Jennifer Lawrence is one of the last victims to issue a personal response to her private photographs being hacked, but in biding her time and reflecting, the 24-year-old actress has spoken out in a manner that takes complete control of the story, and pushes the topic of digital privacy in a much-needed direction no other celebrity has yet ventured.
Lawrence was slated to grace the cover of Vanity Fair and be the subject of a profile at least months before hackers released nude photos of numerous female celebrities, including Lawrence, Kate Upton and Kaley Cuoco. Until VF contributing editor Sam Kashner gave her "a chance to have the last word," her only word was generic outrage through her people: "This is a flagrant violation of privacy. The authorities have been contacted and will prosecute anyone who posts the stolen photos of Jennifer Lawrence."
In a wide-ranging preview ahead of the November issue of the magazine hitting newsstands, Lawrence is incredibly candid about how the hackers' actions have affected her.
A majority of their "exclusive" conversation, it should be said, is not revelatory material, in the sense that while her feelings of violation are honest ( "It is not a scandal. It is a sex crime. … It is a sexual violation. It's disgusting. The law needs to be changed, and we need to change."), those are angry sentiments that the Internet, including The Globe and Mail, had already taken up for her in the weeks after the late-August photo posts. Even the most authentic opinions become wallpaper when heard again and again.
Where Lawrence needs to be applauded, and loudly, is for her decision not to stick to a one-note talking point in having been the most visible victim of what should, yes, be considered a sex crime by and large. She is the first celebrity to publicly relate her mental state at various stages of the incident, and it turns out she is a real human being (which, in celebrity journalism, is a quality rarer than it should be).
Here is Lawrence on why she didn't say something more substantial in the early going:
She had been tempted to write a statement when news of the privacy violation broke, she says, but "every single thing that I tried to write made me cry or get angry. I started to write an apology, but I don't have anything to say I'm sorry for. I was in a loving, healthy, great relationship for four years. It was long distance, and either your boyfriend is going to look at porn or he's going to look at you."
On what it felt like in her social circles in the aftermath:
"Even people who I know and love say, 'Oh, yeah, I looked at the pictures.' I don't want to get mad, but at the same time I'm thinking, I didn't tell you that you could look at my naked body."
On having to tell her family the news:
Lawrence speaks of the wrenching moment when she had to call her father about the hack. "When I have to make that phone call to my dad and tell him what's happened … I don't care how much money I get for The Hunger Games," she says. "I promise you, anybody given the choice of that kind of money or having to make a phone call to tell your dad that something like that has happened, it's not worth it." She allows herself to joke a little about that terrible moment: "Fortunately, he was playing golf, so he was in a good mood."
On, at some point, getting over it:
"Time does heal, you know," she tells Kashner. "I'm not crying about it anymore. I can't be angry anymore. I can't have my happiness rest on these people being caught, because they might not be. I need to just find my own peace."
In four tidy soundbites, Lawrence has shown herself to be a person who was put through the wringer in full view of the world, and has had to manage all the accompanying emotions under the same scrutiny.
Highlighting Lawrence isn't to fault the more restrained reactions of her fellow victims, whose announcements ranged from Upton's matter-of-fact lawyer's statement ("an outrageous violation of Upton's privacy"), to Meagan Good's incredulity ("oh yeah and for everyone who's reposting the leaked nudes? You should be ashamed of yourself"), to Cuoco's jokey Instagram post of a fake nude photo. Picking a single emotion, a single quote, is the quickest form of damage control that will distance you from the situation; that choice of coping as a public figure is just as valid as what Lawrence chose to communicate.
But Lawrence's candour gives way to an opportunity to educate. Responses in the form of 140 characters keep this story at arm's length from the general public – that is, they keep it a celebrity story, and the juiciest ever, at that. In reality, the troubling pattern of non-celebrity women having their sexuality used against them is an everyday epidemic.
Lawrence's frank admissions are very welcome when a common thread in terrible stories of rape, physical assault and teen suicide is the public shaming of female sexuality. She doesn't offer a solution, nor should she be expected to, but her experience shows how one 24-year-old has processed a gross violation of her privacy – the least we can do is learn from it.
There will predictably be backlash this week when detractors pull a Ricky Gervais and point to her revealing cover photo as an example of a lesson unlearned by the actress. To those dubious critics, Lawrence is succinct: "It's my body, and it should be my choice."