Julian MacMillan / The Dartmouth
Jennifer Lawrence is often cited as a role model for young girls. Her "realness," supposedly evidenced by her self-deprecating humor and frequent references to her junk food consumption during red carpet interviews, is touted as a breath of fresh air in an industry filled with perfectly coiffed and poised actresses such as Anne Hathaway, whom some have criticized for being "too enthusiastic" and therefore fake.
However, just how "real" is Jennifer Lawrence, really? And just how advisable is it to encourage young, impressionable girls to look up to an actress who, for all her success and talent, dumbs herself down for the sake of producing Tumblr-worthy GIFs and sound bytes? Lawrence's schtick, and particularly its pretended glorification of slackerdom, is horrifically detrimental to the cause of encouraging young girls to assert themselves as individuals with valuable, worthy opinions and goals.
In an interview with The Straits Times, Lawrence made light of her inability to focus on set, saying that, "because I started [acting] very young, and I'm still very young, it's hard for me to be serious sometimes and really focus. I'm like Rah rah rah rah! I don't want to! I'm bored!'" Even in a profession without office spaces, this validation of inattentiveness and its implied dismissal of the value of hard work is deeply troubling. To a young girl who hears that one of her role models simply floats through life with such a lackadaisical attitude, such statements can be discouraging, as they give one of two impressions: either that success should come without effort, which is categorically untrue in most pursuits, or that striving to achieve success is fundamentally "uncool" and therefore not worth the effort. Given the persistent gender gap in top-level positions, it is obvious that women cannot afford to follow Lawrence's example and hope for the best in their pursuits without putting in real effort.
In a similar vein, Lawrence has been known to flaunt her slovenly behavior. In an interview with The Sun during awards season, she said, "Every time I'm out, I think about my couch. I'm like, That would be awesome right now.'" She told Glamour magazine, "If I don't have anything to do all day, I might not even put my pants on." To Lawrence, these are simply instances of her being relatable, and some would argue that these quotes only illustrate her down-to-earth quality. However, it can also be argued that Lawrence's attitude toward productivity reinforces the "couch potato" version of America that should be discouraged in a century where the United States is already lagging in innovation and achievement.
By far the most troubling part of Lawrence's public persona is her supposed detest of dieting and love of junk food. References to pizza, fries, eating in bed and refusing to limit her food intake, while refreshing on the surface, glorify a vision of both Lawrence and American society writ large as sanctioning unhealthy eating habits. Moreover, as much as Lawrence herself says that she would "rather look a little chubby on camera and look like a person in real life, than look great on screen and look like a scarecrow in real life," the truth is that directors who have the real decision-making power over what actresses can and cannot look like during filming are the ones who ultimately make those decisions. Given Lawrence's profession, it is impossible to imagine that she does not have a personal trainer, dietician, stylist and other staff to maintain her image.
While we continue to applaud Lawrence for her acting chops, it is time to reconsider the advisability of the media fascination with such a patently constructed personality. In light of Lawrence's female-affirming role as the head of The "Hunger Games" franchise, it is imperative to ensure that both her public and big-screen personas model constructive, responsible and healthy personal habits for her largely tween fanbase.