Few celebrities have captured the internet’s unconditional adoration quite like Dakota Johnson.
The actor has a house that dreams are made of and a fringe that tempts every woman into an ill-advised haircut. She’s the source of countless posts and fan videos.
On the other hand, Johnson doesn’t have the credits that exactly scream beloved celebrity. She rose to fame as Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades of Grey, a critically detested franchise, and the independent films she has acted in since then are not nearly as popular. Though she is obviously talented, she isn't the kind of public figure whose fame can be entirely attributed to their work.
So this all begs the question: why do we love Dakota Johnson so much?
To put it simply, she’s easy to love.
Johnson is undeniably one of those people you wish you could be best friends with. Take her Architectural Digest tour, for example. The actor waltzes around her tastefully decorated house while she brags about alphabetising her record collection and complaining about her uptight neighbours. It feels like you’re being shown around your friend’s new abode than a celebrity showing off her million dollar house in the Hollywood Hills. The video has also since become so iconic that fans only need to see a photo of her cosy, lime-adorned kitchen to know whose house it is.
Beyond that, Johnson has always come across as, frankly, adorable. Self-deprecating, funny and bubbly, she is the kind of person that doesn’t take themselves too seriously. Those qualities are instantly attractive to people because they feel like real people, rather than unreachable gods. After all, there’s nothing worse than a self-important celebrity. Even extremely-serious-actor Daniel Day-Lewis found fans when he was spotted with a flip phone on the New York subway.
Somehow, Johnson feels like the most comfortably relatable celebrity out there. So much so that you tend to forget that she basically comes from a Hollywood dynasty: her parents are Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson; her former stepfather is Antonio Banderas.
She’s unafraid to call people out.
The actor’s most internet famous moments have, funnily enough, come from talk shows – an interview format that usually requires celebrities to simply sit, smile and promote themselves. But Johnson is seemingly unable to sit by and stay passive. If she sees something wrong, she’ll say it.
When Jimmy Fallon repeatedly interrupted her as she was telling a story, she interjected with a passive-aggressive smile: “Aren’t you supposed to let people talk on this show?” After years of viewers complaining about Fallon's conduct, Johnson finally said what everyone was thinking.
And then at the peak of the Ellen DeGeneres drama, Johnson’s infamous interview reemerged and became emblematic of how shady the talk show host could be.
In the interview, DeGeneres interrogated Johnson on why she didn’t invite her to her birthday party. “Actually, that’s not the truth Ellen, you were invited,” the actor replied.
Last time I was on the show, you gave me a bunch of s**t about not inviting you, but I didn’t even know you wanted to be invited.
When DeGeneres denied that she was invited, Johnson wouldn’t back down: “Ask anybody, ask Jonathan, your producer.” In one subtle but eviscerating takedown, Johnson showed it was possible to fight back against the powerful – and more pettily that she had it coming. The actor’s most observant fans realised that her birthday coincided with the day DeGeneres was spotted with George W. Bush at an NFL game.
It’s also just not cool anymore to hate talented people.
In a fortunate miracle, Johnson has thankfully escaped from being defined by the franchise that made her. For all of the fuss that happened with Fifty Shades of Grey when it came out, it's few years of fame ended without a bang.
But other actors have struggled to shed their star-making roles. To this day, Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson are ridiculed for the Twilight franchise, despite the fact that both have given award-winning turns in independent films since then.
At the height of Fifty Shades, Johnson and her co-star Jamie Dornan were looked down on by the public in a way that was reminiscent of the Twilight days.
It’s hard to argue that misogyny doesn’t play a role in this.
After all, these actors came to prominence through franchises that largely and unabashedly catered to women.
In turn, legions of fans (many of whom are women) have reclaimed them as the true talents they actually are, and relentlessly push them to internet fame so that they re-enter public consciousness. Pattinson’s fans recognised that he’s a daring, adventurous actor years before he became Batman. Similarly, people were aghast at the news that Johnson would lead the Suspiria remake, only to discover her incredibly haunting performance.
An actor’s performance is the product of the alchemy between direction and writing. Of course, Fifty Shades was never going to highlight Johnson's skills as an actor because there was little to work with. But any number of films can attest to her true talent: her two films with Italian auteur Luca Guadagnino or The Social Network where she outshines Justin Timberlake in a single scene. Even breezy studio comedies like How to be Single and The High Note showcase infectiously likeable performances.
The world is too terrible right now to hate someone for a few bad movies. It’s much more fun to see them thrive.
If it took everyone else a few extra years to catch up on how great Dakota Johnson is, then so be it.
At least we’re all obsessing over her kitchen cabinets now.