Since I last wrote for the Trinitonian in early December, I have noticed two major trends in the world at large. First, Chris Christie can do nothing right. And second, it would seem that Jennifer Lawrence can do nothing wrong. We are talking about a woman who, in two short years, has won an Oscar, a People’s Choice Award and a spot on Time Magazine’s annual list of the world’s most influential people.
She is no mere star. She is a phenomenon.
This begs two questions. For one thing, why all the hype? And, what’s more, should we buy into this said hype? The answer to the second question is inextricably tied up with the answer to the first.
For starters, part of Lawrence’s fame is due to the fact that, frankly, she is damn good at what she does.
More than any other actress of her generation, she has a real knack for relaying thoughts and emotions through “non-verbals”””facial expressions, tics, body language and the like. When I think of the characters Lawrence has given life to, I remember them not by what I have heard them say, but by how I have seen them react. I think of Katniss’s searing, defiant stare at the end of “Catching Fire”, or Tiffany’s look of slowly dawning revulsion during the dinner date in “Silver Linings Playbook.”
Lawrence’s other great trait as an actress is one that any great actress must have: a genuine desire to take risks, to constantly and confidently develop her talents. This swing-for-the-fences mentality has occasionally led her to strike out, as she did with her sloppily sketched, wildly overpraised performance in “American Hustle”. But it has also lead to some of the most thrilling, nakedly emotional moments in contemporary cinema.
While it is certainly Lawrence’s acting that thrust her into the spotlight, it is how she has behaved under the unforgiving glare of that spotlight that has cemented her place in the pop culture pantheon. What makes her appeal so massive, I think, is how she articulates a sort of third way for today’s actresses. Whether directly or indirectly, any female performer in today’s popular culture must deal with questions of style, sexuality and stereotype.
For the many Americans (myself included) who find themselves dissatisfied with both the timid, traditionalist responses of the Taylor Swifts and the ballsy bluntness of the Lena Dunhams, Lawrence represents an engaging and impressive middle ground. She addresses questions of beauty and body image with a light, highly accessible wit, subverting unfair standards without ever taking herself too seriously.
She is part of a venerable group of movie actresses, from Katharine Hepburn to Diane Keaton to my beloved Barbra Streisand, who, rather than submitting to traditional standards of celebrity glamour or attempting to do away with said glamour entirely, decided to re-define it on their own terms.
Lucky for all of us, Jennifer Lawrence is doing just that, and so much more. I do not think that she should win the Oscar this year, but this girl they call “J-Law” has undoubtedly won my admiration””and my heart.