Arts & Pop Culture

THE SECRET LIFE OF THE AMERICAN MOON-CHILD

By ALEJANDRA ALVAREZ

Though few will let her off the hook for the time she spent as the star of ABC Family’s The Secret Life of the American Teenager, Shailene Woodley has made quite the name for herself as one of Hollywood’s most coveted female leads. From her role as Alexandra King in The Descendants to that of Tris in Divergent and Hazel Grace in The Fault in Our Stars, Woodley’s characters are known for their strong willed, outspoken qualities — qualities Woodley excels at embodying both on and off screen.

However, movie reviews and the YouTube comment section alike feature individuals who express intense disapproval of Woodley as an individual. This is not an unusual phenomenon within actor-audience relationships; every public figure has a constituent of the general population that does not appreciate (or acknowledge) his or her talent, has taken offense to something unscripted he or she said or does not agree with his or her political or religious preferences — the list goes on. But this does not appear to be the case for Woodley’s “haters.” A skim through the feedback pages on various social media sites reveals that many of her opponents cannot pinpoint what it is about Woodley they dislike. So what is it about her that ticks so many people off? Is it the way she talks, the roles she plays, the alternative lifestyle she promotes or a combination of all of the above?

Courtesy of Teen Vogue

Courtesy of Teen Vogue

The answer most likely lies in these audience members’ inability to connect with Woodley while she is both in and out of character. The ensuing sense of hatred these viewers feel towards Woodley is a natural response to her seemingly inauthentic public image.

Great overlap exists between the plight of Woodley and that of Anne Hathaway, who has also taken the brunt of many seemingly unwarranted and hateful comments and criticisms in the past. A New York Times article entitled “Do We Really Hate Anne Hathaway?” quotes several individuals’ opinions of Hathaway, all of which are just as vague as those lobbed against Woodley: “There’s something about her that just rubs me the wrong way,” wrote one blogger about Hathaway, a statement that greatly parallels one I found about Woodley in the comments section of an article about her that read: “I don’t know what it is, but there’s something about her I just don’t like.”

This ambiguity many audience members find themselves feeling towards Hathaway, and now Woodley, can be attributed to an overarching lack of connection they feel with the characters they are portraying and the lifestyles they are promoting as public figures. The people who claim Hathaway is “not a real person” and equate her to the “princessy, theater-schooled girls who have no game and no sex appeal and eat raisins for dessert,” are the same people who slam Woodley for her alternative lifestyle, which, according to Us Weekly, includes “foraging” for her food, “gathering her own spring water from the mountains” on a monthly basis and making her own toothpaste out of clay. They simply exude an overtly “eager,” seemingly fake personality that just does not sit well with the average moviegoer.

This same average moviegoer then, in turn, begins to call into question the legitimacy of these actresses’ lives. With regards to Woodley specifically, how are we to believe that she is homeless and couch-surfing from friends house to friends house when she is not on a movie set, living out of a single suitcase and making her own cheese while at the same time we see her appear on late night television in glamorous dresses and travel the world on promotional tours? Consequently, it is possible that many believe Woodley is hypocritical when it comes to the way she juxtaposes her lives as a “self-proclaimed environmentalist” and one of Hollywood’s finest. For these people, the puzzle pieces that make up Woodley simply do not fit.

Or maybe, as a New York Times blogger stated, “we simply don’t find successful, ‘perfect’ people all that likable.” Woodley has certainly been catapulted into successful stardom of late, and because the lifestyle she embodies cannot be sustained by most, even though she promotes it as the superior lifestyle, it is viewed as unattainable, implausible, “perfect” – ergo, immediate blacklist. “Perfect” is used in the sense that any attempt at coming across as such is viewed as implausible from the get-go, as an attempt on the actor’s part to present themselves as anything other than who they really are: human, and thus flawed.

I get it: it is hard to jibe with the whole hippie image, especially when it is being promoted by a member of Hollywood’s elite. I get how it does not sit well with most, how it comes across as artificial, contrived, maybe even as a publicity-stunt, but people need to cool it with the hate. Woodley is a person, just like Anne Hathaway is, and people seem to forget this is the case once the computer or television screen separates us from them and we are granted Internet access and a keyboard. Rather than waste energy scrutinizing the inconsistencies in their images, how about we focus on what these individuals bring to the craft of acting and what they are trying to do with the influence they have garnered as actors: Woodley has taken to the environmentalist platform while Hathaway is a strong LGBT and human rights activist. Let us respect that Woodley, just like the rest of us, is trying to figure out who she is, the only difference between us being the massive spotlight beneath which she is operating, and under which we are not.

Let us try to dissuade our contemporaries from joining the next strain of “Hathahaters,” this time directed towards Woodley, when all these actresses are trying to do is what they love both in character and out of character. You and I both know you’ll secretly want to get your hands on The Fault in Our Stars the second it comes out on DVD — even if that may just be because of Ansel Elgort. But admit it — you do not totally hate Woodley’s part in the movie, okay? We all saw you cry.

But yes, I am going to keep my distance from any clay-based tooth products. Sorry, Shailene.

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