Elizabeth Taylor was one of the biggest movie stars of Hollywood’s golden age. With her striking beauty, violet eyes, and exceptional acting talent, she captivated audiences in films like National Velvet, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?.
Taylor won two Academy Awards for Best Actress and lived an extravagant, glamorous lifestyle full of marriages, jewels, and fame.
Yet despite her success and stardom, Taylor has long been a polarizing figure to the public. Some people strongly dislike the actress for a variety of reasons. Here is an in-depth look at the major factors that contribute to Elizabeth Taylor’s controversial public image.
Why is Elizabeth Taylor So Controversial?
Elizabeth Taylor elicited strong reactions from the public throughout her career. She was revered by some as a talented actress and great beauty. But she also faced heavy criticism from those who disapproved of her personal life, sharpened by the stereotypes around female sexuality at the time.
Several factors in particular stand out when examining why Taylor stirred up controversy and dislike:
Marriages and Love Life
- Taylor was married 8 times to 7 different men throughout her life
- She divorced often and had several extra-marital affairs
- Her romantic relationships frequently played out in the tabloid media
- This clashed with more conservative views of women’s sexuality and marriage at the time
Jewels and Lavish Lifestyle
- Taylor loved collecting extravagant jewelry; she owned some of the biggest diamonds in the world
- She lived a jet-setting lifestyle far removed from normal people
- Her conspicuous consumption was seen as greedy, wasteful, and vain
- Taylor gained a reputation for being temperamental, demanding, and a diva on movie sets
- She insisted on specialallowances and treatment, causing delays and frustration
- This behavior earned her criticism for being difficult and self-absorbed
- Taylor’s weight went up and down dramatically throughout her career
- She faced ridicule and body-shaming for being overweight at times
- Her thinner periods also drew speculation about eating disorders
- Taylor struggled with alcoholism and prescription drug addictions
- Her substance abuse impacted her health and personal life
- It also added to her unpredictable diva reputation
- Taylor advocated for AIDS research and LGBT rights later in life
- Her outspoken activism was deemed too radical and attention-seeking by some
So while Elizabeth Taylor was an undeniable Hollywood legend, her unconventional lifestyle, indulgences, and progressive views put her at odds with more conservative factions of society. She refused to conform to expectations for women and unapologetically did as she pleased, making her a controversial figure.
What Are the Most Common Critiques and Complaints About Elizabeth Taylor?
Throughout her career, Taylor faced many specific complaints and criticisms from the media, public, and even co-stars and crew who worked with her. Some of the most common negative views about Elizabeth Taylor include:
Was a Homewrecker
- Taylor had well-publicized affairs with married co-stars like Montgomery Clift, Eddie Fisher, and Richard Burton
- She was seen as a homewrecker and adultress
- This also labeled her as seductive and unable to be faithful
Was Fake and Superficial
- Her heavy makeup, over-the-top glamour, and vanity led to acussations that Taylor was artificial and fake
- Some believed she lacked substance and it was all about superficial looks
Was Overpaid and Overrated
- Taylor earned unprecedented salaries as high as $1 million per film
- Many felt she was overpaid and did not deserve such astronomical sums
- Some critics asserted her acting skills did not warrant her fame and accolades
Was a Difficult Diva
- Tales of Taylor’s temper, lateness, illnesses, and demands labeled her as unprofessional
- Crew complained about waiting for hours on set for Taylor to emerge from her trailer
- She was seen as a self-centered diva who was impossible to work with
Had Too Many Marriages and Lovers
- Taylor’s many marriages and affairs appeared unstable and immoral to some
- They saw her as unable to commit and stay faithful to one partner
- Her turbulent romantic life was viewed as a bad example
Wasted Money and Resources
- Her lavish spending, wardrobe budgets, jewelry, properties, and parties seemed excessive
- She was branded as a vain, greedy wastrel who squandered money
Was Too Outspoken on Social Issues
- Taylor’s HIV/AIDS advocacy and gay rights support were radical for the time
- Her politics and causes were deemed too overt and attention-seeking
Taylor’s power, success, and refusal to meet expectations made her a frequent target for criticism. Her rebellious persona and unapologetic lifestyle challenged conservative norms, earning her significant backlash and dislike.
