Does Jennifer Lawrence Have a Persona Problem?

Is Jennifer Lawrence tricking us all?

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Complex Original

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You know Jennifer Lawrence, right? She's America's Sweetheart, the girl who's blown up the Oscars like a Yung Meryl while redefining what it means to be an A-list actress. Ever since she came onto the scene, she's eschewed glamor and embraced the traditionally unseemly parts of her personality—her awkwardness, her clumsiness, her love for junk food—with a heaping dose of disbelief that anyone would find her talented or attractive. That unapologetic normalness was a breath of fresh air in 2012.

But as the years have gone on, the reality of Jennifer Lawrence has become more glamorous—she's the face of Dior, as well as The Hunger Games, a franchise that has grossed almost $1.5 billion—but she's only doubled down on her normal-girl persona. In 2015, JLaw took shots on a red carpet, fell in public for the bajillionth time, and became besties with another normal girl hero, Amy Schumer, in a friendship that feels more than a little manufactured considering they're making a movie together. Is JLaw using this everywoman schtick to manipulate us? Who is the real Jennifer Lawrence, really? And do we really even have a right to know?

To sift through all the questions, Complex Pop Culture's Andrew Gruttadaro and Kerensa Cadenas got together to talk shit out.

Andrew Gruttadaro: When I interviewed the great media scientist Spencer Pratt earlier this year, he had this to say about Jennifer Lawrence: "You think we are fame whores? I promise you Jennifer Lawrence, with all due respect, is a bigger fame whore than me. She's a master. Her IQ is probably 180. She's Good Will Hunting level of hustle. I don't fake trip. If you notice, she went from, 'I'm fat pizza girl' to like, Chanel cheekbones. Look out for Jennifer Lawrence."

Now, I don't think I'm as angry about it as Spencer was, but I do have a hard time disagreeing with him. For years now, probably since before the first Hunger Games, JLaw has built a brand out of being "normal," professing to be as clumsy and eat as much as your average middle America teenage girl, even as she makes millions of dollars, buys houses in Hollywood, and dates rock stars. It was charming at first—and all bias aside, boy it FUCKING WORKED—but the more it goes on the slimier it feels, like she and her team are methodically preying on young girls' insecurities. 

I can't decide if that's a truly terrible thing, but at the very least it's wildly disingenuous. I don't know—are we on the same page on this, Kerensa?

Kerensa Cadenas: Wow, Spencer really went in! For the most part, I think we are on the same page about this, although I think that perhaps it didn't start out so calculated?

For a long time, I really did feel like JLaw's whole "I'm a normal gal" thing really was genuine! It was pretty refreshing to see an actress out there just being herself. At the time it started, which wasn't even really that long ago, actresses seemed like they were much quieter about sharing things about feminism and pay discrepancies and just stuff about themselves, and I do think JLaw's seemingly candid behavior helped usher that out of a lot of people. 

But it really does feel like it is at a tipping point now because she'll do stuff like the Lenny essay about equal pay and then go take shots on a red carpet—it feels strained now. And I don't want to think that it's all an act because that is SO depressing to me, but as of late it feels like she's weirdly become a parody of the behavior that felt refreshing just a number of years ago.

AG: Don't forget that last week she was on The Late Show talking about puking!!! "We've been over the pizza thing before, so how do we up the ante?" I imagine JLaw's team asking before the show. "I know! Talk about throwing up all that pizza!" You're right—it's feeling really strained these days, and it's just making me feel like we're getting further and further away from knowing who Jennifer Lawrence actually is. 

But maybe we should slow down before we turn into those two old guys from The Muppets and talk about the good JLaw's been able to accomplish, probably because of her "one of the guys" routine. The Lenny essay and her overall crusade against pay discrepancy has been huge, and I think has actually made an impact. And her response to The Fappening was perfect, and to me was maybe the only time in the past year or so that we saw Jennifer Lawrence the human instead of JLaw the brand.

KC: We are literally turning into the old guys from The Muppets (there could be worse things?):

JLaw has accomplished SO much, but at the same time, everything that has really been great for women specifically has been under this kind of annoying "one of the guys" routine. And her response to The Fappening was SO perfect, especially what she told Vanity Fair: “It is not a scandal. It is a sex crime,” she told Kashner. “It is a sexual violation. It’s disgusting. The law needs to be changed, and we need to change. That’s why these Web sites are responsible. Just the fact that somebody can be sexually exploited and violated, and the first thought that crosses somebody’s mind is to make a profit from it. It’s so beyond me. I just can’t imagine being that detached from humanity. I can’t imagine being that thoughtless and careless and so empty inside.”

I think her speaking to that and not being ashamed in the face of such a violation was obviously brave, but was also such a different reaction to celebrity sex tape/nude picture leaks than we've really seen before? It seemed like another shifting point in the ways that celebrities (and I would say female ones specifically) could interact with the public and kinda fight back about the ways they are perceived and the violations they face even though they are "famous."

AG: OK, so it's not all bad. But what's the solution for this brand in crisis? What's ideal scenario in this perfect world where Jennifer Lawrence solely acts according to our desires? Because her best moments as of late have come in response to very specific conflicts. What should she be doing the other 50 weeks of the year? 

And I guess another question we kind of have to address is, would we be judging a male actor like this?

KC: Well, I think she should stop making movies with David O. Russell, but that's not going to happen anytime soon. And I don't want her best moments to come because of fucked up shit that she's had to deal with in her career! I mean, I can't even imagine the kind of pressure she feels on every level—she's probably the biggest star right now, which comes with a lot of power but also probably has her feeling like she has to cater to everyone, which I think might play into that disingenuous feeling we've both had about her lately.

And ugh, I hate this question and I'm glad you asked it. And I hate my answer to it as well. No, we wouldn't be at all. I mean look at all the male actors who have fucked up and done dumb shit and it rarely goes discussed or we celebrate them for it. JLaw hasn't done anything wrong really and we are examining her behavior because it doesn't feel right. :( 

It's such a gross double standard that is so easy to continue to perpetuate. Do you think that there's a male actor that is the equivalent of JLaw? Your boy Ansel

AG: Maybe Ansel—I mean, dude did just have to defend himself for making a joke about vegans. But really I don't think there's an equivalent, because male actors really don't have to worry about maintaining a persona—what it stands for, if it's appealing, if it's coming off as too constructed, etc. They can pretty much be themselves on an unforgiving level (to an extent) and there aren't any negative consequences. We (*cough* I *cough*) celebrate Leonardo DiCaprio's womanizing, we laugh at Miles Teller being the biggest ass in interviews, we stand by while Alec Baldwin loses his shit on the paparazzi, and they all keep getting big roles and making money.

Which is to say, maybe we should shut the fuck up and let the girl get her paper. JLaw's still a great actress—it's not her fault Joy's a mess—and she's our best hope for closing the gap in Hollywood between actors and actresses, both in perception and pay. She just needs to stop talking about pizza. That joke's over.

KC: We do need to shut the fuck up—she's great and I will always stan for her. Although my request, again, is for her to stop working with David O. Russell. 

AG: #2016Goals: no pizza, even less David O. Russell.​

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