Jennifer Lawrence's Outraged Response to Nude Photo Leak Marks End to the Era of the 'Shamed Starlet'
When Vanity Fair released Jennifer Lawrence’s first on-the-record response to nude photos being stolen from her phone, it was hard to suppress a celebratory fist pump into the air. Livid, the actor called the violation a “sex crime," accused those who looked at the photos of “perpetuating a sexual offense” and added, "I didn’t tell you that you could look at my naked body."
Lawrence’s scathing reaction – angry, offended and unapologetic – is the righteous end to an evolution of celebrity nude “scandal” responses. Where once female stars were expected to hang their heads in shame for having the temerity to pose nude for themselves or lovers, now they can issue a barely shrouded “fuck you” to a public that so gleefully consumed their humiliation.
What a difference a few years makes. In 2007, when Disney’s High School Musical star Vanessa Hudgens was the victim of a nude photo leak, the then 18-year-old issued an ashamed and repentant statement, and a Disney Channel spokesperson called the pictures a “lapse in judgement” and added nastily, “We hope she’s learned a valuable lesson.” (Not to work for Disney, maybe?)
Three years ago, when a hacker got into actor Scarlett Johansson’s email and leaked nude photos of her, the first resistance to the “shamed starlet” narrative appeared. Johansson didn’t say she was sorry – which some in the media found to be a bit of a scandal – but she responded to the leaks with a sort of sexy wink: “I know my best angles,” she told Vanity Fair of the pictures she had originally sent her then-husband.
With Lawrence, though, there is no equivocation. “I started to write an apology, but I don’t have anything to say I’m sorry for,” she explained.
I can’t even describe to anybody what it feels like to have my naked body shot across the world like a news flash against my will. It just makes me feel like a piece of meat that’s being passed around for profit.
Just as Hudgens’ response was indicative of its time – we were at peak purity ring and saving-it-for-marriage then – so is Lawrence’s final word on this chapter in keeping with ours. It’s not a coincidence that her much-lauded outrage comes at a time when feminism dominates the cultural conversation.
The dominant narratives around issues of sexuality, consent and privacy have changed, so Lawrence’s anger isn’t just tolerated, it’s applauded and splashed across Vanity Fair’s cover with an unabashed feminist headline: “It’s my body, and it should be my choice.”
Firing back at the people who stole the photos (and those who looked at them) sparked some backlash, however. On Tuesday, after some of Lawrence’s comments were released, someone hacked her Wikipedia page to display some of the stolen pictures. The message to other young women is clear: your bodies are ours, and if you resist or get angry at what we do, we’ll remind you of your place.
But by speaking out with justified anger, Lawrence is reminding a public that too often blames women for these violations of the real issue: “I was afraid that by sitting and doing nothing, that made it seem OK for other women and girls to just let it happen to them, because it isn’t.”