The recent mass-hating on Katherine Heigl has gotten us thinking about scapegoats past: those women who, for a few days, have been the recipients of disproportionate amounts of cultural hatred.

We're not talking, here, about the Sarah Palins, the Paris Hiltons, even the Kate Gosselins - women with whom people might conceivably have a philosophical grievance based on their actions. No, these are the public figures whose crimes, in the public mind, seem far greater than anything they've done, who somehow become projector-screen scapegoats. And they're always women. When I took a poll, my fellow editors and I realized that, with a couple of inviolate exceptions (Meryl, Reese, Cate) almost every big female star has been the target of levels of bile totally inconsistent with their actions. (The "we" in that headline, I should say, is not specific to the editors on this site.) And while a male star might be condemned for his couch-leaping, drug-shunning antics, a female star is often damned for being "annoying." Or outspoken. Sure, then we find anecdotes and rationales to back up the hatred, but let's face it, it's usually based on... a feeling. At left, a few notable examples.

Nicole Kidman. For a long time, no one had a problem with Nicole. Then, one day, everyone hated her. Some cited her poor commercial track record. Some her "bad mothering." Others, her plastic surgery. Soundbytes: "She has cast herself as a tragic frail heroine with a masochistic tendency that propels her to date all the wrong guys and court the limelight while declaring her need for privacy," claims a writer on iVillage. Anonymous: "Please don't send her back here to Australia - there's no room for her and her ego. girl has no empathy no emotion no ability to act
Can't somebody try and assassinate her to try and impress George Bush?" (Huh? -ed) Peak Hate: 2008

Rachael Ray. We get it, to a degree: people hate her calorific quick-fix meals and her cutesy neologisms. She doesn't tip enough on $40 A Day. And there are rumors that she treats staff badly. But the bile Ray elicits - from voice, to physique and down to the soul - is still mysterious. Sound Btyes: Lake_Lover: "She started blabbing, shrieking and throwing her hair around - it's always hanging in her eyes - disgusting and unprofessional. She can't seem to get organized and has sloppy techniques. Sick of her EVOO and her Yum-O! She acts like she's 14." Angelfire: "Rachael Ray is a communist spy who has infiltrated our country and the kitchens of millions of civilians in an effort to relay confidential intelligence to the dead, former leaders of the United Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR). These leaders lie in suspended animation via liquid nitrogen waiting for the right time to rise again and crush the democracy we hold so dear." Peak of Hatred: 2006.

Gwyneth Paltrow. Yes, Goop has made a whole new generation of haters. But to old-school Gwyneth-loathers, it was merely confirmation of what they'd always suspected on scant evidence. From as far back as Great Expectations, Gwynnie's been arousing ire for her snobbery/high-falutin' anti-Americanism/boyfriends. Soundbytes: Bell-lettre: "Gwyneth Paltrow, the ultimate (in) white privilege. Like, her habitus is not our habitus. Her doxa is not our doxa. And by "our," I mean the great majority of us who do not eat macrobiotic rice and do two hours of yoga a day and then get all fucking sanctimonious about it." Anonymous: "This skeletor needs to shut up. She should go take care of her ugly kids and her uglier husband."
Peak Hate: Spring 2009.

Kate Winslet. In one of the most abrupt cases of hatred, Kate Winslet had only to win the Oscar to become the target of the fickle British press's inexplicable vitriol. Suddenly she was a fraud, a Hollywood sell-out, a turncoat. Soundbytes: Liz Jones: "She has become, in my opinion, as drippy and as impossibly vain as the rest of them." #41: " i find Kate Winslet hypocrite, i mean she is constantly complaining ,playing on her "FAT" and fake victim role, she is constantly blaming other womans who wear high heels who feel good in their skin and who probably got a better sense of style than her ..and now look at her wearing HIGH HEELS and playing a model why you're being as these womans [wearing thier high heels) that you criticize kate ?? what a hypocrite, why don't you just shut your mouth already, cause we are getting really really sick of your constant bull sh!th that you throw on our throat." Peak Hate: March 2009.

Rachel Zoe. While Zoe might well be implicated in helping perpetrate unhealthy thinness as an ideal - and for the proliferation of bug-eye shades - people act like she invented Hollywood's obsession with weight. And the hatred quickly grew out of all proportion to her role as celebrity stylist. Ginia Bellafante:"Ms. Zoe is already a pox on humanity — exploiting an aesthetic of dissipation, invading our collective consciousness and spraying it with dummy dust." Anonymous: i hate her too - i cant look at a picture of her without looking at her GROSS wrinkles - its like unvelievable, i've never seen anything like it except for on like a grandma who is 80......she needs botox but it will be SO obvious when she gets it - haha." Peak Hate: 2007.

Renee Zellweger. Renee is another one whose polarizing effect is hard to justify. People just...don't like her. Is it her "weight gain" for Bridget Jones? Her questionable recent choices? Or just...her? Soundbytes: Sheila O'Malley: "I find Renee Zellwegger ikky. There is something about her that makes me nuts. Like, she makes my scalp itch. I have moments where I think: If I ever see her puckered-up apple-doll smile again, I feel like my head is going to explode." t3ch: "I don't think there's a person alive that wouldn't punch her." Peak Hatred: Ongoing.

Katherine Heigl. Yes, she's said a few questionable things - but also some smart things. Yes, she's made some crap films - but so have a lot of people. Maybe she's not your cup of tea, but whither the hatred? People find her "uppity." And hypocritical. And ungrateful. And annoying. And did we mention she smokes? Suddenly, she's a national pariah. Soundbytes: Ken Levine: "Katherine Heigl did not embarrass the producers of GREY'S ANATOMY. She embarrassed herself. She once again exposed herself on national television to be a self-centered prima donna." Socialite Life: "You would expect an uppity bitch like her would have put some demands on the writers to make her character retarded or have cancer or something like that to contend with. It should have been repeat Emmy gold for her ass." Peak Hatred: Summer 2009

Related: Newsweek Wonders Why Katherine Heigl Is Annoying - We Try To Answer

[Images via Getty]