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If you have a computer and have used it today then you have probably seen or at least heard about this video. Anne Hathaway delivers a truly stunning performance in her lip sync of Miley Cyrus’s (in)famous “Wrecking Ball”. Of course, I think Anne crushed her performance and 100% deserved the standing ovation, if for nothing more than the athleticism involved in running to jump on and straddle a giant ball on a chain with such grace. However, I’d like to bring Petersen’s piece on Cool Girls in Hollywood into the conversation about Anne Hathaway’s performance on Lip Sync Battles.
Audiences get a kick out of watching celebrities make fun of other celebrities on TV. We can’t deny that this is probably a huge reason why Anne’s performance got so much praise…not only was she making fun of one of her contemporaries, she was making fun of Miley–who by now has become a classic parody generator. Anne’s parody of Miley’s (presumably serious) music video makes her into a Cool Girl because the performance clearly showed that Anne did not give a fuck what Miley (or anyone else, for that matter) thought of her performance. Also, merely the fact that Anne did a parody at all (as usually male celebrities like Jimmy Fallon are the ones to do this kind of comedy) proves that she is just “one of the guys” and can joke around as well as any dude.
However, as Petersen points out again and again, the Cool Girl is not just one of the guys. The Cool Girl persona Anne embodies on Lip Sync Battle is basically, “be chill, don’t be a downer, act like a dude and look like a supermodel” (Petersen). “Cool” is, I would argue, originally a masculine ideal that becomes really hot when attached to a woman. Anne was most definitely acting like a chill, super funny dude in the video. Moreover, Anne looked, if not super hot, undoubtedly very sexy in her Miley getup, which consisted essentially of red lipstick and nude undies that showed off her beautiful face and toned physique. Anne was totally able to be “one of the guys” while looking nothing like one–which is what the Cool Girl does.
An important Cool Girl technique that Anne used in this video was making fun of girls who are most definitely not cool–girls who are “too much”, who take themselves too seriously, are too dramatic, or (in Miley’s case) are considered inappropriately sexual. Making fun of other girls is something that everyone does to make themselves look cooler. Anne is no exception in this often subconscious girl-on-girl crime. This is further evidence for Petersen’s conclusion that although the Cool Girl can be our rad, feminist BFF, that persona in itself does damage to women in general and upholds patriarchy by reinforcing heteromasculine beauty standards, touting “masculine” personality characteristics as the most desirable (even in women), and pitting women against women insofar that the oppression of femaleness as a whole gets reinforced. But it’s hard for us to see all this because we just want to hang out with Anne.