For the last four years, Jennifer Lawrence has come through with some stellar holiday gifts. First came Silver Linings Playbook in 2012, then Hunger Games: Catching Fire and American Hustle in 2013 then the first Hunger Games: Mockingjay movie in 2014, and finally the second Mockingjay and Joy in 2015. But those films aren’t the presents. No, the true gift in each of those years was the phenomenon known as Jennifer Lawrence on a Press Tour–those whirlwind few days of late-night and morning-show appearances that ultimately turn into GIFs, Tumblr macros, Twitter quotes, and countless Instagram comments that just say “mom.” And this holiday, that gift won’t just be your average JLOAPT, but a JLACPOAPT: with sci-fi movie Passengers hitting theaters, her co-star Chris Pratt will be doing the same. In other words, the the internet might actually buckle under its own weight.
But wait, there’s more! Also showing up at the multiplex this holiday is retro-musical La La Land–which means that stars Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone will doing the TV circuit as well. Thanks to the stunning atrophy of our collective online memory, you may not remember this as well as you remember J. Law pizza GIFs or Prattkeeping, but Gosling and Stone were Hollywood’s OG internet power couple. Could this be some Highlander shit? Can there truly be only one screen-team meme machine? Obviously. But while we savor the thrill of this imminent smackdown, it’s worth figuring out how we got here.
The Enduring Power of “Hey Girl”
Back in 2008, Gosling was the subject of some of the web’s best, and earliest, single-topic Tumblrs. Starting with Fuck Yeah! Ryan Gosling, a series of blogs sprung up, all featuring photos of Gosling overlaid with text that began with “Hey girl.” The most famous of these was Feminist Ryan Gosling, and when we say that Feminist Ryan Gosling was a big deal, we mean Feminist Ryan Gosling was a big deal. In those early years, when Jezebel was just arising from the sea like Venus, the meme took hold as an inflection point: gender politics meeting internet without sacrificing humor or incisiveness.
Suddenly, there were viral images of a hunky Hollywood guy saying things like “Derrida thinks language is fluid enough to break the gender divide, but nothing will split us apart.” Scratch that: Suddenly, people were talking about Jacques Derrida, the father of modern deconstructionism! For a certain subset, this was better than cat GIFs. In fact, “Hey girl…” still lives on. And in an age where Mannequin Challenges and #gratata and “mixy” can live and die during a fruit fly’s adolescence, eight years is some Methuslah-level longevity.
Meanwhile, Emma Stone found herself on the receiving end of a different kind of Internet love after her star-making turn in Easy A. Like Mean Girls, Easy A was a much-better-than-average teen comedy that struck a chord with a certain kind of web-enabled firebrand. Not everyone could speak truth to puberty the way her character Olive did in that movie, but they could certainly Tumbl her doing so. At some point, Stone have realized her online reach, because soon after she began dating her Amazing Spider-Man co-star Andrew Garfield, the couple began holding signs that redirected people to charitable causes whenever they were photographed by the paparazzi. Want to post a pap photo, Perez Hilton? It’ll come with a message about helping orphans worldwide along with it.
The Future of Meme Power Couples
Passengers co-stars Lawrence and Pratt, on the other hand, embody a different species of Internet celebrity. It’s almost generational, despite being roughly the same ages as their counterparts. Lawrence, despite having no public presence on the Internet (she has no Twitter or Instagram, and only sort of has a Facebook fan page), seems to say all the right things and make all the right faces to be a full-on phenomenon online. A Giphy search of her name yields somewhere in the neighborhood of 35,000 results–almost twice as many as Beyonce. Videos of her late-night appearances land on pop news sites as soon as they air, and just about every single pull quote from her magazine interviews find their way to Twitter and Facebook. Sure, there was that ugly hacking and nude-photo-posting, but outside that hiccup, she’s been one of the internet most beloved celebrities.
Pratt’s Internet infamy has been a little bit more homegrown. While coming to prominence on Parks and Recreation (a GIF gift in its own right) his Twitter profile rose, and as his career surged through Guardians of the Galaxy and Jurassic World, so did his web savvy. While doing press for Passengers, he began posting pictures with himself and Lawrence–with J-Law hilariously cropped out. He knows the Internet enough to tease it, but never seem like he’s pandering.
Yet, the dueling duos of Gos-Stone and C-Law are as similar as they are different. They might be from different internet generations–Tumblr versus Twitter–but each contains the same archetypes: one person who not only understands their reach but leverages it through participating (that’d be Stone and Pratt); the other who’s aware of the subreddits and insanity, but maintains a strict do-not-engage policy (Gosling and Lawrence–though Gosling did once deign to read a bunch of the memes he inspired for MTV.)
And isn’t that how all power couples work? For every Jay Z, there is a Beyonce: A gardener and a rose. And perhaps that’s why the Internet loves them–as much as it celebrates overhearing, self-awareness goes a long way, too. Having both in one couple is powerfully appealing. That’s certainly been true of Stone and Gosling, and it’ll likely prove true for Lawrence and Pratt too. Hey girl, did you know Pratt’s Star-Lord is rising almost as fast as Lawrence’s popularity? It’s true.