The Hollywood Mystique: Jennifer Lawrence’s Rise to Fame
This week, Jennifer Lawrence returns to the big screen in Darren Aronofsky’s horror film mother!. I’m excited to see Lawrence in a movie that isn’t a franchise entry or directed by David O. Russell. And, she’s working with such an esteemed auteur like Aronofsky, which is especially exciting. But J-Law isn’t just an actress or even just a movie star. She’s a phenomenon whose every move is documented and dissected. J-Law‘s career is a combination of lucrative career choices and the rare success of the Hollywood Hype Machine.
In 2010, a little indie called Winter’s Bone premiered at Sundance, winning several awards. When the film opened in June of that year, it received rave reviews for breakout star Jennifer Lawrence. The young actress had been in forgotten indies, plus a starring role on a sitcom, but she landed an Oscar nomination in 2011 for Winter’s Bone. Five months later, Lawrence appeared in X-Men: First Class, the successful reboot of the X-Men movies. Off that film and her Oscar nomination, she was cast in The Hunger Games, which broke box office records in 2012. Then in winter, Silver Linings Playbook became a big hit and Lawrence won the Oscar f for it in 2013, followed by The Hunger Games: Catching Fire in November (the highest grossing 2013 film in the US). Lawrence stole the show in American Hustle, getting her third Oscar nomination in 2015 for the box office smash.
Just look at that run. From 2010 to 2015, Jennifer Lawrence had a rare meteoric rise to fame And her success wasn’t only in front of the camera; off-screen she was everyone’s favorite cool girl, with her off the cuff interviews and relatable personality. She was a “different kind of movie star,” one who didn’t care about being famous. I can’t talk about Lawrence’s career rise without discussing the misogynist backlash Anne Hathaway received at the same time. Seen as “too happy” or “trying too hard to be liked,” Hathaway was forced to go into hiding after she won her Oscar in 2013, resurfacing for Interstellar, The Intern, and Colossal, each a few years apart. Hathaway has since regained public favor—but now Jennifer Lawrence is facing her own backlash. The actress who “didn’t care” got accused of trying too hard to be cool. Her whole persona, the internet decided, was too calculated.
Why is it so easy to pit these actresses against each other? Not just Lawrence and Hathaway but other Oscar darlings like Brie Larson, Lupita Nyong’o, and Emma Stone, not to mention stars like Shailene Woodley and Chloe Moretz. Hollywood culture only allows for one “It Girl” at a time, forgetting that these are still-working actors who should be allowed to exist once the media is done with them. But the media seems too eager to pit the actresses against each other, especially when one gets a major triumph and another some disappointment (like the middling reactions to Lawrence's last two Hunger Games, Joy, and Passengers).
Jennifer Lawrence isn’t without her share of controversies, like her dumb Hawaii story, being too young for the parts she plays, being the victim of a cyber sex crime, or speaking out against the wage gap. Whatever she does, someone out there has a hot take and wants to throw her privilege as a young white actress in her face. That’s not to say that Lawrence is free from criticism. She never should have told that Hawaii story in public, let alone repeat it years later. Lawrence benefits from Hollywood ageism, and the media decided she should turn down age inappropriate roles. It seems like once the industry takes away her “It Girl” mantle, everything an actress does is problematic, especially when she is as ubiquitous as Jennifer Lawrence is.
If mother! proves to be a hit with critics and audiences, perhaps Lawrence can achieve some of the returned goodwill that Anne Hathaway enjoyed after Colossal. The backlash could reignite if she scores her fifth Oscar nomination over a less-recognized actor. While Jennifer Lawrence did make some mistakes as a household name, her career is something to be admired. Objectively, the combination of talent, business acumen, and sheer luck is remarkable.
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