsletter Grow Some Labia so you never miss a post!