• Thu, Mar 20 - 12:26 pm ET

Here’s Why Shailene Woodley Has A Better Career Than Jennifer Lawrence

Shailene Woodley attending Divergent screening March 2014

I know we’re all really obsessed with Jennifer Lawrence right now, but I feel like if you look at the big picture, there’s actually someone out there with a better career at the moment, and it’s Shailene Woodley.

Sure, Shailene isn’t as famous, but in looking at the foundations that her career is built on, the roles she’s taken, and the awards she’s been nominated for, I actually think she has more staying power. And just to be clear – I know you guys really don’t like it when you feel like I’m comparing two ladies as humans, so I want to emphasize that I’m doing a comparison of the careers of two actors in the industry.

Although I strongly believe that being a feminist doesn’t mean I can’t make fun of or draw comparisons between other women, this has nothing to do with gender. I’m using Jennifer as a comparison point because not only is she the most ascendant star in Hollywood, she’s also pretty much the only one. Which becomes interesting when you realize that she and Shailene are only about a year apart in age, of similar ‘types’, and vastly different career choices.

And I happen to think that Shailene’s are better for building a career with some serious longevity, so that’s what I’m gonna look at. Harrumph.

Jennifer Lawrence attending SAG Awards February 2014(Photo: Brian To / WENN.com)

1. Shailene isn’t overexposed.

She’s done some big movies,  and has three coming out in 2014 alone, but she also isn’t afraid to take big breaks in between films. As she told Teen Vogue:

“After The Descendants, everybody was like, ‘You’ve got to ride the wave!’ And I was like, ‘You ride the wave and it eventually crashes on the shore. That doesn’t work out! I’m going to just sit here and paddleboard’. I didn’t do a movie for two years because I didn’t read anything that was inspiring to me.”

The projects that Jennifer Lawrence has done since she first caught the world’s attention have been inspiring as well, but she’s also involved in two huge franchises simultaneously (Hunger Games and X Men), and to use Shailene’s own analogy, it’s only a matter of time before a wave that big crashes on the shore.

2. Shailene plays age-appropriate roles.

The role that Jen ended up playing in Silver Linings Playbook is meant for an older woman, with producers considering actresses like Angelina Jolie and Elizabeth Banks, both in their late thirties at the time. But it went to Jen, who at twenty-one, was sixteen years younger than her costar Bradley Cooper. Then in American Hustleshe played the unhappily-married wife of Christian Bale, seventeen years her senior.

And now David O. Russell wants to cast her yet again as Joy Mangano, a single mother of three who creates the Miracle Mop. When could a young woman in her twenties have had time to do all those things? Why are we stretching her to fit into roles that might be best-suited for actors of different ages?

Conversely, Shailene plays roles right around her age or a little younger, making her characters much less distracting to watch because you aren’t doing fast math in your head.

3. She plays opposite different actors.

Jennifer has her third movie opposite Bradley Cooper coming out this year, which is a great way to box yourself into one category. But Shailene has a variety of costars and is different in every role, to keep viewers’ minds open to future projects.

4. She’s honed her craft.

Jennifer notoriously likes to perform without much rehearsal, but Shailene spent five years on the set of the same television show, Secret Life Of The American TeenagerNot everyone liked it, but it was an excellent way to build her skills and really get to know one character, from 2008 to 2013. J-Law had ten movies come out in that time.

5. She has nothing to prove.

In addition to her more mainstream nominations where she overlaps with Jennifer, Shailene has collected eclectic awards and nominations on the indie circuit from the Independent Spirit Awards, to the Dramatic Special Jury Award for Acting at Sundance, to the Trophee Chopard at Cannes. Basically, she’s working up to that Oscar nomination, and when she gets it, it will be a victory.

