Award season is over. Every last Actor, Globe and Oscar has been handed out, and yet, a debate rages on over this year's big winners. It's not about who got snubbed or who wore it best… it's about who we like more, Jennifer Lawrence or Anne Hathaway.
America has spoken, it seems, and Jennifer Lawrence, with her sassy comebacks and adorkable facial expressions, is winning. She fell up the stairs at the Oscars, and we like her more for it. She's our new BFF. What's not to like? She's silly, relaxed, clumsy even in couture. She talks about fast food on the red carpet. She teases Jack Nicholson. Commentary from Huffington Post to Vanity Fair declares Lawrence as "real," while Hathaway comes off as "rehearsed."
Jennifer Lawrence is "self-effacing and funny. She seems like an excellent party companion," writes Ann Friedman in New York Magazine. "When she jokes about sucking in her stomach on the red carpet or her publicist hating her for eating a Philly cheesesteak, it feels real."
She's the right amount of real, found that sweet spot on the authenticity spectrum. She seems to have taken a page out of John Ortberg's book, nailing "the self-deprecating faux pas (SDFP) designed to show the speaker is normal like everyone else. It has to be vulnerable enough to be embarrassing, but not so vulnerable as to get you kicked out of ministry employment" or Hollywood, as the case may be.
Maybe that's why we are so enamored with her, because we are so enamored with authenticity. Authenticity has become a beloved buzzword in both celebrity culture and Christian conversation. It's got its own topic page here at Christianity Today. As Megan Hill points out, "chances are you know someone who's blogging or talking about being authentic: authentic life, authentic relationships, authentic community, authentic worship."
She's right. It's everywhere. We love it. We root for those we deem "authentic" and those who seem "inauthentic," well… they are mocked, derided for their lack of realness. As far as I can tell, that's the worst charge leveled against poor Anne Hathaway. Her speeches seem rehearsed. Her reactions planned, calculated. She doesn't seem real or authentic. We are annoyed that Anne Hathaway is poised and prepared. She did not trip on the way up the stage as her dreams "came true." She gracefully glided to the podium, and she had the temerity to actually practice her Oscar acceptance speech (gasp).
Unfortunately, this obsession with authentic celebrities, this skewering of public figures who seem fake, illustrates our cruelty. It's reflective of how we women (yes, even Christian women) respond to one another. We prize a particular kind of authenticity in this culture and in Christian circles. Funny, self-deprecating, confessional, slightly rude, a little bit awkward. Not demure, not dainty, not too mannerly. Bonus points if you laugh with a little bit of a snort. We root for these kind of "real" people, and we roll our eyes at those who seem too perfect. We question their public face. It's a little too polished, too crisp. Anne Hathaway's greatest sin against the American public is having practiced good manners and articulate speech. For shame.
The more we mock and dissect the "falseness" of women like Anne Hathaway, the more we force each other to downplay our actual, authentic selves in favor of an impression of a girl who's "keeping it real." We can't all be that person. In truth, most of us respond to the pressure and judgment of others more like Anne Hathaway than the perfectly "real" Ms. Lawrence.
Jennifer Lawrence is a cultural unicorn. She shows up looking impeccable from head to toe and then lets a few minor curse words fly, striking the balance between aspirational and relatable. That's the formula we're looking for—enough flaws, enough fallenness that we believe it's real, attainable, making us feel better about ourselves.
In her recent book, No More Perfect Moms, Jill Savage states, "There are no perfect moms (just women who make a good outward appearance). There are no perfect kids (just kids who are dressed well and behave well just when you see them). There are no perfect houses (just ones where the clutter is cleverly stored!) There are no perfect bodies (just ones who know the beauty of Spanx!)."
She is right. No one is perfect. But it isn't for me to point out their imperfections. Or feel better about myself by assuming your public face is false. Or require others to share some flaws before I give my support or friendship.
We love Jennifer Lawrence because she points out her own imperfections. Anne Hathaway annoys because she keeps them private. Both women deserved our unreserved congratulations. Neither should be tasked with making us feel better about our reality by giving us something "real" to compare ourselves to.
None of us is perfect, but that's because of our sin and nothing else, in comparison to God and no one else. I shouldn't need a starlet to fall down the stairs to make me feel better about myself, to remind me that she is fallen, and that we are both so very far from our perfect God.
Marie Osborne is a wife, mama, and blogger who loves Jesus & large non-fat lattes. You can find Marie at mrsmarieosborne.blogspot.com encouraging, challenging, and laughing… under a pile of diapers.