Some celebrities we love, while some we love to hate. Why are some stars beloved while others fall out of favor?
Pop culture is a mysterious thing. We think we can know people we’ve never met, but essentially every peek into a star’s life is filtered through the media’s viewpoint, a fickle and arbitrary lens. Media outlets love to create a narrative about celebrities, and only action sells magazines. Stars have to be getting together, breaking up, cheating, or having children. Being content doesn’t make for front-page coverage.
Public hatred is sometimes spurred by cold, hard facts, as when Chris Brown infamously beat Rihanna in 2009. Despite apologizing and even reportedly being forgiven by Rihanna, Brown never recovered his formerly clean image.
Kristen Stewart is a more recent example; the Twilight star earned the wrath of many fans after cheating on long-time boyfriend and co-star Robert Pattinson. The incriminating photographs of Stewart and Rupert Sanders, the director of Snow White and the Huntsman and a married man, did nothing to help Stewart’s already shaky public image.
Sometimes a star’s fall from grace is harder to pinpoint. Here are three celebrities who formerly enjoyed positive coverage but seem to have been disowned by the media. All three also made the Star magazine Most Hated Celebrities in Hollywood list this year, surprisingly earning higher spots than Brown but not Stewart.
1. Justin Bieber
Golden boy Bieber is one of the ultimate small-town success stories. The Canadian-born pop star, who was discovered at 14 by producer Scooter Braun, has become a pop sensation with platinum-selling albums, hit singles, sold-out shows, and his own concert movie.
During his four or so years in the spotlight, media coverage on Bieber was mostly positive up until this past January, when TMZ published photos of him smoking what appeared to be marijuana. The pop star made a tongue-in-cheek apology on Saturday Night Live.
Formerly known for a squeaky-clean image and religious ties, Bieber also made headlines for his on-and-off again relationship with Selena Gomez, but his media image took a worse hit when the pop star recently visited the Anne Frank House, a museum in Amsterdam dedicated to the young Holocaust victim. He wrote a message in the guestbook that the Anne Frank House proudly shared on its Facebook page. "Truly inspiring to be able to come here," Bieber writes. "Anne was a great girl. Hopefully she would have been a belieber."
While frivolous and undeniably self-involved, Bieber’s comment hardly warranted the Internet storm of commentary that followed. He’s 19 and incredibly successful; it’s hardly shocking if the fame has gone to his head to some extent. But the guestbook message plays right into the current media narrative of Bieber as a spoiled egoist who is on a downward spiral.
2. Taylor Swift
Swift’s greatest strength, her honesty, has always been a double-edged sword. The singer who made it big by telling her stories through frank songwriting is now under media fire for over-sharing. You have to give Swift props either way — the girl who grew up on a Pennsylvania Christmas tree farm released her first album at just 16. It took about six years in the limelight for the media to tire of Swift, which is quite the honeymoon period.
The seven-time Grammy winner frequently makes headlines for her high-profile relationships: Joe Jonas, Taylor Lautner, John Mayer, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Conor Kennedy. The current media narrative shows a man-hunting, exploitative version of Swift, a far cry from her start as the wide-eyed ingénue slash country darling.
"I’m sick of the tabloids’ saying I obsess over guys," Swift told Vanity Fair in a recent interview. Swift’s penchant for true-to-life writing means that every relationship is crystallized in a song, which often also happens to be a top 40 hit.
Is Swift using the men she dates to score more accolades and slots on Billboard’s Hot 100? I doubt it. Swift wrote just as honestly when she was in high school — see "Should’ve Said No" — but since those boys didn’t happen to be famous, the media didn’t find offense in those lyrics. And let’s face it, surely these men know what they’re in for by now? Did Mayer really expect not to end up in a song?
Swift has been tabloid game for a while now without any serious scandals (unless you count her much-publicized reply to Tina Fey and Amy Poehler’s Golden Globe joke). Despite criticism from the media, the 23-year-old probably won’t stop writing songs too honest for some to handle.
"I’ve never developed that thick a skin," Swift confessed in Glamour magazine’s November issue. "So I just kind of live a life, and I let all the gossip live somewhere else. If you go too far down the rabbit hole of what some people think about you, it can change everything about who you are."
3. Anne Hathaway
Hathaway’s case is probably the most puzzling. "Hatha-hatred" reached a boiling point after the 30-year-old star won Best Supporting Actress at the Oscars in February for her turn as the tragic Fantine in Les Miserables. Called actressy and affected after her Oscar moment, Hathaway has since been berated in blogs and social media.
"She kind of bugs you, doesn’t she?" a CNN writer asked in an analysis of Hathaway hate. "It's clear from the abundance of articles and negative comments that some people don't even want to see her face." The article attempted to find a scientific reason for the anti-Hathaway buzz, linking Hathaway’s face shape to the hatred.
Perhaps the hatred can be partly attributed to the unsubtle role that won Hathaway her precious Oscar. Hathaway lost weight, cut her hair, sang live, and wept on camera for her turn as Fantine, who sells her hair and teeth and prostitutes herself to provide for her daughter. The performance was an especially dramatic moment in an already larger than life film, and Hathaway was considered something of a lock coming into the Oscars.
"It came true," Hathaway smiled during her Oscars speech, referencing the "I Dreamed a Dream" scene that likely won her the award. Perhaps Hathaway’s remark, afterward scorned by the public and the media, was the Sally Field moment for our generation. Let’s give Hathaway a break — at least she didn’t gush that we like her.