Whereas Jennifer’s in a situation now where to maintain the same level of buzz about her work, she’ll have to keep getting nominated for an Oscar every year just to break even. Jennifer has a three year precedent of receiving essentially back-to-back nominations (in 2011, 2013, and 2014), so there’s a lot of pressure for her to sustain that impossibly high standard, and any step down from there will be seen not as the absence of a victory, but as a failure.

(Photo: FayesVision / WENN.com)

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  • Alison

    I was going to stop reading when you said “And just to be clear – I know you guys really don’t like it when you feel like I’m comparing two ladies as humans, so I want to emphasize that I’m doing a comparison of the careers of two actors in the industry” because it sounded like you were doing the exact same thing again. Out of curiosity, I kept reading.

    And you were doing the same thing! You’re just disguising it now. You’re making it look like you’re comparing careers, but really, you’re still putting down one woman to make another look more reasonable. Your points of comparison almost entirely hinge on Jennifer’s choices, not the things outside of her control. Even the point about overexposure… you frame it as though Jennifer’s overexposure is her own doing, that she’s responsible for it because she chose to do a couple of blockbuster films (one as a supporting role). Except it was the media that put her face on everything, wrote articles about her every step, every fart joke and pizza comment. There are hundreds of actors who have done blockbuster films who have never been that prominent in media; this isn’t Jennifer’s doing, it’s the media’s. The big irony here being that YOU are contributing to this supposed overexposure by writing this article–and then you subtly criticize her for it.

    Just stop. You can appreciate Shailene Woodley without pitting her against Jennifer Lawrence. It’s obvious from the comments that your article is not subtle in this regard. If you consider yourself a fan of Shailene Woodley’s, maybe give her more credit than to feel the need to put down someone else to elevate her. She’s good enough on her own.

  • dalovelee

    It is a pretty lame article. And certainly not based in logic whatsoever. To say Shailene will have a better career because she is not over exposed…on the cusp of her opening weekend on another blockbuster franchise..well ok Einstein let’s see how underexposed she will be after going on a worldwide tour to promote the next tween franchise after twilight and the hunger games… Well if she is boring as milk she will have a lot to worry about if she is not overexposed…these girls are meant to be saturated in the media. And that’s why they think long and hard before signing on. She will be just as overexposed as Lawrence and Hathaway combined…and she will get backlash for it too. Her career will go on the same cookie cutter conveyor belt no better or worse.

  • Sara Russell

    I think it’s silly for people to get worked up over this article. Yes, you can defend either actress however much you please. But you can’t force your opinion on one another. I’m a huge J-Law fan, definitely more so than I am a Shaliene fan, but hey. Good for you, Alexis Rhiannon, for having a blog where you can state your thoughts on celebrity careers. It’s clear you’re doing your thing instead of feeding the public what they want. I can respect that.

    • Alexis Rhiannon

      Thanks very much, Sara! I really appreciate that. I’m always open to hear new ideas and get my mind changed on stuff, and I forget not everyone’s like that.

      Thanks for being open-minded even though we don’t necessarily agree!

  • Winston

    Oh look. An article pitting young actresses against each other. Never seen that before. Sigh. Btw, Jennifer was on a tv show for three seasons and did tv work before that.

  • Kiara

    I completely disagree with you.

    1. Shailene isn’t overexposed: The media is the one that overexpose, sure their PR team may want their actress to been known at first, but later, like in Lawrence case, the media attention is just because the media wants to talk about her (she promotes her films and then disappears, but the media keep talking about her) Woodley, in the other hand, has just begun promoting her films and yet some people are claiming that she is overexposed, and while I do not share their opinion I can see where they’re coming from, try to imagine if she is going to promote TFIOS just after Divergent how overexposed she is going to be, now imagine that Divergent AND TFIOS are successful she is going to be everywhere, and while its not fair, some people are going to start hating on her just because she happen to premiere two films back to back and the films happen to be successful, god forbid that an actress finds this kind of success, we must tear her apart for any reason. In conclusion, yes Lawrence is overexposed, but right know its not her fault (its the media), Woodley is going to be overexposed soon and while people may not have a problem at the beginning, if she become successful people are going to start complaining about her being in the spotlight.

