Fresh on the heels of the national "humiliation" that was her Golden Globes acceptance speech, Britain has again turned on Kate Winslet. Now she's "smug" "duplicitous" and "the world's most irritating actress." Harsh much?
While you could chalk up the fury over Winslet's mawkish acceptance speeches to cultural prejudice, this latest wave of vitriol, epitomized by a typically restrained offering from the Daily Mail's Liz Jones, is somewhat more mysterious. Much of it seems to center on Winslet's body - or, more accurately, the fact that she still pretends to be normal when she obviously puts Hollywood-level effort into keeping svelte. "It is the duplicitousness that enrages me and most other women I have spoken to," says Liz Jones, claiming that Winlet's repeated disingenuous claims to comfort with her image grow wearisome. What's more, Jones implies, the actress is ungrateful, biting the normal hand that fed her:
But Kate? Surely she is more normal than most? Why would she give up that unique appeal, as vital to her success as Angelina Jolie's lips and hips are to hers, and give up that appeal so completely and utterly so that she has become, in my opinion, as drippy and as impossibly vain as the rest of them?
There are several odd things going on in this critique. Perhaps most strikingly, why can't we leave actresses alone? Kate Winslet has not broken up marriages, made (many) terrible films, or swanned around in pelts - so we can't even pretend a measure of moral outrage. Has she done anything but been around for a long time and, as a result, said a lot of different things and looked a lot of different ways? And even then, we're not talking claims of virginity for life or bizarre, Xtina-style makeovers. There's a petty bitchiness to the criticism that feeds into the worst woman-on-woman stereotyping. Might some of us feel a measure of disillusionment that a Hollywood movie star wasn't, in fact, exactly like us? Winslet after all belongs to the small society of Hollywood types who we tacitly believe, despite the trappings of success, secretly nudge-wink understand that the industry is stupid, that most of what they're dong is vapid and that they could give it up in a moment. And, sorry, it's not the case. Most of us feel stupid when we have one of these moments of disappointment over a public figure we've never met. Others, apparently, write self-righteous columns.
Perhaps the strangest part of the diatribe is that Jones never once comments on Winslet as an actress. And isn't it this, after all, which has kept Winslet in public esteem? We get angry with Jennifer Aniston because her persona, onscreen and off, is the same: Winslet is actually an actress. Even those of us who found Titanic tripe, consider this year's award-winning turns to be overwraught, and have no great love for Little Children, have at least one Winslet performance we love, and can acknowledge that she's a risk-taking talented actress of tremendous versatility. Maybe she's not our "best friend" anymore, but she doesn't need to be: she's a performer, and a good one. (For best friends, we have Kat Dennings, who's obviously totally normal and exactly like us...right?)