13 Times Celebrities Did Not Deserve The Backlash

Photo: Jim Smeal/BEImages.
Now is the era of our discontent, made odious sooner by this sum of news. With the dawn of the 24/7 reporting cycle, the sheer volume of content being forced down our gullets on a daily basis is enough to make you regurgitate alarmist headlines for days. If a celebrity is promoting a movie, does something of note (either onscreen or in real life), posts something inflammatory on social media, or — heaven forbid — steps out flaunting her makeup-free face amid Nick Jonas dating rumors (if you don’t speak British tabloid clickbait, that’s Daily Mail headline speak for “female famous person photographed existing outside”), they’re considered fair game for public condemnation.

With so very many hours in each news cycle to fill, there’s time for the facts, additional information, expert opinions, random Twitter users’ blather, professional writers' think pieces, a Facebook rant from that girl you knew in elementary school who was kind of a bully (and is now a mom of three), and, of course, the inevitable backlash.

Ah yes, backlash. Every now and then, it’s deserved. But often, it's not.

Sometimes, the public just doesn’t realize that they’ve been overexposed to someone and need a break — sort of like a baby needing a nap. Just lie down, and when you wake up, you'll be ready find to Jennifer Lawrence charming again. Other times, a media outlet tries to pick a fight or create a vendetta against a celebrity because a writer has a personal bias against him or her. Most of these writers don’t actually know the celebrity in question, but if we could take everyone to backlash court, most cases would likely be dismissed due to subjectivity and lack of evidence.

Ahead, we review just a few of the times celebrities were on the receiving end of backlash they didn’t really deserve.
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Photo: Jim Smeal/BEImages.
Taylor Swift Is Not Your Friend
Taylor Swift has had the most epic 2015 in the land. She welcomed Serena Williams, Mariska Hargitay, and more luminaries to the stage during her 1989 World Tour. She won an Emmy. She made up with Kanye West. She showed off her amazing squad on Instagram and in the “Bad Blood” music video.

With great success and fame, however, comes the inevitable ugliness. Taylor Swift is very much the writer of her story. She’s taken fierce control of her narrative since the days when the press only wanted to write about her love life. Her goal for 2015 was to put friendship and feminism front and center, and she very consciously did that. But not everyone has been on board with her fairly homogenous group of friends and seemingly limited definition of feminism.

The backlash began with Gawker’s July article, “Taylor Swift Is Not Your Friend.” It posits that on her recent tour, she peddles the idea that friendship is magic and everyone is special, but really, us laypeople don’t exist in the same stratosphere as Taylor Swift. She pretends to be an underdog because her fans often are, but Swift is no underdog. She has the prettiest friends, the most money, and now she even has a gorgeous boyfriend.

With that one article, the seed was planted. Others soon followed, asking if the Taylor Swift backlash had begun, and if America was turning on its golden girl. There are valid reasons to take umbrage with Swift at times, like her thinking Nicki Minaj’s VMA tweet was about her. In that situation, however, Swift apologized. She’s not too big to admit when she’s wrong.

Just because she’s famous and wealthy doesn’t mean that Taylor Swift is deserving of backlash the second someone finds her actions insincere and performative. (Gawker based its argument on what she said and did during a concert.) That’s what artists have been doing for decades: peddling a consumable image of themselves for fans to buy into. Taylor Swift is no different.
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Photo: Matt Baron/BEImages.
Lena Dunham’s Naked Backlash
In January 2014, the cast of Girls did a TCA panel. Things became tense when The Wrap’s Tim Molloy said to series creator, writer, and star Lena Dunham, “I don’t get the purpose of all of the nudity on the show, by you particularly, and I feel like I’m walking into a trap where you go, ‘Nobody complains about the nudity on Game of Thrones,’ but I get why they are doing it. They are doing it to be salacious and, you know, titillate people. And your character is often naked just at random times for no reason.”

Dunham responded, “It’s because it’s a realistic expression of what it’s like to be alive, I think, and I totally get it. If you are not into me, that’s your problem, and you are going to have to kind of work that out with whatever professionals you’ve hired.”

Executive producer Judd Apatow and showrunner Jenni Konner took even more offense to Molloy’s question, calling it sexist and misogynistic. Molloy penned a response on The Wrap about his interaction with the Girls creative team, saying he still didn’t understand how his question had been misconstrued as one about Dunham showing her body too much. Apatow, Konner, and Dunham disagreed, and it was very much a continuation of the conversation that has persisted since the show premiered in 2012.

Lena Dunham doesn’t have the body that we’re used to seeing on TV and in movies. She does have a body that millions of people have, though. Maybe Tim Molloy should get used to seeing bodies like hers on television, as should other critics and people who continue to make crude and rude jokes even now, four seasons later, about Dunham’s decision to appear naked on a show that’s her creative vision (and very true to life).

