In case you haven't noticed, Shailene Woodley is blowing up right now. Part of the reason is that she's 2014's Young Adult fiction adaptation queen with March's Divergent , based on Veronica Roth's novels, and June's The Fault in Our Stars, based on John Green's book. But the other source of her power is simply her personality and her willingness to show it off endlessly. Woodley is supposed to be "the new Jennifer Lawrence," but in truth, she's so much more.
Making the statement that an actress is the next [insert successful woman here] often brings up the notion that there can only be one "it girl" — a notion that is, with all due respect, complete bullshit. If that were true, this declaration of Woodley's new celebrity super power would also serve as a suggestion that Lupita Nyong'o's it girl days are limited now that the Oscars have passed and her Cinderella-blue gown is hung up and put away. That suggests that the world can only handle loving one bright-eyed, infectious young woman at a time. It suggests that Lawrence has to renounce some throne upon which she's been placed since before last year's Academy Awards.
In fact, it goes against much of what Woodley stands for. In a recent interview with the Daily Beast, Woodley spoke about the positives of Divergent , saying,
And in ["Divergent"], there's no envy and no jealousy-no ridiculous girl-fights ... It's such an important message to send out there in this age of feminism because, yes, men need to respect women, and women need to be the leads of films, but at the same time, how do we expect men to respect women if women don't respect women? A big theme in my life is sisterhood and I think that this movie is a really great representation of that-of being there and supporting one-another without the malicious attacks that so often come in movies and media. So many women feel so much anger towards other women.
Sure, this discussion of "the next Jennifer Lawrence" could be a catty tale of throne-snatching, or we could choose to focus instead on a vibrantly candid young woman who's joining the sisterhood of Impossibly Lovable Young Actresses Who We'd Follow to The Ends of the Earth, which seems like a far more favorable option.
The Big Picture(s)
At the very base of all of this is the sheer fact that Divergent, which comes out March 21, is already tracking well and box office predictions have placed it as a hit. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the film could do at least as well as the first Twilight film — which is admittedly about half of what The Hunger Games debuted to, but a great foundation for the next big Y.A. franchise nonetheless. And with that sort of traction alone, Woodley's rebellious heroine could help push her to new heights of fame.
But she won't simply be relegated to the Y.A. genre. Woodley's already earned praise for her performances in the Oscar-winning film The Descendants with George Clooney and 2013's fantastic indie romance The Spectacular Now. She's got a foundation of critical praise, and with Divergent and later, The Fault in Our Stars, she has the ability to build the young audience she needs to go from indie darling to all-around cinematic it girl.
Hook, Line, & Sinker, America
But Lawrence didn't ensnare an entire nation and all of the internet with a few box office successes. The real draw was her personality, her public love affair with french fries, and (regrettably) that humanizing tumble at the Oscars upon winning the Best Actress award. Woodley has been on a similarly charming tour since she began promoting her new film, which also stars Kate Winslet as the villain.
Woodley's done the bring-a-sexual-yet-playful-element-to-a-late-night-show thing (a la J.Law talking about butt plugs on Conan). She's done the defying-typical-expectations-of-Hollywood-starlets soundbite (a la Lawrence and her famous french fries comment). But beyond that, Woodley is "pulling a Lawrence" in name only. In truth, her endearing, "refreshing" comments are Lawrence-esque in their candidness and in their affect, but not in content because (duh) lovable starlets aren't all the same, running through a robotic list of Things That Will Make America Love You.
Wave That Feminist Flag, Girl
What's great about having young women in a Lawrence-level spotlight is that all this access gives us a nice glimpse at what they're really about. For Lawrence, her issue of choice was fat-shaming. She's talked about how she's been plagued by the awful practice throughout her career and later, she called out TV shows like Fashion Police for doing it on a weekly basis. Lawrence got to be a hero for standing up against a horrible side of the media.
Woodley, on the other hand, isn't necessarily focused on one issue — and that's actually a plus. She's simply speaking her mind across every magazine and on-camera interview, beyond her wonderful quote about sisterhood among women (above). There's no agenda — not that Lawrence necessarily scribbled "take down fat shamers" in her day-planner. Woodley has spoken about her stance on love and how it's less about gender and more about humans, in general, telling the Hollywood Reporter:
I fall in love with human beings based on who they are, not based on what they do or what sex they are.
Later, Woodley took on a pop culture juggernaut in Twilight, giving a hearty and well-deserved criticism of the "toxic" love story. Woodley rightly tells Teen Vogue:
Twilight, I’m sorry, is about a very unhealthy, toxic relationship. She falls in love with this guy and the second he leaves her, her life is over and she’s going to kill herself! What message are we sending to young people? That is not going to help this world evolve.
Beyond that, Woodley's been strong enough in her convictions to condemn a heinous and offensive tagline for her own film, The Fault in Our Stars: when the studio released a poster calling the cancer drama "one sick love story," Woodley immediately discredited the studio's decision publicly. Consequences be damned.
And if all that's not enough, Woodley also has a deep commitment to environmentalism and sustainability. Sure, Leonardo DiCaprio built himself a "green" mansion and he once teamed up with Al Gore to talk about global warming, but has he ever been caught foraging? How about collecting spring water to drink? Do we think he makes his own soaps? Alright, taking care of the environment is not a competition, but if it was, Woodley might win with all these wood nymph-esque lifestyle practices.
Finally, The Hair
We're mostly joking with this one, but look at how well both Woodley and Lawrence pull off their ultra-short 'dos. Even fellow it girl Nyong'o's rocking the barely-there coif. (And somewhere, poor Anne Hathaway is shaking her fists at the sky and screaming, "I did it first!")
Of course, coincidences aside, it's not the hair that makes the woman and short 'do or not, Woodley is well on her way to taming all of our wild hearts.
Images: Summit Entertainment