The Internet seemed like a much smaller place following the Oscars last month, with seemingly every blog and tweet focused on one topic: hatred for Anne Hathaway.
Nothing she did seemed right, everything she tried to do felt wrong. Pundits took virtual pen to paper and tried to explain why she might be a target (theater kid!) and what this collective cyberbullying may say about us as a society (we're bored). But the crucial point often missed was: Can Hathaway get past this, and is there anything she can do to better her status?
It's important to keep in mind that Hathaway is hardly the first celebrity to feel fame's backlash. Sometimes, like in her case, there is no obvious reason. Other times, like in Chris Brown's case, there is.
Actresses like Katherine Heigl and Kristen Stewart never managed to crawl back out of the ditch they dug themselves, but Angelina Jolie circa mid-2000s did. Ben Affleck certainly did, and after his recent "Argo" winning streak, no one holds "Gigli" or his J.Lo days against him. Apparently, it's all a matter of timing, precautionary prep-work, and knowing when to strike back.
"A common problem when there's a sudden rush of negative publicity is, people tend to chase it instead of being proactive about it," explains Michael Zammuto, president of Reputation Changer, citing Hathaway's situation as a recent example. "Her problem was that she wasn't prepared for a sudden rush of negative news, and she should have been."
"Avoiding controversy can be helpful, but her team should have prepared positive content about her in advance," adds Zammuto, whose company does just that. "They relied too much on her own activity, which in and of itself created the opportunity to bring the issue back up."
But there may be an end to the negativity in sight for the 30-year-old.
"Nothing is going to make these stories go away," says Zammuto. "They feed themselves by the virtue of being shared on social networks, but with proper preparation and coordination of releasing things at the right time, [Hathaway] can attempt to shift the conversation."
This attempt to "shift the conversation" may account for the post-Oscars apology Hathaway issued regarding her dress and her rehearsed speech. "The advice in this situation is apologize definitively, apologize quickly, move on quickly," says Zammuto. "Try to get people talking about different things."
Ronn Torossian, CEO of 5WPR, suggests using friends and family in a sensible fashion to reroute the conversation. "When celebrities are dealing with reputational crisis, they have a number of tools at their disposal to shift negativity," he says. "Their teams can consider a discreet call to other celebrity friends who'd consider supporting the star. One properly placed comment by another celebrity, seemingly organic, can shift the entire conversation."
Other "tools" may include an interview with a friendly reporter -- Anderson Cooper, who has already called Hathaway "lovely" and "talented," would do very well by her, says Torossian. A "staged" paparazzi photo, that with the right angle, style and manner can start to move the conversation, as could involving the star's family.
"Hathaway is very close to her family," says Torossian, whose firm represents Nick Cannon, Sean Combs and Pamela Anderson, among others. "If it got bad I'd consider having her mother do a friendly interview as a mom concerned about her daughter. All angles can be considered when formulating an attack plan to counter negativity."
Anne can also learn from her colleagues' past mistakes on the dos and don'ts of dealing with public resentment ... emphasis on the don'ts.
Kristen Stewart's main problem (aside from the obvious) is that she's become the face of virtual target practice, says Zammuto. In a simple Google search, the majority of the stories about the 22-year-old "Twilight" actress are negative ones. So what's the next step for her and how can Hathaway avoid falling into the repeat offender trap? Celebrities in these situations should "acknowledge that they've become a target" and "do something about it proactively," according to Zammuto.
In other words, Stewart's constant sulking around doesn't do much to better her situation.
But fighting back isn't always the right answer, either. "One of the reasons people hate [Chris Brown] is Rihanna's reaction. People feel there's been no justice, no resolution to it, and it rubs people the wrong way. It keeps the sore open," Zammuto explains, adding that Rihanna's reputation has been tarnished by associating with Brown.
The constant feuds Brown initiates or engages and the awkward ways he tries to explain himself via Twitter and Instagram aren't much help either (remember when he compared himself to Jesus Christ?). If anything, they make the situation worse.
"No celebrity should do their own social media," says Zammuto. "Twitter is designed to put people's most sudden thought on and it leads itself to these sorts of disasters ... Celebrities who defend themselves enter a debate, and the other side of the debate is not just going to listen, they're going to give their opinion too."
"If you don't want that, don't debate it," he adds. "Don't perpetuate whatever it is you're being picked on. Conversations last longer than statements do."
The key then for Hathaway might be in outlets unrelated to her career. "Celebrities who are involved with charities can find a way to associate with the charity while there is negative chatter," says Torossian, "as it's much harder to attack a celebrity who does good things." Zammuto brings up Angelina Jolie's global relief work as a strong supporter.
"If you look at Jolie, she did a fantastic job changing the way she was viewed," says Zammuto. "From the very early things with her brother, with Billy Bob Thorton, with Brad Pitt –- that's all anyone said about her. And from that sort of thing to become an entirely different persona, an international global person, she shifted the conversation. She actively tried to fix something, she implied to people that she’s grown up. She has a larger view of the world and that's resonated."