nation of haters

The Twenty Most Hated Celebrities: Why We Hate Them

Last week, Star released the results of its annual “Most Hated Celebrities” poll, revealing Gwyneth Paltrow as the most reviled person in Hollywood and Chris Brown merely the twentieth most hated. (More people hate Taylor Swift and Matt Lauer. See addendum.) Hating celebrities is obviously a cherished online activity, but why do we do it? Are we projecting anxiety? Attacking symbols? Bullying? To more precisely understand the phenomenon, I considered the most loathsome attributes of each celebrity. I found that each fit into one of three overlapping categories: Tries Too Hard, Doesn’t Try Hard Enough, and Crimes Against Other Celebrities.

Tries Too Hard is the category of do-gooders, poseurs, strivers, and phonies. Cultural aversions to inauthenticity and shamelessness — which we often believe to go hand-in-hand — cause us to revile those whose lives and mannerisms seem rehearsed. Seventh most hated celebrity Madonna has a fake accent and talks too loudly about yoga; ninth most-hated Anne Hathaway seems like she’s playing the award-winning role of Anne Hathaway, instead of just being herself. The worst offenders are those believed to pair falseness with condescension. Cluelessly condescending Gwyneth Paltrow believes she can improve the lives of others by telling them how to eat, sleep, groom, even poop. She’s a “rich white woman with an eating disorder turned into a branding opportunity,” critics say. She tries too hard at acts that should be effortless, like digesting. Tries Too Hard, it should be noted, is a category dominated by females. Male offenders are those who overstep assigned roles, like Ashton Kutcher (No. 13 on the list) striving for tech-world relevance or Justin Bieber (No. 8) trying to rap.

Doesn’t Try Hard Enough describes the opposite problem. Kristen Stewart (No. 2) slouches and doesn’t wash her hair. Lindsay Lohan (No. 16) sleeps through court dates and doesn’t brush her teeth. Most egregiously, Lindsay Lohan may be wasting her talent — not trying hard enough when trying hard could result in greatness. Alternately, she may exhibit signs of entitlement — showing up late on movie sets while remaining “indignant she was not considered for Black Swan.” Those who hate Lohan the most view her very being as an assault on the values of hard work and merit-based achievement.

Just as the line between working hard and trying too hard is razor thin, the line between doesn’t try too hard (beloved celebrity Jennifer Lawrence) and doesn’t try hard enough (hated celebrities K.Stew and LiLo) is narrow but significant. (Note that I’m speaking about public perceptions, not my own inclinations. I adore Lindsay and Kristen.)

Eighth most-hated celebrity Justin Bieber, meanwhile, is a paradox of effort. Contrived hairdos and words like swag suggest he tries too hard. But the narrative he sells is about luck against the odds — or, as a critic might put it, success that is unearned. An informal survey I conducted of Bieber haters yielded the following complaints: “conceited teen prick,” “drop-crotch pants,” “perpetually open mouth,” “swag,” “swaggy,” “squirmy dance move that is like a figure-eight moonwalk,” “scrawny but thinks he is big, the kind of guy who watches himself in the mirror at the gym while lifting two-pound weights.” His bravado is simultaneously affected (trying too hard) and ineffectual (meaning he needs to try harder).

Crimes Against Other Celebrities is our final category. It is male- and adultery-dominated. Angelina (No. 15) stole Jen’s man. LeAnn Rimes (No. 12) stole Brandi Glanville’s man. K.Stew cheated on R-Patz.  Jesse James (No. 19) cheated on Sandra Bullock and is an ex-Nazi, to boot. Leno (No. 14) backstabbed Conan; Lauer (No. 6) backstabbed Curry; LaBeouf (No. 17) beefs with everyone. Taylor Swift (No. 18) and John Mayer (No. 4) are serial celebrity heartbreakers.

The only celebrity to exhibit characteristics of all three groups — the heart of celebrity darkness — is girlfriend-beating, chair-throwing, eye-shitting misogynist Chris Brown (No. 20). He attacked Rihanna, Drake, Frank Ocean, and many others. His overzealous feuds and weird boasts suggest he tries too hard. Backslides into violence and rage suggest he doesn’t try hard enough to change. (Or have the decency and discipline to walk away from fame.) He may have ranked low on Star’s hate list, but as the only celebrity to embody all three categories of celebrity loathsomeness, Chris Brown may be the most categorically hateful celebrity in the world. He is a Renaissance man of hatefulness. America’s most well-rounded specimen of human revulsion. 

Addendum: According to Star’s poll, these are the twenty most hated celebrities:

1. Gwyneth Paltrow
2. Kristen Stewart
3. Jennifer Lopez
4. John Mayer
5. Katherine Heigl
6. Matt Lauer
7. Madonna
8. Justin Bieber
9. Anne Hathaway
10. Kris Jenner
11. Kim Kardashian
12. LeAnn Rimes
13. Ashton Kutcher
14. Jay Leno
15. Angelina Jolie
16. Lindsay Lohan
17. Shia LaBeouf
18. Taylor Swift
19. Jesse James
20. Chris Brown

The 20 Most Hated Celebrities: Why We Hate Them