History is a circle where we are bound to repeat all of our worst mistakes, and it turns out that sentiment is true both in war and in celebrity gossip culture. We are so quick to move on to the next thing, and even quicker to jump on the nearest bandwagon, that oftentimes we fail to think about the implications of our actions, and whether we’ve done the exact same thing before.
In this case, I’m talking about the way the public has decided to treat actress and model Cara Delevingne. Although I started out laughing at the memes, and sometimes agreeing with the sentiment, as the bullying of Delevingne continued to grow, it all felt a little too familiar. Obviously, I’m talking about the public treatment of Jennifer Lawrence.
Both Lawrence and Delevingne crashed into the Hollywood scene with stunning speed. Lawrence starred in The Hunger games in 2012, and went on to create 15 more feature films in the 5 years between 2012 and 2016. For a period of time, it was impossible to walk into a theater without seeing at least one poster with her face on it.
What made Lawrence truly beloved by the people wasn’t just the fact that she was a pretty actress; she made herself a relatable millennial archetype. The early 2010s were the years of peak “I’m not like other girls”, “live laugh love”, quirky relatable popular girls. Tumblr was still in its heyday, and a catchy quote could get meme’d into a photo-text graphic and live forever. Lawrence had an art for making sure she was on as many Tumblr walls as possible. It seemed like every event she went to, a new viral phenomena would pop up.
First, there was her love of pizza. She wasn’t like other actresses who were only eating salad and trying to keep thin. She loved pizza, and she wasn’t afraid to talk about it. This is what, in my opinion, truly started her “relatable girl” act, and the people ate it up (no pun intended)
She clapped back at people who asked her about her weight, and posts such as these became a calling card for teen girls who were starting to become more body-conscious. It was a time when body-positivity was starting to be talked about, but only when it came to thin women, and Jennifer Lawrence fell perfectly into that demographic.
She stuck her foot in her mouth, and then was visibly embarrassed when she did so. She was millennial cringe culture. The girlies could all relate to her, and the guys still wanted to fuck her. She was the moment.
Someone had to rise to take Lawrence’s place, and that was, to some extent, Delevingne. The rise of influencer culture around this time made actor/model fame slightly less all-encompassing than it had been, but I would still argue that the position that Delevingne filled within the celebrity world was the same as Lawrence’s, just updated for 2016.
Both women were outspoken on the hot-topic yet noncontroversial issues of the time (Lawrence: body image, Delevingne: being gay), and they behaved in a way that was popular among the young people of the era (Lawrence: quirky not like other girls, Delevingne: depressed + oversharing)
Cara Delevingne took the internet by storm when she was photographed with her then-girlfriend Ashley Benson carrying a sex bench into their home. The display of sex positive lesbianism was exciting for women in that they saw someone who wasn’t afraid to explore their sexuality in a way that wasn’t meant for the male gaze. Gen-Z was all about owning who you are, and the fact that Delevingne got caught with her sex bench was exactly what they wanted to see.
When she went to the Met Gala in 2017 with a shaved head, people loved it. It was an example of her not conforming to traditional expectations of women and owning who she was. Once again, for a time, Cara Delevingne was the moment.
And then she wasn’t.
Once these two women grew ubiquitous, they fell. And I don’t mean that they quietly stopped booking movies and spent some time by themselves. Instead, they were ridiculed.
After being the girl everyone wanted to date or become, the culture shifted and nobody could stand Lawrence. From the end of 2015 through much of 2016, it started being cool to hate Jennifer Lawrence, and even cooler if you could say that you never liked her in the first place.
She had become “unlikeable” and “annoying” with acting skills that are “literally non-existant” and a “completely unladylike attitude”. All of the things that had once made her cool now made her a pariah. Millennial culture as it had been defined during the early 2010s was going out of style, and that meant that Lawrence had to go too.
Now lets take a look at what is happening with Cara Delevingne right now. She, too, has become the most hated celebrity in America (or, at least, the most hateable without having done anything wrong). Things that once would have resulted in the public applauding her now resulted in everyone rolling their eyes and wishing she would get off the red carpet and out of their lives.
One of the first real instances of this was the “peg the patriarchy” outfit which Delevingne wore to the Met Gala. This once would have been lauded as a brave political gesture– Classic Gen-Z behavior in the Trump era. Instead, people hated it. They wanted to know why she had decided to partake in such performative activism when attending one of the most expensive, wasteful events in the world. Peg the Patriarchy was a joke, and so was Delevingne.
And that brings us to the BBMAs last week. As Megan Thee Stallion took the red carpet, Delevingne threw parts of her outfit up in the air to make it look like it was floating. Once upon a time, people would have wondered if Delevingne was flirting with Megan, and they would have laughed at her antics. People hated it. Her Gollum meme resurfaced, and Twitter begged Delevingne to leave once and for all.
Delevingne is in her downfall era because she became too famous and didn’t shift before the culture did, so her behavior that granted her fame in 2016-2020 is causing her downfall in 2022, just as Lawrence’s 2012-2015 behavior caused her downfall in 2016.
It’s been long enough now that people have started to feel badly for the way they treated Jennifer Lawrence. She made a return to the big screen with her role in Don’t Look Up last winter, and broke her silence in a Vanity Fair interview where she discussed how the public’s treatment of her made her feel. As a society, we apologized for the way we treated her, and vowed not to be so cruel to women ever again.
But that was six months ago, and now we’re doing it all over again. Society cannot let women rise and then float off into the distance as we do with men. Ubiquitous men are free to be everywhere for a few years and then let the hype die down slowly, booking movies every so often without public backlash. Famous women are built up to be torn down and burned at the stake, especially when they’re generation-defining voices. We did it to Jennifer Lawrence, and now we’re doing it again to Cara Delevingne.
ETA: I wrote this post before Delevigne’s struggle with drug abuse came to light. However, I believe that although that will ultimately impact her treatment by society, her trajectory up to that point remains the same.