I have this completely unscientific theory about why certain celebrities attract gay followings. It works perfectly for idols like Judy Garland, Barbra Streisand, and Madonna and lust objects like Adam Levine and Chris Evans. But there is one celebrity who mucks the whole thing up: Anne Hathaway.
My theory suggests that our devotion to these stars derives from a form of gaydar. The reason some performers ping for us over others is simple: They have immediate family members who are gay, and we somehow pick up on it. In every way, Anne Hathaway is the whole package. She is everything we traditionally love in a female star. So why, then, is she not more universally adored among gay men?
Anne is beautiful and talented. She has a gay brother and is devoted to LGBT equality. When it comes to her film choices, she has serious gay cred: The Devil Wears Prada, Brokeback Mountain. Even The Princess Diaries is the kind of movie some gay could be reflexively quoting around a Fire Island pool party at any hour of the day or night.
She sings! She dances! Her love life is terrible! Remember when she dated that international con artist? We gays eat that stuff up. As Liza Minnelli has made clear, she who suffers most, wins. Nevertheless, Anne Hathaway lands in some kind of gay blind spot, and not just in Love and Other Drugs when Jake Gyllenhaal's nudity caused rampant tunnel vision in the few gay men who went to see it.
I keep waiting for the situation to turn around. Just this past weekend I went to see The Dark Knight Rises, in which (as many reviewers pointed out) her Catwoman ends up stealing more than just a pearl necklace. In one scene she not only wears a fabulous hat but punches some guy through it. It left me incredulous. She is working her ass off for us, in razor-sharp spiked heels, no less. Anne Hathaway practically demands that we love her. I've seen less aggressive bids for our attention on Grindr. So what more do the gays want?
I wonder if it's merely generational in this case. During the more repressed 20th century, we idolized ladies on the screen who boldly expressed themselves in ways that we couldn't. We hung on their every cutting remark, heavy-lidded stare, and padded-shoulder shrug. When Bette Davis walked across a room to shake the stuffing out of Miriam Hopkins in Old Acquaintance, she released the pent-up rage deep inside gay men everywhere. And heaven help Vida if she doesn't give Mildred Pierce that check.
But now, in the more open 21st century, we don't need to have women of a certain age live our lives for us. Our actual experiences play out now without the need to layer our emotions on someone else's drama. We delight in Miranda Priestley's diatribe about cerulean sweaters because Meryl Streep is standing with us in that scene, not standing in for us. Soon it becomes more important to lust after Ryan Gosling in Drive than imagine ourselves as Diane Keaton in Something's Gotta Give (although, seriously, what gay doesn't want that Hamptons house?). We don't need a dame of the silver screen to grace the covers of our magazines when nice, hot straight guys like Channing Tatum or Ben Cohen will happily drop trou for our amusement. Perhaps we don't need Anne Hathaway the way we used to need gay icons, simply because we cut out the middle man (or, in this case, middle woman) in our steady march for equality.
There are some suggestions I could make for Anne, if she still wants us, ways she could improve herself in the eyes of this fickle community. (Of course, all that assumes that our failure to accept her is somehow her fault and not ours.) A messy booze problem might win us over. Her performance in Rachel Getting Married is a nice preview of what we might like to see from Anne on a future airing of Entertainment Tonight (though the Real Housewives and a thousand tragic starlets have pretty much soiled that grand tradition; it might be hard to break through the white noise). Perhaps a short run on Broadway? Oh, but there she is, already way ahead of us. Later this year she is appearing as Fantine in the movie version of Les Misérables. And she shaved her head! Shaved! And you know she didn't do that to get on the cover of Maxim. Come on, gays. There hasn't been so naked a bid for gay attention since Faye Dunaway turned the arched eyebrow into a form of divinity.
That Anne Hathaway is firing on all cylinders for us. The least we can do is get on board and enjoy the ride. For old times' sake.