    2. Shailene plays age-appropiate roles: Shailene is 22, she is not a teenager anymore, and for me this is a problem because not only older actress have trouble finding a proper/quality role for them, but the young ones also have problems finding good roles, they either choose to play teenagers (like shailene) or older characters (like jennifer) where are the roles for them?. Now talking about Woodley and Lawrence: is better to play an adult instead of a teenager, why? adult roles often, not always, are better and Lawrence does not have to “get over” her younger roles she has already a good balance between this two kind of roles, Meanwhile, Woodley needs to “prove” that she is able to play more adults roles.

    3. She plays opposite different actors: I do not see how this can be positive/negative for someone’s career, anyway its not like Lawrence and Cooper are playing the same not even similar characters from theirs other films. Woodley seems to be taking the same path (Teller and Elgort)

    4. She’s honed her craft: Once again I do not see how this is relevant, Lawrence was part of the Bill Engvall show for 3 years, she is filming The Hunger Games movies with the same cast and crew (well the majority) and XMen, Woodley is going to be with the same cast and crew for the Divergent movies too.

    5. She has nothing to prove: Yes, she does. She is a rising Indie actress who is becoming big, some people may want to see what the buzz is about. Lawrence has already past the test, if people want her to be nominated every year they do not know anything about award shows, even if Lawrence make quality films every year and she is spectacular in every single one of them she won’t we nominated every year, even if the nomination is deserved.

    Also you need to think about the fact that this two ladies are Indie actress, or at least prefer to make Indie movies, those points that you used actually prove that Lawrence, as an Indie actress, is building a better career, why? because Indie actress, nowadays need to be known (not a movie star or anything) and the producers need to know that the movie is going to make profit . Lawrence did xmen because she needed to be best known, despite the fact that she was already an oscar nominated actress. Woodley did Divergent because she needed to best known. Elizabeth Olsen, Brie Larson, Saoirse Ronan, etc are Indie actress who need to be best known and they’re trying to find a blockbuster movie that helps them to be best known.

    Gavin Palone (producer) actually wrote an article about how Lawrence was the best actress up for the role he was casting, yet he could not hire her because she was not well known, this is a problem that Indie actress has to overcome.

    Right now, Lawrence is a well known face AND people from the Industry think that she is box office draw, I do not agree with them. Thats the perfect combination for an Indie actress, plus now she has enough money to actually produce, so yeah she is building a long career

  • Kat

    I agree with all of these except for 3. Shai worked with Ansel Elgort and Miles Teller twice.

    • Alexis Rhiannon

      Yeah, that’s fair. It all gets eclipsed in my brain by the fact that Bradley and Jennifer are on movie three already.

  • Vanessa

    STOP PITTING ACTRESSES TOGETHER. STOP. No wonder actresses are constantly pitted against each other in magazines and there are always cat fight rumours whenever competing actresses work together. Jennifer Lawrence is a Hollywood it-girl who will definitely have longevity in her career but who won’t be on top forever. There’s always someone new (like Shailene). But that doesn’t mean they have to be pitted against each other in the hopes of pressuring people to pick one or the other. Why can’t you enjoy both? Why does everything have to be a competition? These types of articles make it sound like Woodley is trying to be like Lawrence. She’s not. She’s just being herself and so is Lawrence. They’re both smart, talented, strong women who have proven that audiences want to see movies led by women and who have contributed to the upsurge of female-led blockbusters. Good for them.

    • Alexis Rhiannon

      Why do you immediately assume I’m pitting them against each other? It’s a calm, reasoned assessment of their careers, not a death match.

