Last week, Gwyneth Paltrow pulled one hell of a pop culture hat trick. In addition to breaking international box office records with her newest film, a little movie called Iron Man 3, People named her as the world’s “Most Beautiful Person.” The world, however, proved itself not so fond of the multi-hyphenate actress. After her second foray into the world of cookbooks, Gwyneth Paltrow was voted the “Most Hated Celebrity” in the world. I sincerely hope that Kim Jong Un was ineligible.
For the top honors in Star Magazine’s poll of famous pinatas, Paltrow beat out folks like Justin Bieber and Madonna, who everyone seems to agree on disliking. It will surprise absolutely no one that people dislike Katherine Heigl, as the media backlash on her “outspoken” persona has killed her career, and Paltrow herself gets more press about being an out-of-touch elitist than being an actress. The very name of some of these folks inspires rage.
Why do we hate Gwyneth Paltrow? It’s not difficult to imagine why; she gives you reasons to dislike her — as if she were handing them out like fliers on the street. Paltrow’s personal lifestyle blog, GOOP, is an unintentionally hilarious look at the unguarded privilege she trades in.
On GOOP, you can purchase “must-haves” like a $298 bathrobe or a Mongolian cashmere throw rug at the low, low price of $1,098. Everything on the site feels pulled from Drew Droege’s Chloe Sevigny impression, and one half expects to find Paltrow shilling an “ironic coin skort by Obesity and Speed.” She slays me. What would I do without her around?
Whereas celebrities like Jennifer Lopez try to play down their wealth by insisting they are "from the block," Paltrow embraces her status, name-dropping like it's her job. (Actually, it kind of is.) Gwyneth Paltrow recently defended her right to be entitled. Shooting back at her critics, Paltrow quipped, “What, am I supposed to pretend like I don’t have money?” In an industry filled with false modesty, Paltrow broadcasts her celebrity net worth.
In a post-99% movement America, it’s not surprising that Paltrow pushes our buttons about wealth and modesty, but what troubles me is how high she places on this list. She's silly and self-involved, but is she really worth hating that much?
After Paltrow, we see celebrities like Kristen Stewart (#2) and LeAnn Rimes (#12) placing high on the list, for reasons that are equally benign. The list is a fascinating indication of our cultural priorities of hate, and LeAnn Rimes and Kristen Stewart are high profile figures who cheated on their partners. Their male cheater counterparts, Jesse James (#19) and Ashton Kutcher (#13), both placed lower — despite the fact that James’ scandal was far more public.
Do I think that we should care all that much that Ashton Kutcher was unfaithful to Demi Moore? No, that’s their marriage. But it’s troubling that our culture of slut-shaming sets such clear double standards for gender behavior, where we punish women more for stepping out on their relationships than we do men.
However, this list shows that we tend to punish women more in general. Two-thirds of our most hated celebrities are women, and females count for 7 of the top ten slots. Renowned sleazebags like Donald Trump and Charlie Sheen didn’t make the list, but Anne Hathaway nabbed the #9 spot for “trying too hard.” New York Magazine was shocked she didn’t win.
Compare this with Chris Brown. Despite his constant excoriation in the media as a domestic abuser, Brown came in last on the list. He just made it in at #20. Sean Penn famously tied Madonna to a chair and beat her with a baseball bat. Penn didn’t even get a mention.
What makes Gwyneth Paltrow twenty times more hateable than Chris Brown? Why does Jennifer Lopez (seen as an arrogant diva, no matter what she insists) rank at #3 while the more publicly terrible Justin Bieber claims only the #8 spot?
In a piece for The Nation, Jessica Valenti states that it has to do with our double standards of success. Valenti argues that “the more successful you are, the less you will be liked,” and this is a problem for women who need to be likeable to be approved of. Kristen Stewart is often derided for her inability to look happy, but Sean Penn isn’t exactly Leslie Knope either. If you don’t smile, you’re a “b*tch” and a social pariah — whereas Penn is a two-time Oscar winner.
Celebrities like Stewart, Gwyneth Paltrow or Kim Kardashian act as socially accepted repositories for our cultural misogyny, people you can say almost anything about without fear of backlash. At a time when things like street harassment are becoming increasingly unacceptable because of social policing and awareness, we’re moving that harassment onto the internet. Instead of yelling at a woman on the street to smile, we’re saying it to Kristen Stewart online — because she can’t talk back.
Quentin Crisp once said that in society, “there’s no greater sin than being a woman,” and Star proved him right. According to this list, we hate it when you harass or abuse women. But not as much as we hate women.