independent

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Aisling O'Connor: 'Hatha-hate' only serves to prove that sexism is alive and well

Anne Hathaway

FOR every Jennifer Aniston that enamours the public, there is an Angelina Jolie who we just love to hate. The race to this year's Oscars has transformed a doe-eyed, rom-com girl-next-door into the leading target of public scorn.

Reflecting the Stella Artois beer bottles lined up on the bar, there was a visible sense of relief in Anne Hathaway's stature at the 'Les Miserables' pre-Oscars celebration in LA on Wednesday. With polls having closed a few hours earlier for the voting by Academy members, the Best Supporting Actress nominee's fate was finally sealed – despite the common assumption that her win is a foregone conclusion.

This has been a humdinger of an awards season in terms of press, premieres and red carpets. No one will deny that Hathaway took advantage of each and every opportunity to campaign for that most coveted of golden statuettes. Perhaps it was her ubiquity at ceremonies, premieres and on the talk-show circuit that made people – to put it simply – sick of the sight of her.

A viral phenomenon, Hatha-hate is a by-product of her focused efforts to influence her voting peers by attending absolutely everything related to the movie. But those efforts turned on her, as internet commentariat begrudgery reared its ugly head.

Granted, her tendency to over-indulge in a seemingly forced affability can be grating – verge-of-tears awards acceptance speeches, snort-laughing at her own bad jokes and the all-round smart-but-plucky persona. However, a public that saw her as a cute ingenue was utterly at odds with the serious actress manifested as the dramatically emoting, skinny, pixie-cropped prostitute Fantine.

But is Anne herself to blame, or is the public the problem? The more contempt that flooded in her direction, the more coverage blogs and news websites gave her, taking advantage of the anti-fan effect. So, even though she channelled all her stage-school training to get her hands on the gold – and perhaps deserves a few tongue-in-cheek digs for that – the online community ran away with itself.

By contrast, another high-profile A-Lister going for gold is actor-director Ben Affleck, who has been doing his own version of the dogged pursuit of the ultimate movie industry nod. Although Affleck already has an

Oscar for 'Good Will Hunting', his career took a nosedive critically as he swam in the moneyed waters of rom-coms and action movies.

Ben has dubbed his reinvention as a director as his "second act". From the get-go 'Argo' did not have a healthy forecast in the running for Best Picture. Statistics would suggest a win as unlikely, given that the director and lead actor were not nominated in either category. So with his eye on the prize, he went about the business of bagging the gong as a producer.

Where he would usually keep his wife and family off the agenda, Jennifer Garner was a permanent fixture at his side on the red carpet, like a quiet and glamorous politico partner. The kids were a major talking point with the press – daddy sported a note of love and support written by little Violet on his hand at the Golden Globes. The Afflecks, who had famously tried to keep their family life private, were suddenly very open on the subject.

SO, was there any internet attack on JLo's ex-fiance? While Annie pushed herself to be funny, sexy, smart and modest, Ben Affleck grew a beard, took his wife on a few high-profile dates and got a pat on the back for his efforts. 'Argo' is now hotly tipped for the win – surprise, surprise.

The public reaction to the Affleck/Hathaway Oscar trajectory suggests that sexism is alive and well. Anne is criticised for a plethora of ridiculous reasons, such as having an annoying face, singing and dancing and trying too hard by cutting her hair. Her Best Actor nominated co-star Hugh Jackman has suffered no such ridicule.

Belittled for unrelenting drive, talent and, arguably, her sex, Anne will walk away from tomorrow night's Academy Awards ceremony a winner in every respect. Having held her head high through it all, she can console herself with the fact that liking Anne Hathaway has just become cooler than loathing her.

Irish Independent

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