Jennifer Lawrence & The Myth Of Celebrity Relatability

This week, Jennifer Lawrence made the cover of Vogue’s September issue (in which she got four different covers), for the second time in her young career.

Which, like, okay. Sure. Lawrence looks great on the covers, and her interview isn’t offensive. Could Vogue have chosen another cover star? Yes. Absolutely yes. One hundred percent yes. But we also know Vogue doesn’t have a terrific track record of featuring women that don’t fit a very small fraction of the Hollywood/pop culture landscape. Plus, last month, they tried to claim Gigi Hadid and Zayn Malik were gender-fluid because they shared clothes. So, I mean . . . that’s really all I need to say about how much work that publication has to do.

Vogue / Annie Leibovitz

But something that jumped out at me was the perpetual narrative of relatability. Despite Jennifer Lawrence saying she’d “kill herself” if she was a self-described “regular person,” the interview largely paints her as exactly that: her house floods after she fails to have someone who works with crystals remove them from her house because of course, she curses, she likes reality television, her friends — famous and not — attest to her bluntness and lack of social filter. Stars, they remind, are just like us, and Vogue seems to want us to know that above all else, this pertains to Jennifer Lawrence.

Even though she isn’t. At 26, Lawrence is an Academy-award winner. She’s been nominated four times total. She was the highest paid actress of 2016. She starred in The Hunger Games and three X-Men films. She’s currently promoting Mother!, a film directed by Darren Aronofsky. There is nothing regular about any of that. And while the concept of “regular” is largely a myth anyway, J-Law’s reality is not that of most people on this planet. The fact that she can still act like a person and curse and talk to her friends and be fun to interview for five hours is great, but there’s still nothing “just like us!” about her.

Which is a narrative we need to stop pushing. It isn’t an insult to acknowledge a person’s extreme privilege (especially since Lawrence has a history of forgetting to check hers). It isn’t an insult to acknowledge success and wealth, nor for a person who has those things to acknowledge them too. Because there’s a difference between wrapping oneself in furs and channeling Lucille Bluth, and saying, “Yes, I am living a reality that is in stark contrast to the rest of the population.” Ignorance is a choice, whether that be someone’s failure to recognize their privilege or an interviewer’s failure to paint a more realistic picture of life in the star system. The normalcy narrative isn’t helping anybody.

Especially since the ideas of what makes someone “normal” are outrageously outdated. We know “normal” and “regular” and “average” is typically measured on a sliding scale that measures normalcy based on race, gender, socio-economic reality, and sexuality. So we know that it’s damaging. And yet, here we are, watching Vogue sing the merits of what makes someone average.

But we’ve also had this conversation a million times. We’ve watched Vogue and a slew of other publications deliver very specific narratives appropriate for very specific stories, and we’ve watched as they don’t do anything to really change it. So that’s where we come in. Change it by questioning their status quo, change it by saying “Well this seems stale,” change it by creating conversations that don’t revolve around what makes someone relatable. I don’t even know what that words mean anymore. But when I read it, I certainly do not relate.


Tags: Anne T. Donahue, topstory

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