For many celebrity women, with their fame, comes harsh expectations and standards that they are expected to meet. Failure to do so means risking the public's wrath. Such unforgiving treatment of famous women has a long history.
Most recently, this is evident with the actress Rachel Zegler. Instead of being treated like the princess she is to portray in the 2024 live-action remake of Snow White, Zegler is being painted as the Evil Queen.
The villainization of Zegler began due to an interview she conducted with Variety back in September. In it, she enthusiastically spoke about how “it’s no longer 1937” and that her version of Snow White is “not going to be dreaming about true love, she’s dreaming about becoming the leader she knows she can be.” In the past few weeks, the interview has gone viral across the internet.
On TikTok, one creator posted a parody of the interview, which has racked up almost two million likes. In the video, she talks in a loud, exaggerated tone and makes remarks such as, “I only watched like two minutes of the cartoon twenty years ago, and I ended up taking a hammer and breaking my TV because I thought it was so awful”.
The actress was further humiliated in the comment section of said video by people making angry demands to “recast and start over” and declarations that she is "definitely not a Disney princess and power has gotten into her head".
The internet is filled with hundreds of videos and tweets just like this one. While the discourse surrounding Zegler’s comments about the Snow White film is acceptable and even expected, the way people are going about it is not. The conversation began with tearing Zegler apart for her words and then, as is the internet’s custom, belittling everything else about the twenty-two-year-old actress.
Across various social media sites, people are making claims such as that Zegler is unsuitable for the role of Snow White due to being Latina, demeaning her acting ability, and even scorning her for her participation in the SAG-AFTRA strike (“she is so ungrateful for what she has been given. Her career will be short-lived,” writes one TikTok user under a clip of Zegler discussing her participation in the strike). Zegler has made the fatal error of forgetting that society expects women to do their jobs and keep their mouths shut, and the internet is destroying her for it.
Unfortunately, this disparaging of female celebrities for seemingly no reason has a long history. Perhaps most famously, Oscar-winning actress Anne Hathaway, who has appeared in award-winning films such as The Dark Knight Rises and Les Misérables, received an onslaught of hate in the early 2010s. The hate was so extreme that it was given its own name: "Hathahate". For a long time, it was difficult for Hathaway to make a public appearance or to say anything in an interview without being torn apart for it.
Eventually, Hathaway reduced her time in the spotlight and developed a habit of appearing in films, doing some press for them, and returning to the shadows and her privacy. This tactic seems to have worked; in the last few years, news outlets have published articles about how ‘It’s Not Cool to Hate Anne Hathaway Anymore’ and ‘It’s Time to Start Taking Anne Hathaway Seriously Again’. Society has forgiven Hathaway for the grievous crime they deemed her guilty of.
Although there are many theories about why Hathaway received so much hate, people generally come to one conclusion (be ready, it’s ridiculous): she was annoying. People disliked Hathaway’s earnest responses in interviews and theater kid energy. For many, the tipping point was when she received her Oscar in 2013 and whispered, “it came true!” Hate for Hathaway grew, becoming so extreme that she even won a contest on The San Francisco Chronicle’s website for ‘The Most Annoying Celebrity of 2013’.
Image Credit: Mireille Ampilhac from Wikimedia Commons
Sadly, this cruel treatment of celebrity women is not uncommon. Brittany Spears, Taylor Swift and Brie Larson are just a few others who have received similar onslaughts of hate. All of these women have one thing in common: their extreme success.
Although, to all appearances, modern society seems to be taking steps to become more woke and reduce inequality, there is still something about seeing a woman succeed that gets people’s hackles up. The word for this animosity? Misogyny.
Britannica defines misogyny as ‘hatred or prejudice against women, typically exhibited by men. It has been accepted that misogyny is a consequence of patriarchy’. In his book Misogyny: The Male Malady, anthropologist David Gilmore asserts that fear of women is expressed through public ritualized exhibitions of hatred.
Demeaning successful women is an example of these public exhibitions. In our modern world, it has become a trend to hate on a specific woman for a few months before moving on to the next. For example, a few years ago, people began making memes about Millie Bobby Brown, falsely claiming she was homophobic. This hate led her to delete her Twitter and then her TikTok a few years later. Hating on women has become normalized in society, a trend to pass the time until people grow bored.
millie bobby brown being outrageously homophobic is one of my favorite twitter jokes i’ll never not laugh— queer cyborg ™ (@boobhist) October 13, 2020
One thing is clear: ignoring society's vicious cycle of hating woman after woman only encourages the hate to continue. In order for it to end, we must address and tackle society’s seemingly ingrained sexist attitudes towards women, no matter how uncomfortable a conversion it may be. While this will not erase how past celebrity women have been treated, it may help to ensure future women do not have to go through the same onslaught of hate solely due to being successful women.