I write a decent amount about celebrity culture here at TheGamer, and have made passing references to celebrities in dozens more articles. As a result, quite fairly, I have earned a reputation as a simp. Maybe it’s all the references to wanting to be stepped on, who knows? In 2021 though, no one has been more worthy of simpery than Hailee Steinfeld, the real winner of 2021.
This has been a glorious/terrible week for Steinfeld stans, as both Hawkeye and Dickinson saw their finales air just before the holidays. They’re not Steinfeld’s only hits of 2021, however. She also starred in Arcane as Vi, and just as she did in the first movie, she stole the show in the trailer for Into The Spider-Verse’s sequel. Three leading parts in television shows during the pandemic means there has been no time for a cinematic role this year, and we’ve been starving for new music (geddit?) since 2020’s Half-Written Story EP, but this has been a very good year for Steinfeld.
Related: Spider-Man: No Way Home Is The MCU At Its Absolute WorstAn Oscar nominee at 11 who has consistently excelled in smaller projects since then – The Edge of Seventeen is a criminally underrated flick in the ‘pretty girl is a lonely loser’ genre – Steinfeld doesn’t exactly need me to defend her. But it feels like this year, even post-Spider-Verse, post-Pitch Perfect, post-True Grit, and post-Starving, has been her breakout.
Dickinson, like every other Apple show not named Ted Lasso, has been held back by its streaming platform but seems to have peaked at the right time. Hawkeye, widely expected to be a phoned-in snooze-fest, instead challenged WandaVision for the title of best MCU show yet, and Arcane, a cartoon based on two League of Legends characters with virtually zero backstory, somehow became the best thing on television.
Steinfeld is not without challengers. Spoilers for those of you reading this article from your cave on the planet Mars, but Andrew Garfield made his glorious return to the Spider-Man role – a return so glorious the fans have made a tongue-in-cheek petition for him to finally get his trilogy. He also starred in Tick, Tick… Boom! as Jonathan Larson, unveiling his surprisingly competent singing voice to the world and generating Oscar buzz.
Lady Gaga quietly released three good albums (a Chromatica remix, a ten-year anniversary rerelease of Born This Way, and a second collaboration with the great Tony Bennett) while very loudly starring in House of Gucci. Olivia Rodrigo has been the newcomer of the year, and Billie Eilish has cashed in on her 2019 arrival to build herself into an icon in the making. Steinfeld has not been alone in enjoying 2021, but the way she has succeeded in 2021, with three huge hits as the year ends and taking clear momentum into 2022, makes her this year’s queen.
While Dickinson will stay in 2021, making a success of an Apple TV show is no mean feat, as Mahershala Ali, Tom Hanks, Jason Momoa, and Justin Timberlake will tell you. Yeah, they all had Apple projects. Hanks had two.
Meanwhile, Hawkeye is the launchpad for Steinfeld’s role not just in a Marvel movie, but as a fully fledged Avenger. With the show finally giving Barton the respect he has always been owed, it’s unlikely she’ll be the butt of the joke either. Especially given her electric chemistry with Yelena Belova’s Florence Pugh – and by electric, I mean gay – she’s bound to have several starring roles in the biggest movie franchise around. For most people, that would be enough, but she’s also got Spider-Verse to think about.
Then there’s Arcane. As a longtime Steinfeld fan, the cast announcement surprised me. Why would Hailee Steinfeld, a rising star who had already ascended above most of Hollywood, join a League of Legends cartoon nobody was going to watch. Flash forward to today, and that’s why Steinfeld is an A-lister and I’m just some schmuck.
Steinfeld has had a magnificent 2021, but what’s most impressive is it has set her up for an even better 2022. With Spider-Verse, some MCU appearances, and probably some new movies, an album, plus at least a trailer for Arcane, 2022 could really be Hailee Steinfeld’s year. Until then, 2021 belongs to her.
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