The inexplicable PR debacle known as Anne Hathaway

The much-maligned actress apologized for the dress she wore to the Academy Awards on Sunday. What’s the deal? Why is she so hated?


This story originally ran on PR Daily in February 2013. Only a few years ago, actress Anne Hathaway was America’s sweetheart. A 2010 Reuters story about the actress winning “woman of the year” from Harvard’s famed theatrical club reads like a fan letter to Hathaway, calling her a “dark-eyed beauty” who “charmed audiences.” It seems Hathaway was last decade’s Jennifer Lawrence. Today she’s considered one of the most annoying actresses in Hollywood. Hathaway even apologized for the much-maligned dress she wore to the Academy Awards on Sunday—an event she left with an Oscar in hand. “I deeply regret any disappointment caused,” she said. Hathaway was not apologizing for the nipple issues the dress caused—her nipples now have their own Twitter feed, naturally—but for choosing a Prada gown over Valentino at the last minute because fellow actress Amanda Siegfried was planning to wear a dress similar to the Valentino. Too bad for Hathaway, the Prada gown helped earn her the dubious title of “Worst Dressed,” according to a Sysomos analysis of social media sentiment. Speaking of her acceptance speech, it was as tame as it was rehearsed. According to media reports, Hathaway practiced the speech so she wouldn’t rankle the critics who had slammed her acceptance speeches at the Golden Globe and BAFTA awards. What, exactly, is so irksome? Her rambling speeches helped stir contempt, but beyond those incidents, no one is sure exactly why she’s so disliked. An inane conversation on Yahoo Answers two years ago delved into the topic. This comment captures the tenor of the debate:

“She annoys me because there’s just something off about her face, like the left side of it is slowly sliding off her skull and she’s using Scotch tape to hold it up … She’s just not attractive at all and I’m kind of tired of people pretending she is, I guess that’s what it is.”

Before you scream sexism or misogyny, a New York magazine story this week points out that women constitute the majority of the Hathaway haters. PR executive Dorothy Crenshaw says she admires some of Hathaway’s performances, but thinks there something insincere about her behavior. “Perhaps it’s just her too-perfect appearance and recent success, or maybe the mock surprise as she has won each recent award,” Crenshaw says, “but for me it actually dates back to her former fiancé.” That former fiancé is Raffaello Follieri, who pleaded guilty in 2008 to conspiracy, wire fraud, and money laundering. He was imprisoned and later deported. Hathaway and Follieri dated from 2004 to 2008. Crenshaw continued: “They were together for several years, but after he was arrested, she dropped him within 10 minutes and seemed to pretend the relationship never happened. It’s not that I think he deserved loyalty, but it makes me wonder about her judgment, and she seemed to move on too quickly.” In an essay for The Huffington Post, novelist Douglas Anthony Cooper suggests the reason people dislike Hathaway, but adore Jennifer Lawrence, is because we’re living in the “Age of Unpolished.” Hathaway, Cooper argues, is reminiscent of Judy Garland’s peppy onstage persona—without the pep pills she was popping backstage. To be adored, you have to be real, and Hathaway just doesn’t seem real enough. “I suppose this is just the Age of Unpolished,” he writes. “Don’t get me wrong—I really do admire Jennifer Lawrence—but not everybody has to faceplant on the way to the microphone.” Her PR prowess Despite the negative headlines, Hathaway has shown she’s savvy in the PR realm. Whether or not it’s for the publicity, she’s a spokesperson for Eve Ensler’s anti-violence organization, One Billion Rising. And in December, she appeared on the “Today” show, on which Matt Lauer asked about an unfortunate incident in which a paparazzo got a picture of her crotch. “Seen a lot of you lately,” Lauer remarked snidely. Hathaway fielded the subsequent question with aplomb.

“Well, it was obviously an unfortunate incident. Um, I think—it kinda made me sad on two accounts. One was that I was very sad that we live in an age when someone takes a picture of another person in a vulnerable moment and, rather than delete it and do the decent thing, sells it. “And I’m sorry that we live in a culture that commodifies sexuality of unwilling participants, which brings us back to ‘Les Mis,’ because that’s what my character is—she is someone who is forced to sell sex to benefit her child, because she has nothing and there’s no social safety net. And I—yeah, so, um, so let’s get back to ‘Les Mis.'”

Well said. Here comes the cavalry? Despite her awards and PR savvy, people continue to pile wisecracks and critiques onto Hathaway, but at least one influential celebrity is coming to her defense. On Tuesday, Lena Dunham, the creator and star of the HBO show “Girls,” tweeted her support of Hathaway:

Whether that will stir more support remains to be seen. Perhaps Hathaway will simply find her niche as the actress America loves and hates. (Image via)

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