You know that saying about how if you want something to happen, then put it out into the universe? I'm here to plead to the universe—or the pop culture blogosphere—to quit actively wondering when the Jennifer Lawrence backlash will start, because if you discuss the possibility out loud, you basically guarantee that it'll happen.
Still, I can't resist tempting fate myself, since what the predictors say is interesting. For instance, there's Salon's Daniel D'Addario, who lists the signs that a J. Law backlash is a-brewin':
Though Lawrence seemed to have won the PR battle with Joan Rivers when the comedian called her arrogant, Rivers's may come to be the majority view, if history is guide. Just look at how narrowly Lawrence seemed to escape awards season last go-round — with people coming out of the woodwork to snipe at her apparent "wardrobe malfunction" at the Screen Actors Guild Awards (when her couture dress fell as it was designed to) and her joke about beating Meryl Streep to a Golden Globe. Another go-round will bring out those waiting for her to put a foot wrong.
Then there's Vulture's Jordan Hoffman, who wonders when people will see through Lawrence's seemingly effortless and authentic charm on the press junket:
In effect, Lawrence is giving the people what they want — by reminding us that what we want is bogus. And all it takes to do that is to be someone who colors just a tiny bit out of the lines. Her talking points are "no talking points." She'll interrupt a ludicrous red-carpet double-team from both MTV and VH-1 by talking about how much she wants to eat French fries. She'll answer a question about "the process" by which she gets dressed by shrugging and saying she got dressed. Ultimately, she soldiers on, despite the knowledge that a backlash is waiting somewhere off in the distance, just out of sight: "I feel like I'm becoming way too much,"she said recently."Everybody is very fickle. They like me now, but I'm going to get really annoying really fast. Just watch."
By these two writers' estimation (and the actress herself), it seems inevitable that the public's patience will wear thin with Lawrence and her schtick. After all, overexposure and one-too-many public gaffes has felled many other celebrities, including Anne Hathaway, who people describe as Lawrence's polar opposite, and Julia Roberts, who was once America's Sweetheart, but who people now speculate is a huge bitch. People have even mocked the universally beloved Beyoncé for everything from her narcissistic documentary, to trying to take down unflattering photos of herself from Buzzfeed, and even for being a bad feminist.
But maybe Lawrence will keep doing a million other likable things in order to insulate herself from the few would-be crises she might create. After all, it speaks to how likable she is in the first place that I legit panicked when I saw D'Addario's article (as did other Jezebel staffers, when I showed them). After proving to us how charming she is, even in an insufferable Vogue cover story, why would I want to see people turn on her like a pack of feral dogs? It was hard enough to watch that happen to the aforementioned Anne Hathaway, and I can definitely see how people find her annoying.
And if there's a Jennifer Lawrence backlash coming, it has everything to do with our desire to tear female celebrities down and little to do with Lawrence herself. And if, as Hoffman says, Jennifer Lawrence is not challenging enough to warrant our adulation, then that is our fault too, for the people (and not just producers) seem to eat up the image of a beautiful, talented blonde actress using salty language, but not actually shifting the paradigm in any way. As Celebrity Gossip, Academic Style's Anne Helen Petersen pointed out during the manufactured Lawrence-Hathaway battle earlier this year:
Lawrence is a powerful, beautiful woman who also thought that Seth McFarlane was "great." This infuriates me, but it works perfectly with her image: she's no ball-busting feminist. She's chill. She can take a joke. She is, as People Magazine recently declared, the woman that all women want to be like and all men love. She's the effing cool girl.
Petersen also points out that it's okay to prefer Lawrence's "star image" to Hathaway's, but that we don't have to have to be vitriolic in making that choice. By that same token, people don't have to unequivocally like Lawrence at the expense of any nuanced critique of what she brings to the table. One thing that the J. Law BFF offensive has done is to hide the fact that a lot of people criticize her, just not as noticeably or crucially, rudely. Isn't that nice?
So maybe instead of predicting or heralding the arrival of the Great Jennifer Lawrence Backlash of 2013-2014, we could back off a little bit. We could lay off of GIF-ing her every move, or trying to blow up stories where she did something wrong. Or we could love her and criticize her in equal measure without being nasty about it. Maybe Jennifer Lawrence can represent a new normal, where people can respectfully hold complex opinions about a famous woman without pissing off those who love her, and without bringing on a sustained campaign of hate.
But hey, at least the backlash talk has brought us this gift:
— Brendan Davis (@notbrendan) December 4, 2013
Image via Getty.