Taylor Swift, Anne Hathaway, Their Brutal Detractors, and the Struggle for Identity

Taylor Swift. Anne Hathaway. Two women at the heights of their respective careers. One is love obsessed with a revolving door of men and the other — well, how do I say this nicely? — no one likes her, everyone finds her annoying, and she’s Hollywood’s least popular actress. But the problem is that none of that is true. At least not completely true. The media has exaggerated the personal narratives of both Swift and Hathaway, turning them into characters that are not actually a true reflection of who these two women are.

Since rising to popularity in 2006, Taylor has been one of the most successful female artists of all time thanks to her diary-esque songs on her favorite topic: love. From confessionals to butterflies-in-the-stomach excitement to break-ups, Swift is not afraid to express the trials, tribulations, and joys of her love life. But what are to be taken as extreme moments in Taylor’s life are attributed to her everyday existence, as if with the dawning of each new day includes another man and another heartbreak to be angry about. Taylor addressed this media-contrived characterization of her in a Vanity Fair interview last week:

If you want some big revelation, since 2010 I have dated exactly two people… The fact that there are slide shows of a dozen guys that I either hugged on a red carpet or met for lunch or wrote a song with… it’s just kind of ridiculous. It’s why I have to avoid the tabloid part of our culture, because they turn you into a fictional character.

For a female to write about her feelings, and then be portrayed as some clingy, insane, desperate girlfriend in need of making you marry her and have kids with her, I think that’s taking something that potentially should be celebrated — a woman writing about her feelings in a confessional way — that’s taking it and turning it and twisting it into something that is frankly a little sexist.

Swift’s persona has been reduced to a caricature of a love-sick woman who will never be able to find love. Anne Hathaway’s story is different but related.

Hathaway began in Disney films and went on to star in a number of popular and critically acclaimed films. In 2012 alone, she portrayed Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises and Fantine in the film rendition of Les Misérables, winning an Oscar for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role for the latter film. But curiously, she has been dubbed by many respected news outlets as the least popular film actress based on people’s Twitter reactions to her Oscar speech. New York Times writer Ross Douthat thinks not only is this unfair but unfounded:

[P]eople can hate whichever movie stars they like… But being old fashioned, I’d generally assumed that for a star to be considered tarnished with the public, they needed to have something significant happen in their career — a drug problem or a sex scandal, a personality issue that made them persona non grata on movie sets, or just a string of notable flops — to justify the claim that America had actually turned on them.

But apparently not anymore. Instead, thanks to Twitter’s influence, pop culture pundits have persuaded themselves that one of the most successful movie stars of her generation occupies a role in the public’s imagination “not unlike Lindsay Lohan’s … [as a] punching bag on which we project our resentment of celebrities, generally speaking.” Which would be a completely plausible bit of cultural analysis, if Lohan were coming off two monster hits and basically writing her own ticket in Hollywood while Hathaway was sharing top billing with a porn star in a desperate attempt to jump-start her career.

Since the reverse is true, it’s safe to assume that Hathaway’s career will survive the press’s recent elevation of her online haters. But that elevation is still an indicator of a media that’s at ease in the Twitterverse’s various echo chambers, and prone to forget that there’s a wider world outside.

Through those “echo chambers” of traditional and social media, Swift and Hathaway become women who are desperate for love and irritating, when truly they are more complex than that. Our grossly inflated perceptions of celebrities as one-dimensional figures are really questions about identity: Are we who people say we are or are we who we say we are? I would argue that for Swift and Hathaway — and all of us collectively — we are neither able to define our identity nor have one thrust upon us by others.

This is a struggle for those in the spotlight as they meander through the complex relationship between self-definition and imposed stereotype but not unlike any of us searching for our own identity. We will protest, like Swift, against the misreading of our identity or embrace defeatism, embodying the “that’s just the way I am” ethic. This is why each one of us needs a redefinition of our identity. Our personal narrative must be renewed, reworked and grounded in the Grand Narrative of redemption through Christ. Only then will our true identify, as founded on Christ, be fully realized in His expansive love and not limited to our faulty human perceptions of self.

About Matthew Linder

Matthew Linder is a music professor at National University, married and father of a 2-year-old daughter. He loves Jesus, the Church, biblical theology, and of course, music but despises ketchup. While he appreciates a wide variety of musical styles, he prefers hip-hop, metal, and classical but could live without 90s Christian music. Follow Matthew on Twitter @TheRetuned.

  • AdamBanks

    What most of us Hat-haters dislike about Annie is how she has become a hypocrit. It is not her performance, her looks or even the sounds she makes. The media that labels hat-haters says this is what we dislike. In truth when we sound of and provide validation we get modded out. When Anne was with the con man she spoke out about third world strife, and actually did something positive about it. With her current con-man when she speaks out about girls not being a play thing, that they should reflect on their personal best. Well the next day she wears a see thru blouse, or flops her skirt to show her…. So now days when Anne takes a stand it just seems that it’s for the public image while she goes out and does something different. Take all these public appearance photo ops that are flooding the net, driving into town for a single cup of coffee; I guess global warming is over. Her march on Wall street for lower higher ed cost; position teachers need more pay. Now you have her Oscar speech about the unfairness of her characters life; was that about the treatment or was it pro-legalization of the sex industry workers.

  • Juliatbwa

    Um… I get the hypocrite thing, I do – because I do think she used to do more active a visual humanitarian work. However, the photo of her getting out of the car… I truly don’t believe that was one purpose on her end. Doesn’t that say more about her being used as the media’s plaything than about her as a person?

