Jennifer Lawrence & The Lie Of Hollywood Likability

Jennifer Lawrence is likable. (Duh.) Her likability is a huge part of her stardom. Sure, she’s an Oscar-winning actress, but she’s also the girl you’d want to invite over to hang on your couch, pour you both some wine, and gossip with you about The Real Housewives. But in her essay about equal pay for Lenny Letter, Lawrence renounces likability. She tells the story of a recent work incident in which she voiced an opinion, and a man reacted poorly. "I was so shocked because nothing that I said was personal, offensive, or, to be honest, wrong," she writes. "All I hear and see all day are men speaking their opinions, and I give mine in the same exact manner, and you would have thought I had said something offensive." She then gets down to it. "I’m over trying to find the ‘adorable’ way to state my opinion and still be likable! Fuck that." Lawrence, of course, is not saying that she’s suddenly going to stop doing interviews where she stuffs a bunch of marshmallows into her mouth. She is, however, saying that she’s not always going to be the agreeable girl she’s perceived to be. The declaration punctures her perpetually chill public persona, and that’s a powerful thing. Lawrence’s offscreen appeal has always been her nonchalance and seeming approachability. She criticizes Hollywood beauty standards from the pedestal of being movie-star beautiful. She stars in Academy Award-nominated films while professing her love for the lowest of lowbrow. (Hey, Vanderpump Rules!) She seems to do everything effortlessly without giving a shit. Lawrence’s role in the celebrity universe was best defined during the 2013 Oscar season, when the media pitted her against Anne Hathaway. Some people couldn’t deal with how deeply Hathaway seemed to care about winning. Lawrence, meanwhile, literally stumbled into her triumph, tripping on the way to collect her prize. In Refinery29’s (Un)Cover story about Hathaway, Jennifer Keishin Armstrong argues that the actress is a different kind of “cool girl," one whose cool comes from "striving for excellence and not having to apologize for it.” In stating that she’s done trying to couch her opinions in likability, Lawrence takes a step away from one type of cool, toward a cool that’s bolder and less confined to a reductive, fun-gal-who’s-down-to-hang construct. Too often, women who do this are branded “unlikable.” Well, to quote Lawrence: Fuck that. We need to abolish this idea that there’s something irksome about a woman who is unabashedly ambitious and doesn’t care if people find her adorable. In the case of Lawrence, we all probably still will. In her essay, she wonders if women’s reluctance to demand fair and equal pay is simply a matter of ingrained sexism. “Are we socially conditioned to behave this way? We’ve only been able to vote for what, 90 years?” Then, pivot: “I’m seriously asking — my phone is on the counter and I’m on the couch, so a calculator is obviously out of the question.” Only Lawrence could proclaim she’s done playing the likability game while still remaining 100% likable.

More from Pop Culture

R29 Original Series