  • Pink1

    Although I don’t agree with all of the points you made, I think overall you made a good observation. I don’t think, for example, being on a tv show and playing the same character for 5 years made shalienne a better actress, if anything Jen playing many different characters, and doing so very well, in the same time frame helps show she is the better actress. She can easily adapt to a new, different character and doesn’t need much time to do so. But overall I think you made a valid point. People expect way more from Jen, so the chance of her career dying off is higher. While at the same time if people see her too much, they might care about her less. I just hope it doesn’t turn out that way.
    Also I’m sorry people are being so rude to you. I disagree and think Jen is much better, but you clearly know what you’re talking about.

    • Alexis Rhiannon

      Thanks very much! I appreciate the support, and you bringing up places where you disagree! It’s all about discourse, not screaming at each other.

  • Mitz Villarmea

    Firstly, Woodley also has two high profile releases this year, would that make her overexposed too? Should there be a memo addressed to the women of Hollywood NOT to make two high profile projects lest it will hurt your career?

    Second, by showing an emotional range and maturity well beyond her years that has garnered Lawrence the praise of the industry and critics alike, she should then limit her choices to “age-appropriate roles”? Is it not illogical that you will say that one will not have a better career if you show people that you have the range and maturity if the role requires it and child-like wonder if the role calls for it?

    Thirdly, Lawrence has acted opposite different actors more than Woodley has. From The Burning Plain (Charlize Theron), Winter’s Bone (John Hawkes), X-men (Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy), Hunger Games (Woody Harrelson, Josh Hutcherson, Elizabeth Banks, Donal Sutherland)), The Beaver (Jodie Foster, Mel Gibson), and Like Crazy (Anton Yelchin). Woodley: The Descendants (George Clooney), The Spectacular Now (Miles Teller) and Divergent (Miles Teller, Theo James). So what in the world are you talking about?

    Fourthly, “honing of the craft”, you say. But to each her own, right? As David O Russell said about her, “I think she’s just a very special actor, and everything she does is extremely alive and from her soul. Her soul merges with the soul of the character and becomes a third thing that does unexpected things, that does unexpected things that are somehow deeply moving and enchanting, and alive and unexpected.” And it is completely irrational and illogical that you have to imply that it is only through the set of the Secret Life of an American Teenager that one can “build skills” and “hone the craft”. Never mind that Jennifer Lawrence has, as you so put it, made 10 movies during that span. No. It is only in the set of Secret Life of an American Teenager that you get to build skills!!

    Lastly, it’s actually Jennifer Lawrence that has nothing more to prove. She has already been validated by the industry by giving her the biggest award there is to give. So what is else is there to prove, really? She’s an extremely talented and charismatic actress and a bonafide star. Why does she have to, as you so put it, “sustain that impossibly high standard”? You’re only setting her up for failure which should not be the case. Do you Meryl Streep would only here on out, be truly unhappy and a failure if she fails to get nominated for the succeeding years?

    So your article really is poorly conceived and ill-researched. I sincerely hope that you stop this bashing of other women, most notably your Anne Hathaway article which you irrationally wrote: “I watch her beautiful face do its talented acting and go — my my, what a large beautiful mouth. I don’t like it. Look at those dark beautiful eyes. I don’t like them. Listen to her skinny beautiful words. I don’t like them. Shut up. Shut up, Anne Hathaway. I honestly don’t know what it is.”


  • Rachel Claus-Walker

    I’m sorry, but this is the idiotic article I have ever read. Woodley is as fake as Hollywood can get and has the acting skills of a rock. Lawrence is way more relatable, talented, adaptable, and I believe she will go far.

  • Katie Jean Valentine

    Shailene actually has repeated actors. Her male co-stars from The Fault in Our Stars and The Spectacular Now are both in Divergent.

    I also disagree with the whole Jennifer taking non-age appropriate roles point. Both of those roles she received Oscar noms (and a win) for. It’s not about her age. It’s about how she acts and obviously her acting is incredibly mature and talented. It’s not about her age. She nailed those roles. I like Shailene but I don’t think she could have pulled off such mature roles yet.
    And I really don’t think Secret Life of the American Teenager counts as a place to hone your acting craft. She was pretty monotone in that role. It was a teenage soap opera. I don’t think her performances in The Spectacular Now and The Descendants relied on what she learned while doing Secret Life.

