Hillary Clinton has been in the public spotlight for so long that her likability isn’t a question; even her most ardent supporters acknowledge that people don’t like her. Republicans, of course, but also the very people she’s spent her whole career trying to represent: women.
Gloria Steinem’s new book, My Life on the Road, excerpted recently in The Guardian, posits that some women don’t like her because she makes them re-examine—under harsh light—their own (less-than-perfect) marriages. I don’t think so. I think for the answer to Clinton’s likability problem, we can turn to where the rest of our nation turns for advice: Hollywood.
The best example of Clinton’s unlikeability is found in the curious case of Anne Hathaway versus Jennifer Lawrence.
Over the last few years, oceans of virtual ink has been spilled gushing over Lawrence, the preferred starlet—yet few have truly explored why she’s so beloved. I think it boils down to one thing that both Hathaway and Clinton have in common—they care.
Anne is earnest. Her public persona, decades into her profession, is still one of bright-eyed, starry optimism. She so clearly, achingly wanted her Oscar. She needed that Oscar. She lived for that Oscar! But instead of finding that relatable or endearing or sweet, it made us wonder what was wrong with her. Ugh, look at her—trying. She cared so much that it backfired, and we began to root against her instead of for her. That’s messed up, America.
Lawrence’s blasé attitude, on the other hand? So attractive. Jen loves wine! She won’t diet! She falls at the Oscars and laughs—at herself! She’s the “Cool Girl,” from Gone Girl. You don’t have to worry about Jen ordering a salad on a date. I’ll bet she’d get nachos and watch the game with you. Guys want to date her and girls want to be her. Why? Because she’s effortless. She doesn’t need to corral her crazy. Or her emotions (or her wants and needs and desires). She goes with the flow. She’s chill.
No one would accuse Hathaway, or Clinton for that matter, of being chill. How is Clinton skewered on even the left-leaning Saturday Night Live? As an overexcited, power-hungry, psychotically needy Teacher’s Pet.
America wants a chill president. Someone who’s cool and fun. Remember Al Gore’s defeat? It was explained by America’s desire to get a beer with George W. Bush. In our nations’ eyes, Clinton is a goody-two-shoes; a Hall Monitor, monikers that, by no stretch of the imagination, are cool.
America doesn’t want to be watched and tattled on. We want all reward and no work. After all, as Cosmopolitan alleges, the Kardashians are our “First Family.” And who better represents a country that wants something for nothing? The Kardashians have made their millions (and millions) from their beautiful, surgery-enhanced airbrushed faces. They sell their lifestyle—jetting off to fabulous hideaways, dating famous men and representing designers as a brand—unto itself. Each sister even sells an app that lets her fans be more like her. Who wants to emulate Hillary Clinton? Studying for years to become a lawyer? That doesn’t sound like fun. It sounds like work. Taking the blame for her husband’s affair? That definitely doesn’t sound like fun. Men don’t cheat when they’re with “Cool Girls.”
Clinton is at once a person, a politician, and a national Rorschach test, writes Michelle Goldberg in Slate. What does America see in the Hillary-shaped inkblot? A buzzkill. And no one can drink a beer with that.
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