  • J. Martin

    I’m not a practicing Christian but I still find it appalling how you could try and connect the ‘struggles’ of two obscenely wealthy people who make a living off of the way society views them, negative or positive, and try to connect that with a normal individual’s daily struggles and their spiritual identification. Do you really think, at the end of the day, that either of these women give a crap what the tabloids say about them? The mere fact that they’re being gossiped about in tabloids furthers their careers.

    I realize that Mr. Linder may not have had anything else to write about but this opinion piece is disgustingly disingenuous.

  • AdamBanks

    Wth regards to Anne’s bloomer free exposure. If you look at the pictures pay attention to the fabric it was folded for exposure, thus revealing nickerless Annie. Annie has been running a flirtageous campaign with the Papparrazi, deliberatly exposing herself then blaming the Papps for a lacivious campaigne against her. This all heated up just after Adam had his picture taken while smoking a bong, within weeks Anne launched the Papparrazi Rap. It’s interesting to note that Anne was never exposing her self with the ex-conman, she was much more mature then, in fact she spoke with her actions; not the empty words that she does now. It’s kind of like she has grown younger.
    Gossip is the spreading of lies. I try to make a statement then provide factual support of it; thus it is not gossip, perhaps a lot of illerate rantings. However, we all have our ways of making fun of the persons that are claimed as our betors.

  • http://derekzrishmawy.com Derek Rishmawy

    Hat-haters?….Really?…That’s a thing?

  • Jennifer Thomas

    People hate others because they suffer from profound self-hatred and extreme insecurities ( you can add jealousy in the mix ). Also, this negativity causes cancer and takes years from one’s life, so I never understood the need to waste time hating others. Anne Hathaway & Taylor Swift are harmless and they both keep out of trouble. How can you loathe someone you never met ? I still don’t understand that. If people have this dire need to hate others ( again because they hate themselves ) , why not hate Mel Gibson, Chris Brown, Roman Polanski, and Woody Allen. ? I guess because men get away with murder, and they are respected for their nastiness and selfishness. No wonder so many ladies are abused mentally and physically. All this ridiculous hatred directed at , mainly, females, is all quite scary and disturbing. Instead of writing articles why certain people hate Swift & Hathaway, writers should write articles about this viciousness and hate directed at women.

  • L

    The media is full of lies. Unless they have video proof of these little scandals the media posts publicly, they hold no firm evidence of any of these hated Hollywood stars. Media tries to “change our minds” about how we look at these celebrities. It’s a perpetuating corruption method. We’ll like, adore but not exactly “love” these talented celebrities, but the media is wasting their time trying to make us think otherwise. If there was precised evidence regarding these celebrities, that might be different. At this rate, there is no evidence whatsoever and neither of these shameful bloggers and worthless article writers have known Annie Hathaway or Taylor Swift personally to make such fraud depictions of them. Yes it is often a result of jealousy, insecurity, or people that have made them feel inferior.

    “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Kudos, Hector Elizondo. Very well said!

  • Kajon

    I happened upon this link and was surprised by what i read. I have always found it amazing that people even bother to take notice of what celebs do in their private lives anyway. I did not even know about the Anne Hathaway exposure thing until i read it here. I think people need to pay more attention to their own lives and stop pouring over the inane minutiae of celebrity behavior.

  • AdamBanks

    L Ah isn’t that a quote from E. Roosevelt.
    I do look for the video supporting evidence.
    I call myself a hat-hater not out of hate, but out of respect for the young lady. Of course if you are looking for hate in my post it could be implied that it is there. However, I would also like you to think about the following statements. “A good friend is one that encourages you to do.” “A best friend is one that is willing to tell you when you have done wrong and what.

  • L

    Why yes, AdamBanks. Eleanor Roosevelt had spoke of it before. It was used in the very film that made this Hathafan an adamant fan. She’s talented, very beautiful, has an amazing smile, and Taylor Swift shares the exact same attributes. Whether these young ladies are nice or not in the real world, it doesn’t really matter that much for me. They’re great to watch, to awe and admire for their hard work and efforts in the Hollywood industry. But haters will hate, dislikers will dislike, but those who personally don’t give whole lot of crud over such fake publicized articles and keep watching their stars proceed more with their careers, will be giving in quite the morality lesson. These ladies know they’re not “perfect”, but neither is the rest of the Hollywood industry and ourselves for that matter.

    But seriously, write something that is more entertaining than this piece of utter boredom. If you “knew” both Swift and Hathaway really personally (and maybe for more than a year, just to be realistic) then you may get some of the benefit of the doubt. Otherwise, this is such a poorly written article with no solid evidence underlining it’s entirety.

  • Jane

    Adam Banks, why are you so obsessed with Anne Hathaway’s husband? I’m an Anne Hathaway fan, and literally every article that is published that’s about her, you always bash her husband! It’s creepy!

  • AdamBanks
  • L

    That article regarding Adam Shulman is too fabricated to bear any truth. I don’t see video evidence, nor actual photographed evidence either. If anyone knows Adam and exactly what he’s like, his wife Annie would be that person as well as his family and incredibly close friends. The media keeps creating sinful rumours. It doesn’t surprise me. And to Mr. Linder (writer of this disingenuous article) I’m sure God is frowning deeply upon you for writing up a disgraceful article like this. When you lie, there is nothing bit sin behind it. From what I hear and learned throughout most of my life is, that lying is breaking yourself from all Christianity. Talk about a fraud caught red-handed right here. ;)


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