  • Linda

    I have a few issues with this article.1. Jennifer is overexposed because the media have latched on to how quick witted she is. She must have had better success in finding roles that inspire her compared to Shailene. I do admire Shailene’s point about not working just for the sake of working, but Jennifer isn’t just making dumb rom-com movies. She’s actually been in a number of respectable movies, so I’m not bothered by the fact that she’s been in so many movies one after the other.

    2. If you bother to focus on the performance rather than what age Jennifer is compared to the character she’s playing you might not have such a distraction with your “fast maths”. Jennifer can handle the older roles in my opinion. I completely forgot about the age difference in Silver Linings Playbook because the acting was so good.

    3. She’s worked opposite numerous different actors. Actors enjoy working with each other and it’s completely natural for them to want to experience that again. It’s not illegal, it certainly doesn’t damage a career. Meryl Streep has made more than one film opposite Robert deNiro and Jack Nicholson, she did alright.

    4. Jennifer was actually on a tv show too. Yes The Bill Engvall Show didn’t last as long as Shailene’s show, but I’m sure it still counts as an equal experience. And surely you can hone your craft making movies too.

    5. Jennifer did nothing but indie movies before The Hunger Games. She got indie awards too. She got nominated for an Oscar for Winter’s Bone, an indie film. She can’t stop people from awarding her Oscars. And in my opinion I don’t think she wants her career to revolve around Oscar nominations. The only pressure on her is the pressure “all talk” bloggers put on her because apparently once you get an Oscar nomination you always have to get an Oscar nomination. She’ll be fine. Stop comparing young actresses. Stop trying to predict a horrible end to a thriving young woman’s career. It’s not very fair.

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  • Jamming

    I like this article. I do agree JLaw could be heading for a burn out if she keeps doing theo things you pointed out: taking on roles she’s not suited to play- I’ve only seen one of her movies. Just seeing her in the trailer for ” American Hustle” made me laugh. That role and the surrounding cast is way too much for her. You’re definitely right about that. The second is overexposure. That’s what happens to a lot of young actors. They ride the wave and don’t focus on the future. Everyone gets tired of hearing and seeing the same person. She needs to learn how to take a break.

  • Anna

    I don’t feel like we should be comparing actresses like this. It was done with Lupita Nyong’o on this website recently too. Imagine someone would write an article titled ‘Here’s Why Olivia Wilson Has A Better Career Than Alexis Rhiannon’.

  • anne

    Is this the pary where an Oscar win doesnt mean anything anymore? Comparing starlets to an Oscar winner like Jennifer Lawrence is an insult dont ya think? Im not a fan but the girl won it when she was 22 and thats pretty amazing.

  • BeBrave

    Finally someone said the truth!

  • Pingback: Shailene Woodley On Fleeting Success And Great Coffee

  • H

    Who is Shailene Woodley???

    • Jenni

      NOBODY KNOWS! That’s the weirdest thing. Personally, I think she’s made-up.

    • MCR

      Mystery solved! I looked her up. She’s in a movie I never heard of. Also she was called an idiot here for trashing feminism.

  • Emmy

    Just came across this. I was a Shailene Woodley fan long before I heard of Jennifer Lawrence. While The Secret Life was an awful show, I found that Shailene had this special quality in Amy Jurgens. With all the terrible writing she had to endure, Shailene found ways to make her character likable and sympathetic. I am so happy that she’s getting the career she deserves. BUT I am also a HUGE Jennifer Lawrence fan. She’s not always going for glamour shots. She’s not afraid to contort her face into unflattering shapes. I’ve enjoyed her work. I look forward to BOTH of these talented ladies’ career choices. I’m sick of your bullshit comparisons.