In case you hadn’t heard, Anne Hathaway is cool once more. So is Zooey Deschanel. And Taylor Swift. Within the gladiator ring of popular culture, predicting who’ll get the metaphorical thumbs up or the thumbs down is an more and more bewildering activity. Step again and watch the method for lengthy sufficient, and the seemingly random fluctuations of who’s in and who’s out might depart you with whiplash. Within the newest reshuffling, it seems we have now determined to bestow our favour on a couple of acquainted faces. Particularly, faces that have been as soon as deemed to be too candy, too keen, too open. Most importantly: too earnest.
Our sudden acceptance of the earnest superstar isn’t merely a fluke – it’s a symptom of a a lot bigger cultural shift. As a brand new era comes of age, new values, priorities and views are additionally taking maintain. A millennial desire for irony, edge and sarcasm has been phased out. Earnestness is in, as are the celebs which have most famously embodied it.
Zooey Deschanel was the indie queen of the 2000s, an archetype of wide-eyed quirk with a bundle of Smiths albums beneath her arm. The picture crystalised in 2009, together with her function because the titular love curiosity within the romcom 500 Days of Summer season, after which two years later through her sitcom New Lady. With polka dots, classic garments and Peter Pan collar in tow, she turned the poster baby for the twee and “manic pixie” actions that dominated the period. A number of years earlier, a younger Anne Hathaway was anointed into Hollywood royalty through Disney’s The Princess Diaries (2001). By 2006, her flip in The Satan Wears Prada had made her a family identify and burgeoning cultural icon. In each interview, she exuded a grinning, I’m-just-happy-to-be-here vitality. Taylor Swift additionally strummed her approach onto the scene within the 2000s as a golden-haired, angel-voiced embodiment of goodness. She was the ever-polite, ever-humble nation star. She wore her coronary heart on her sleeve. She was unwaveringly likeable.
Because the 2010s wore on, nevertheless, individuals turned disenchanted with this model of unironic earnestness. “I’ve been making an attempt for years to determine why I don’t like Zooey Deschanel,” one 2011 thinkpiece in The New Republic started. “I’ve all the time recognized I’m not alone: A fast Google search will reveal loads of feminine writers who take concern with the indie actress.” Deschanel was falling out of favour. “She is troublingly girlish, even infantile,” the author mused, including that she’s “programmed to speak and behave completely as an lovely oddball”.
As for Hathaway, her infamously honest Oscar acceptance speech in 2012 – “it got here true!” she beamed – gave rise to a motion of so-called “Hathahaters”. Apparently, her earnestness on and off display was annoying; it was rubbing us all of the mistaken approach. “She’s bought this theatre-kid factor the place she adopts the temper of each state of affairs she’s in […] however wildly overcompensates each time,” one critic whined to Hollywood.com. “She all the time looks as if she’s performing, and her favorite act is that this overstated humility and graciousness.” By 2016, Swift’s downfall had additionally commenced. #TaylorSwiftisOverParty trended primary on Twitter that 12 months. “Taylor Swift isn’t like the opposite celebrities,” proclaimed Vice. “She’s worse.” Evidently, what had first been embraced as quirky and cute had change into grating and cringeworthy over time. We rolled our eyes and roundly dismissed the earnest superstar from our good graces.
However previously few years, the temper has shifted but once more. Ambivalent coolness has misplaced its lustre. Now, pictures of Hathaway are plastered throughout Twitter as a brand new troop of devoted followers gush over her glowing, Mod-inspired Cannes style. “I really like seeing Anne Hathaway succeeding… flourishing… trying nice,” wrote one fan. “I received’t overlook when the web simply determined to hate on her for no motive through the 2010s.”
Deschanel is again in favour, too, with “twee” style – the mid-Noughties aesthetic that hinged on the quirky, cutesy and quaint – making a comeback on TikTok and New Lady returning to reputation through the 2020 lockdown. “The present embodies chaotic good at its best, which is why it’s the best antidote to such a chaotic evil 12 months,” one author famous on the time.
As for Swift, she has experimented with a lot of personas. After her sunny, country-pop persona drew backlash, she experimented with the broody, badass Popularity (2017), adopted by the shiny, pink-hued Lover (2019). By 2020, nevertheless, she had absolutely embraced a extra genuine model of herself through the paranormal Folklore and Evermore, albums which emphasised heartfelt songwriting over bombastic manufacturing. In a viral graduation speech the singer-songwriter made at New York College in Might, she even made the case for proud earnestness. “Study to reside alongside cringe,” she declared. “I’m a giant advocate for not hiding your enthusiasm for issues.” She added that she sees a “false stigma round eagerness in our tradition of unbothered ambivalence”, and that this “perpetuates the concept it’s not cool to need it”. She was, it might be argued, referring to the anti-earnest motion of the 2010s that noticed Hathaway derided for – gasp – truly wanting an Oscar, or Deschanel for overtly having fun with her dorky ukulele.
It’s unattainable to look at this motion, although, with out pertaining to the gender bias happening with the Hathahaters or twee-scorners. In any case, it’s laborious to think about many male celebrities who have been topic to comparable ranges of derision for merely being themselves. It’s clear immediately that it wasn’t simply that we disliked earnest girls – we didn’t consider in it. “The anti-Hathers have been a stark reminder that public-facing girls aren’t allowed to need issues, or they’ll be sentenced to an eternity in web hell,” Jill Gutowitz wrote for Vice in 2019. “The baseless hate was textbook misogyny.”
The current return to favour of those celebrities doesn’t hinge on something they’ve truly carried out. Relatively, it marks a shift in our tradition’s angle in the direction of earnestness itself – and significantly the earnestness of girls. The younger individuals driving this shift appear to be rejecting edginess, self-deprecation and judgement at each flip. Charges of smoking, consuming and partying are falling. In the meantime, traits like “sizzling woman summer time” and “predominant character vitality” promote unironic and outspoken self-love. They’re a era sick of being advised to tone themselves down, and so they’re searching for earnest celebrities to idolise within the course of. And who higher to select from than these outcast by their generational predecessors?
The likes of Hathaway and Deschanel aren’t alone on this, both. Different cheery theatre-kid sorts are additionally having a second, from Andrew Garfield to West Aspect Story’s Ariana DeBose. Makes an attempt to mount comparable backlashes are being swiftly curtailed, too. Take the marginally scathing Each day Beast piece in January about DeBose’s enthusiastic, musical-loving and unapologetically theatrical West Aspect Story co-star Rachel Zegler. It claimed – derisively – that she’s “changing into the brand new Anne Hathaway”. The dismissive response to the piece proved that an urge for food for anti-earnest criticism simply isn’t actually there anymore. “We’re not doing this once more,” gave the impression to be the overarching response.
For the youthful era, there are extra urgent issues at hand than deciphering whether or not Zegler’s painfully honest Instagram tales – filled with messages to herself from “the Universe” – are worthy of condemnation. Or Drew Barrymore’s current, wild calls to run outdoors into the rain. Within the grand scheme of issues, our present crop of earnest celebrities – with all of their exuberant, in-your-face theatre-kid vitality – are finally innocent. It leaves a cultural temper missing in irony, which can encourage older generations to roll their eyes. However after years of belittling and second-guessing girls for nothing however their personalities, it’s a vibe shift that may solely be a constructive one.