The queen is dead. Long live the queen.
Last week, Lupita Nyong’o triumphed in her internet-created rivalry with Jennifer Lawrence, walking home with the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, the generally-agreed title of “best dressed” and the crown of most beloved Hollywood It Girl. Meanwhile, Jennifer Lawrence, who was the darling of the ball last year, walked home to mutters that ranged from teasing to scathing.
Lupita Nyong’o certainly deserves all of the praise she’s received. She is, after all, a gorgeous, talented and sophisticated woman who is fluent in four languages, writes and directs, and has an MFA from Yale. But can’t we admire one A List female actress without designating another to hate?
Last year, it was Jennifer Lawrence vs Anne Hathaway, with Jennifer Lawrence our designated heroine, as a down-to-earth girl of the people who shunned dieting and tripped on her way to the stage (but still looked gorgeous along the way), while the quieter, elegant Anne Hathaway was considered too try-hard and overall too thirsty for her Oscar. As far as I can tell, Anne Hathaway never did anything except eloquently speak against sexism a few times, but she was definitely the “witch” to Jennifer Lawrence’s beloved star.
But that was an entire twelve months ago, and like all previously beloved female stars, Jennifer Lawrence is now facing backlash. And, like all female stars, she can’t simply move back from “most beloved” status when another actress takes her place. She must instead be thrown into a position that varies from disdain to utter loathing. Last year, her trip on the Oscar stage was seen as adorable and endearing. This year, people insist that her stumble over a cone on the red carpet must have been staged, because no one could be genuinely clumsy twice. Last year’s “refreshingly real” is this year’s “totally fake.” Meanwhile, the media and the internet hyped up a rivalry with Lupita Nyong’o, with huge backlash against Jennifer Lawrence when she dared to win the Golden Globe over her 12 Years a Slave rival. People accused the Golden Globes of racism in its choice, but Jennifer Lawrence is hardly responsible for how people vote or which awards she receives. Yet a new Hollywood It Girl was rising, and so she had to fall.
The strangest part of the entire cycle is that Lupita Nyong’o is like Anna Hathaway. Both are elegant and soft-spoken, giving beautiful speeches and exuding a sophisticated Disney-princess-esque air. They both studied acting at university and have a background on the stage, and overall have a feminine glamor about them. Jennifer Lawrence, on the other hand, is more jokey and outspoken, tomboyish and seemingly more down-to-earth. Last year, everyone adored her untraditional attitude that seemed to rebel against the ridiculous standards of Hollywood, and hated Anne Hathaway for seeming to embrace those fake standards. But now, apparently, we’ve tired of rebellion and consider that fake, swinging back to wanting our favorite star to be feminine and sophisticated as well as talented.
I’m sure in 2015 we’ll be hating Lupita Nyong’o’s “totally fake” style and praising a new tomboy instead. But maybe we could try, you know, not doing that? Wouldn’t it be awesome if more than one female actress was allowed to be praised at a time, and if we could love a variety of personalities at once? If we could swoon over Lupita Nyong’o’s glamor and admire her amazing acceptance speech, while simultaneously relating to Jennifer Lawrence, and respecting and enjoying the talent of them both? Why must there only be one?