There Is Something Really Annoying About Leo's Inevitable Win

Come Sunday, if all goes as expected, Leonardo DiCaprio will win an Oscar for his performance as fur-trapper Hugh Glass in The Revenant. But should he? That's another story. Make no mistake: I believe that DiCaprio is a talented actor with a varied and interesting body of work. I'm just frustrated with the narrative surrounding his Oscar quest, and the secret sexism that comes with it.

There's a prevailing sense that DiCaprio's moment of glory is long overdue, and that he has earned this award not just by surviving a bear-mauling in The Revenant, but for having turned in solid performances since 1993. (That's an age-old argument that the Academy gobbles up, by the way. Think Al Pacino winning Best Actor, finally, for Scent of a Woman in 1993.) In 2014, a chorus of "It's Leo's time!" greeted DiCaprio's fourth Oscar nomination, for The Wolf of Wall Street. But it was all but certain that Matthew McConaughey was going to win that year for Dallas Buyers Club — and he did — which left Leo assuming the role of Oscar's unlucky bridesmaid. Again.

As soon as awards pundits saw The Revenant late last year, they reached the conclusion that a great wrong would be righted at last. The Best Actor race was basically over before it even started.

DiCaprio has done his part to keep this narrative alive, working his butt off to convince the public just how method he went. (Animal carcass? Slept in. Raw bison liver? Consumed.) DiCaprio has made it clear that he wants this award — desperately. In fact, "desperate" is one of the words fans associated with him in online comments, according to Grammarly.

And, sure, DiCaprio’s Inigo Montoya-esque dedication to Oscar glory hasn’t escaped mockery over the years. A meme chronicling his existential sadness over his lack of a trophy has only gained strength. After the 2014 ceremony, Tumblr users portrayed DiCaprio as Elsa from Frozen, trying to let it go. The Onion published the headline: "Leonardo DiCaprio Hopes He Screamed And Cried Good Enough In ‘The Revenant’ To Win Oscar." Recently, an animation company released an internet video game called “Leo’s Red Carpet Rampage.”

But all this is merely good-natured ribbing compared to what Anne Hathaway underwent during the 2013 race. Just as DiCaprio did for The Revenant, Hathaway pushed her body to extremes for her role in Les Misérables. Like DiCaprio, she campaigned hard for the prize she so obviously wanted to claim. But instead of inspiring some goofy but harmless memes, Hathaway's ambition gave rise to something much crueler: Hathahate.

The tone became especially nasty following the Golden Globes, when Hathaway was faulted for pretending to be surprised that she won. Can you really argue that DiCaprio didn't have that same smug awareness at this year's ceremony? He even shoehorned a political message into his speech. Tell me that wasn't perfectly rehearsed. (Or that Hathaway didn't do the same thing when she won her Oscar.)

It's sexism, pure and simple (even if it's not the biggest offense the Academy has committed this year). Even Leo's BFF Kate Winslet was targeted (notably by the British press) in 2009, when she was on the road to her first Oscar win, for The Reader, following five previous nominations. The Daily Mail published a story asking, "Should Kate Winslet win an Oscar for the world's most irritating actress?" (Winslet later won a libel suit over that story.) The criticism followed her for years.

This attitude also works against actresses who haven't been as mercilessly ripped to shreds by the public as Hathaway has. Take Amy Adams. Where is the crowd demanding her Oscar victory? She has just as many nominations as DiCaprio, only amassed over a shorter time span. In 2014, she was assuredly going to lose to Cate Blanchett, but there was no outcry on Adams' behalf as there was in the Leo-vs.-McConaughey round. Sure, there are counterarguments. Hathaway, when she was running, didn't have as many nominations under her belt as DiCaprio does. The public doesn't have the same emotional connection to Adams as they do to Leo, whom they've watched evolve from teen heartthrob to auteurs' muse. Regardless, it's hard to get around the reality that there is a clear double standard at work here. DiCaprio is a dude who dates supermodels, collaborates with Martin Scorsese, and, to many, will forever be Jack from Titanic. (Will you ever let go?) Hathaway, Winslet, and Adams are...women.

Complicating this debate are the questions about whether DiCaprio's performance in The Revenant is even any good. I, for one, left the movie feeling like I didn't really know who his character is. All I was sure of was that Glass has a seemingly endless tolerance for pain and grits his teeth — a lot. But whether it's DiCaprio's best work is immaterial. His name will be called Sunday night, he'll give a heartfelt speech, and he'll pose gleefully with his shiny trophy.

Maybe there will be a few lighthearted memes that pop up Monday morning to counteract the all those "Poor Leo" ones, but we can be all but certain that #LoathingLeo won't be trending on Twitter.
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