Anne Hathaway Could Save Hollywood

Actress Anne Hathaway should be lauded for her reaction to a revealing photo taken by paparazzi.

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Actress Anne Hathaway attends the premiere for "Les Miserables" at the Ziegfeld Theatre on Monday Dec. 10, 2012 in New York.

I love Anne Hathaway. And it's not because she's a remarkably talented performer—though she is. It's because people like her could save Hollywood.

Hathaway has endured some of the worst impulses of the entertainment industry, and has flourished anyway. She's a solid actor and has a Metropolitan Opera-worthy voice. Still, Hollywood looked at the young and adorable Hathaway and decided she was most bankable as a Disney cutie. She did it—well, actually—but still managed to break out of the cute-girl mode and show her stuff as a well-rounded and nuanced performer. This is no small accomplishment, since Hollywood doesn't care if an actor grows professionally. The town doesn't care about making art so much as it cares about making money, and keeping Hathaway in Disney sweetheart clothes until they replaced her with another pretty girl would be a predictable strategy. Hathaway smartly found ways to showcase the breadth of her talent before her princess expiration date.

Now, Hathaway is in the role of her career (so far), playing Fantine in the film Les Miserables. She had to diet her already small frame down to nothing for the role of a starving girl, and she refreshingly didn't tell magazines that gosh, she doesn't really like to diet and exercise, so she just gave up her daily In-and-Out burger and lo and behold, her weight got down to double digits. Hathaway lived off of unappetizing oat cakes to make weight, and she made no pretenses that it was easy.

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At a premier recently, Hathaway fell victim to an unfortunate "wardrobe malfunction." She was wearing a close-fitting dress, apparently decided to forgo undergarments to keep from destroying the lines of the dress, and a photographer got a picture of her privates as she stepped out of a car.

The behavior of the photographer, who had no moral or ethical problem with selling the photo, is reprehensible. So it is even more impressive to note the response of Hathaway when she was on The Today Show:

It was obviously an unfortunate incident. It kind of made me sad that we live in an age when someone takes a picture of another person in a vulnerable moment and, rather than delete it, sells it. I'm sorry that we live in a culture that commodifies sexuality upon unwilling participants. Which brings us back to Les Mis because that's who my character is. She is someone who is forced to sell sex to benefit her child because she has nothing. So let's get back to Les Mis.

The fact that Hathaway was able to bring the question back to the reason she got up before the crack of dawn to begin with—to peddle the movie, as the studio expects her to do—was impressive. The fact that she drew attention to the boorishness of paparazzi—especially considering that they will be more predatory with uncooperative victims—is even more laudable.

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Famous actors have always had to put up with a certain amount of unwanted attention (and some of it, of course, is indeed wanted). But the demand for embarrassing photos—and the high price paid for them—has turned photographers into professional harassers. It's not just the camera stuck directly into the face. It's the paparazzi who scream insults at a female actor, trying to provoke the man she is with, so they can get him on camera doing or saying something angry in response. It makes for a better photo and more money.

Hathaway was a money-maker for Hollywood as a Disney princess. Now that she's shown how much more she can do, she's a money-maker for the paparazzi hoping to get an embarrassing picture of her. The only people who should be embarrassed are those who feed off other people's celebrity. The rest of us should look forward to plunking down 12 bucks to hear Hathaway's captivating voice on screen.

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