We won’t even go into the whole debacle that followed the episode in which Hannah sleeps with the dreamy Joshua (Patrick Wilson) after an afternoon of naked Ping-Pong in his sumptuous brownstone, with critics refusing to believe such a thing would ever occur. How dare Dunham think a woman who looks like Hannah could land a man like Joshua, even for an afternoon?
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Photo: Rob Latour/Variety/REX USA.
Caitlyn Jenner Receives The Arthur Ashe Courage Award
When ESPN revealed that Caitlyn Jenner would be the recipient of the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the 2015 ESPYs, the announcement was met with emotions just this side of rage. Some people thought that there were more deserving athletes, and others remarked that Caitlyn Jenner had not been active in the sports world recently enough to still be deserving of an athletic award. Sports announcer Bob Costas called ESPN’s choice a “crass exploitation play” to “pump up ratings” for the ESPY broadcast on ABC. Director Peter Berg caused controversy when he shared a meme on Instagram that mocked ESPN’s decision to give Jenner the Ashe Award.

ESPN never reveals how the finalists and award recipients for the ESPYs are chosen. But the program’s co-executive producers, Maura Mandt and Connor Schell, who is also a senior vice president at ESPN, spoke with SportsIllustrated.com to provide clarity about the decision. Mandt said that Jenner’s award was not a ratings ploy, nor had the process of selecting Jenner as this year’s Ashe Award recipient been any different than in past years.

“I think Caitlyn’s decision to publicly come out as a transgender woman and live as Caitlyn Jenner displayed enormous courage and self-acceptance. Bruce Jenner could have easily gone off into the sunset as this American hero and never have dealt with this publicly. Doing so took enormous courage. He was one of the greatest athletes of our time. That is what the Arthur Ashe Courage Award is about, somebody from the athletic community who has done something that transcends sport. One of the biggest platforms the Arthur Ashe Foundation has is educational, and I think in this choice we have the opportunity to educate people about this issue and hopefully change and possibly save some lives. I think that is why it was the right choice,” Mandt explained.
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Photo: David Fisher/Rex/REX USA.
Anne Hathaway Hatha-hate
The contingent of people who don’t like actress Anne Hathaway is so large that it’s been called the “cult of Hathahaters.” The two-time Oscar nominee, who won for playing Fantine in 2012’s Les Misérables, gets scorn for completely conflicting reasons. She’s too happy. She’s a former theater kid who tries too hard. Her pleasant attitude is actually a cover-up for steely ambition and drive (the horror!). She’s not Jennifer Lawrence.

The Hatha-hate all came to a boil when Hathaway won her Oscar, and after many talked in circles about its root, baseless existence, and effect, it appears to have mostly simmered out. It helps that the person at the center of it all, Anne Hathaway herself, manages to rise above the fray.

“It does very much at times feel like we’re living in the days of the Colosseum, where people get the thumbs up and you live, or the thumbs down and you die,” she told Refinery29 in September 2015. “But the thing is, you won’t die. Sometimes it feels like you will, but you won’t die from humiliation on the internet. You have to get really strong and dig down deep and get really tough. For the first time in my life, I’m feeling comfortable. Not settled, not complacent, but just like I can take whatever is going to come.”
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Willow Smith’s Social Media Snafus
Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith’s daughter, Willow, just turned 15 on Halloween. In her short time on the planet, she’s already stirred up controversy on multiple occasions. In May 2014, then 13-year-old Willow was photographed lying on a bed with 20-year-old actor Moises Arias. Arias shared the black-and-white picture on his Instagram account, but it has since been taken down. People were quick to call the photo “perverted” due to the difference in age between Smith and Arias. They also questioned Will and Jada Pinkett Smith’s parenting choices.

When photographers caught up with Jada Pinkett Smith at LAX a few days later, she said that the backlash was unmerited. “Here's the deal. There was nothing sexual about that picture or that situation. You guys are projecting your trash onto it. You're acting like covert pedophiles, and that's not cool,” Pinkett Smith told photographers.

In January 2015, Willow Smith was again the subject of controversy due to an image posted on social media. She shared a photo of herself wearing a vintage Jean Paul Gaultier shirt featuring naked breasts. “When did the women’s [sic] body start being something to hide? #freethenipple,” Smith captioned the image. So, Smith wore a shirt with nipples and posed for a photo, which she shared on social media to promote the #FreetheNipple movement. She was 14 at the time, but it’s not like Smith showed her own bare chest. Still, the image caused widespread controversy.
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Photo: Rex/REX USA.
The Curse Of Drake
When she entered into the 2015 U.S. Open semifinal, Serena Williams was poised to achieve a major feat. Had she won, she would have been the first player since 1988 to win all four of the big tennis tournaments in a calendar year. Unfortunately, she lost to Italy’s Roberta Vinci.

