Voices: Anne Hathaway isn’t a ‘mean girl’ – trust me, I know

·5-min read

Which would you say is worse? Dishing details of a private conversation to a journalist, or making it clear you’d like to keep that private conversation... well, private?

Anne Hathaway opted for the latter, and apparently that makes her “rude”.

In a resurfaced interview from October 2022, a reporter asked Hathaway whether she and Anna Wintour had ever spoken about the film The Devil Wears Prada, which features a character (Miranda Priestley) who is known to have been inspired by Wintour.

(Hathaway had recently worn an outfit that resembled one worn by her character, Andy, in said film, and she’d sat next to Wintour at New York Fashion Week’s Michael Kors show the previous month.)

“Yes,” Hathaway answered, clearly. The reporter then asked what Wintour had “shared”.

“Why would I tell you?!” Hathaway replied, before bursting into (what looked to me like) warm, good-humoured laughter. “Because I’m a fan, and I need to know,” the reporter responded. “But you weren’t there,” Hathaway reminded her.

That’s it. That’s literally it. That small exchange – in which Hathaway made it clear that she wouldn’t be gossiping or compromising Wintour’s privacy – has seen the actor labelled “rude”, and her behaviour demonised as “passive aggressive” and spreading “mean girl vibes”.

I have one word in response: irony. Actually, I have many words – but I’ll start with irony. “Rude”, “passive aggressive” and “mean girl vibes” are all descriptors that can be applied to the toxic, sexist hatred that Hathaway endured a decade ago – hatred that became so pathological and ubiquitous, it was given its own nickname: “Hathahate”.

Derision for Hathaway had been steadily bubbling in the build-up to the 2013 awards season (when Hathaway was receiving critical acclaim for her outstanding performance as Fantine in Les Miserables), with one of the most notable quotes coming from critic Richard Lawson in a piece titled “Why Does Everyone Hate Anne Hathaway?”

“She always seems like she’s performing, and her favorite act is this overstated humility and graciousness,” Lawson said. “She is the epitome of the bad kind of theater kid.”

But as Hathaway began her 2013 Oscar acceptance speech for her role in Les Mis, she famously murmured “It came true” – and the #HathaHate storm became a hurricane. As journalist Meg Walters wrote last year: “Apparently, her earnestness off and on screen was annoying; it was rubbing us all the wrong way.”

It was an ugly time, particularly because #HathaHate screamed misogyny, rather than being about anything Hathaway had done to earn the torrents of bile being tossed her way.

Christabel Hastings put it well for Stylist: “It’s clear that Hathaway was simply the victim of a long-held tradition; one in which a talented, beautiful, famous woman is used as a punching bag” – and Kyle Buchanan’s Vulture piece, too, summed #HathaHate up by saying: “When it comes to female ambition, there’s no acceptable mode: Any vibe you exude can and will be used against you.”

Happily, #HathaHate has died down in recent years. Hathaway has since addressed it – ironically, at the same October 2022 event at which she gave the resurfaced interview that’s now seen her slated as rude.

“Ten years ago, I was given an opportunity to look at the language of hatred from a new perspective,” she said in her speech at the event, adding: “You do not have the right to judge – and especially not hate – someone for existing.” Amen.

But as we’ve seen today, #HathaHate hasn’t dissipated completely. Instead, it has lurked quietly, ready to twist its way back to the surface any time it sees the slightest opportunity. Last October, Hathaway declined to share details of a private conversation, and now, apparently, she’s a “mean girl”.

Do you want to know what real “mean girls” do? I went to an all-girls boarding school; I know first hand.

Real “mean girls” bitch. They spread rumours and gossip behind people’s backs. They say one thing to your face, and another thing to their friends in a conversation built on icy whispers and shrill shrieks of laughter.

In my time, as well as being a victim of “mean girl” vibes, I’ve been a perpetrator of them... and I can safely say that Anne Hathaway is not.

“Mean girls” are not discreet in the way that Hathaway was. They don’t have your back, in the way that Hathaway had Wintour’s.

They do not erupt into genuine laughter the way that Hathaway did; they let the corners of their lips twitch and their eyes dart to the side in a way that makes clear you’re the butt of the joke, all while pretending to keep a straight face.

They do not make their intentions and values clear in the way in which Hathaway promoted hers. They keep you guessing, because they want to make you feel humiliated and small. They are, in short, rude.

Hathaway wasn’t rude; she was the soul of discretion, without being pious or sanctimonious. She gave direct answers and made it clear, through laughter and smiles, that her refusal to gossip wasn’t down to being standoffish or distant; that there were no hard feelings about the question being asked.

Last time I checked, being the soul of discretion was supposed to be a good thing. It spoke of integrity, respect for others, and a self-control that far too many of us (myself included) often lack.

It’s exactly the kind of quality, surely, that gets people to the top of an industry like Hollywood, where secrets going public could do serious damage to a film or a creative project (or, indeed, a career). Hathaway’s response to the reporter’s question wasn’t “passive aggressive”; it was a response to be proud of.

Oh, and one last thing – that viral clip of Hathaway being “rude” is part of a wider interview. In it, Hathaway is undeniably warm, generous and kind – both towards the reporter and about her colleagues. And, when she refused to share details of any conversations she had had with Wintour, the reporter said “I respect that” – to which Hathaway replied, genuinely, “Thank you.”

I’m batting for Hathaway; that is, unless she says or does something actually rude, passive aggressive or mean. But I don’t think she will. She doesn’t have it in her.