Serena Williams is a 21-time Grand Slam champion, so many people went searching for an answer as to what put her off her game. They landed on her rumored new boyfriend, Drake. He’d been spotted cheering Williams on at Wimbledon (which she won), and he was again seen in the stands at the U.S. Open. When Vinci upset Williams, fans were quick to say that Drake had jinxed Williams.
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Photo: Matt Baron/BEImages.
Jennifer Lawrence’s Cool-Girl Backlash
When Jennifer Lawrence received her first Oscar nomination (for 2010’s Winter’s Bone), we didn’t yet know that she was a fun, outspoken girl from Kentucky. She had yet to tell any red carpet reporter who would listen how much she wanted pizza and fries, nor had she tripped while walking onstage to accept an Oscar.

As her charming flaws accumulated, Vulture asked in 2013, “Is Jennifer Lawrence Katniss-ing Us?” Meaning, were we all actually being duped by the next in a long line of America’s Sweethearts, an actress who just knows how to capitalize on our current zeitgeist of cool self-deprecation that can mask any level of achievement and success?

When the inevitable Jennifer Lawrence backlash began, we had already been warned to brace ourselves for it. Other outlets asked why it was even happening. Here was this “perfectly imperfect” female celebrity, The Daily Dot wrote in 2014; isn’t she exactly what we’ve always wanted? The absolute epitome of the Cool Girl, who somehow manages to be both the female and male ideal, all without seeming to try or put on airs at all?

And yet, when Lawrence was nominated for her second Oscar in 2014, she was criticized outright for how she continued to succeed without appearing to care or try. When she won the Best Supporting Actress BAFTA, beating frontrunner Lupita Nyong’o (who would later win the Oscar), the two women were directly compared. Nyong’o never pretended that any of her success was happening by accident the way that people interpreted Lawrence as doing.

Eventually, many people would concede that they hadn’t actually jumped off the Jennifer Lawrence bandwagon. What they had actually grown tired of was the media’s oversaturation with Lawrence. There are only so many times and so many ways to read about Lawrence being scared by Jack Nicholson on the red carpet. When it comes to strong personalities like Jennifer Lawrence, less is more.
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Photo: Matt Baron/BEImages.
Gisele’s Breast-feeding Backlash
Gisele Bündchen is passionate about breast-feeding. In 2010, she told Harper’s Bazaar U.K. that she thinks breast-feeding “should be mandatory for all women with babies younger than six months.” She received backlash over those remarks, which she later defended on her blog. “I understand that everyone has their own experience and opinions, and I am not here to judge. I believe that bringing a life into this world is the single most important thing a person can undertake and it can also be the most challenging. I think as mothers we are all just trying our best,” Bündchen wrote.

In December 2013, she again stoked ire with another public comment on breast-feeding — this time in photo form. Bündchen shared a picture of herself breast-feeding while a team of stylists did her hair, makeup, and nails. “What would I do without this beauty squad after the 15 hours flying and only 3 hours of sleep #gettingready,” she captioned the snap.

Bündchen’s intentions were obviously good: She’s a working mother who squeezes in bonding time with her children wherever she can. Still, the image was difficult to process for many working mothers the world over who lack the same privileges.

“Celebrities post photographs like this as a way to humanize themselves to their fans. Stars, the Us Weekly cliché goes, they're just like us! They feed their children! But this particular photograph shows how absurd that fantasy is. Yes, Gisele is breast-feeding her child like millions of women do every day. But the circumstances surrounding that act for Gisele are unfortunately anything but common,” Jessica Grose wrote on Elle.com.
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Photo: Matt Baron/BEImages.
Amy Schumer Jokes About #AskHimLess
We all know about #AskHerMore and #SmartGirlsAsk, two campaigns that push award show correspondents to inquire about more than what a female celebrity is wearing on the red carpet. During the 2015 Academy Awards, Amy Schumer tweeted a joke with the fake hashtag #AskHimLess. The comedian intended for her comment to be a lighthearted note about the growing number of female empowerment initiatives infiltrating the red carpet, but some people interpreted it a bit more seriously.

Bustle writer Kelsea Stahler thought that Schumer’s joke undermined all the great work the comedian does to broaden the representation of women in our culture on Inside Amy Schumer. Joking about #AskHerMore only adds to the challenges it already faces, Stahler argued.

“[N]ot undermining anything. Just a joke. I liked the wording of. Of course I support #askhermore,” Schumer tweeted. “I do a lot for our cause. Like every second of every day I'm working on it. Don't get weird on me girl."
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Photo: Matt Baron/BEImages.
Chrissy Teigen’s Pasta Portions
Chrissy Teigen loves food. That’s one of the things we love about her. She’s always sharing photos of delicious-looking dishes on Instagram. Teigen also has a site where she posts recipes, Delushious. Everything looks amazing.

Recently, Teigen shared a picture of her first attempt at making carbonara. Sounds innocent enough, right? It looked great, but it wasn’t immune to portion-shaming. Some Instagram users commented that the portion in the photo Teigen posted looked rather small.

Teigen didn’t take these comments lying down. “This is 1 serving. A starter. Primi. It’s not the fucking Cheesecake Factory. Maybe it’s smaller than what you get there,” she fired back. “Blocking people from a pasta picture. SMH. Controversial post, apparently,” Teigen tweeted.

Did you ever think a photo of pasta could cause backlash? Welcome, friends, to the era of outrage and social media.
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Photo: Ken McKay/ITV/Rex/REX USA.
Carrie Underwood Supports Same-Sex Marriage
“As a married person myself, I don't know what it's like to be told I can't marry somebody I love and want to marry. I can't imagine how that must feel. I definitely think we should all have the right to love, and love publicly, the people that we want to love,” singer Carrie Underwood told The Independent in June 2012.

The newspaper called Underwood’s comments “a development that will doubtless outrage her many fans on the religious right,” because “the [United States’] most popular country singer, Carrie Underwood, has come out vehemently in favour of gay marriage.”

Underwood later told The Associated Press that she faced online backlash for voicing her support of same-sex marriage. “I was asked a difficult question in the last five minutes of an interview, and I answered it the best way I knew how, and after that I do what I do I love making music, and I generally try to stay out of any kind of controversy... The role-model word is really scary to me, because no matter what happens in your life, something you do, wear, say, sing, whatever — somebody somewhere is probably not going to like it too well.”

Underwood said she was fine with her comments ruffling a few feathers. “I just really try hard to do what I do and try to be nice to people and make great music, and if people think they can look up to that, that's wonderful. If not, that's okay, too.”
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Photo: Stephen Lovekin/Rex/REX USA.
Ryan Reynolds Carries James The Wrong Way
Since welcoming their daughter James into the world, Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds have been relatively private parents. On Father’s Day, Lively gave us a glimpse into their world with a cute Instagram post. She shared a photo of Reynolds posing with James slung around his chest in a baby carrier. “Happy Father’s Day!!! @vancityreynolds Since the day our baby was born, I've felt so strongly in my heart that you were most likely the father,” she wrote in the caption.

Instead of focusing on the rare glimpse into the couple’s life (and cute little baby feet), people were quick to point out that Reynolds was using the carrier incorrectly, and James’ position in it was “dangerous.”

Reynolds actually took the backlash to heart. When he addressed the issue on the Today show, he told Matt Lauer, “The baby's not properly secured in the vessel that I'm wearing there. I'm a first-time dad, and that is not the first mistake I've made. I can guarantee you it won't be the last. I'd never used that particular carrier before. Every other time has been perfect."
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Photo: MediaPunch/REX USA.
Beyoncé Is Seen, But Not Heard
In August 2015, The New York Times noted a most peculiar phenomenon. International superstar Beyoncé had somehow managed to stop giving face-to-face, spoken interviews entirely at some point during 2013. Even when she appeared on the September 2015 cover of Vogue (the most vaunted issue of the year), Beyoncé did not deign to speak with a writer from the magazine. The author of the Times article hypothesizes that Beyoncé may have gone into this self-imposed interview-lockdown because some quotes she gave during an interview with GQ in 2013 were interpreted as daffy and easily taken out of context.

After the Times pointed out Beyoncé's refusal to communicate, readers piped in with their feelings about her silence. Many of them found it disappointing. "There is something eerie about a person who doesn’t participate, doesn’t feel the need to speak and connect with other people, to make them laugh and relate and think," wrote a reader from New York named Margaret. "We saw Beyoncé stand stoically in the elevator as her sister verbally ripped apart Jay Z. To me, Beyoncé isn’t a person as much as a pretty shell who at some point was told to shut up and actually listened. Bey, I want to hear what you have to say. Confidence is not just a P.R. strategy."

Other readers were upset that Beyoncé didn't appear to be using her global fame to get involved in social justice movements. "[T]hese are troubled times, and I think that those with stars that burn as brightly as Beyoncé’s have a role to play in the discourse," Christopher Williams from New York noted.

Beyoncé chooses to communicate in other ways, though. She gives pre-taped interviews. She emails with reporters. She posts photos on her website and Instagram account. This is an extremely powerful person who carefully controls her image and narrative, and she has chosen to do so by minimizing her spoken interviews and maximizing her visual presence. Beyoncé and Jay Z have also made statements about movements like #BlackLivesMatter. It’s quite reductive to say that Bey is “seen but not heard.” She speaks volumes, just not in the traditional manner.
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