What Famous Feuds Did Elizabeth Taylor Have?
As one of the most famous actresses of Hollywood’s golden era, Elizabeth Taylor made many friends but also her fair share of enemies and was embroiled in famous feuds and rivalries throughout her career. Some of Taylor’s biggest feuds included:
- Fellow actress Joan Crawford was jealous of Taylor’s beauty and success
- She made critical comments about Taylor and spread rumors about her on set
- Taylor found Crawford vain and competitive towards other actresses
- Close friend Debbie Reynolds cut ties after Taylor had an affair with Reynold’s husband, Eddie Fisher
- Reynolds called it a “betrayal” and “unforgivable” at the time
- The two later reconciled years after the scandal
- Taylor had a passionate but stormy romance with Richard Burton
- Their public fights, excessive spending, and hard-partying led to frequent feuding
- Burton’s alcoholism also caused problems in their relationship
- Taylor and Brando despised each other while co-starring in Reflections in a Golden Eye
- Brando insulted Taylor’s acting skills, belittled her, and criticized her diva behavior
- Taylor found Brando rude, arrogant, and intolerable on set
- Rumors of a rivalry brewed when both starred in A Star is Born remake
- Taylor allegedly demanded top billing and higher pay than Streisand
- Neither confirmed a feud, but press painted them as rivals
- Close friends for years, Taylor and Elton John had a famous falling out
- Taylor felt John’s substance abuse and spending were getting out of control
- John harshly criticized Taylor in the press and regretted it later
Though she inspired great loyalty in friends, Taylor’s strong personality also spurred bitter feuds with peers who took issue with her behavior. Her willingness to speak her mind exacerbated tensions.
What Role Did the Media Play in Shaping Perceptions of Elizabeth Taylor?
The media played a significant role in the public perception of Elizabeth Taylor, both positive and negative. As one of the biggest stars of her era, her fame made her a prime target for sensationalist media coverage. Some key ways the media impacted views on Taylor were:
Intense Scrutiny of Her Personal Life
- Hollywood tabloids and gossip magazines constantly hounded Taylor’s personal life
- They splashed lurid stories of her marriages, affairs, illnesses across headlines
- This invasive media attention fueled her notoriety and divisive image
Focus on Scandals Over Her Work
- Press coverage disproportionately focused on Taylor’s scandals and controversies
- It took attention away from her acting talents and achievements
- Media narratives framed her more as a sensation than serious actress
Perpetuating Her “Diva” Reputation
- Wild stories of her on-set demands, lateness, and star treatment enhanced her diva image
- The press reveled in tales painting Taylor as temperamental and unreasonable
Gendered Double Standards
- Media often framed Taylor’s romances and sexuality in a more negative, judgmental light than her male partners
- Her outspokenness and power were sometimes depicted unfavorably
Profiting Off Her Fame
- As one of old Hollywood’s most famous faces, media capitalized off coverage of Taylor
- She sold magazines and drew eyes to coverage, both positive and negative
While the press admired her beauty and success, it also profited off exaggerating her scandals and indulgences. This press fostered both adoration and criticism from the public.
Elizabeth Taylor was undoubtedly one of the most famous actresses of all time, instantly recognizable for her violet eyes, raven beauty, and colorful personal life. But her refusal to conform to expectations for women, outspoken personality, and unapologetic lifestyle also made her a controversial figure throughout her career.
Conservative factions took issue with her many marriages, scandals, indulgent spending, on-set behavior, and progressive activism. Yet these qualities also endeared Taylor to more liberal fans who admired her rebelliousness and glamour. Taylor lived life entirely on her own terms, making her an endlessly captivating, if polarizing, icon.
While the public was divided, Taylor’s undisputed talent, resilience, and strength of spirit ensured her lasting fame long after the controversies faded. The complex dichotomy between her professional brilliance and controversial personal choices only further illuminates why she remains such an enigmatic, legendary star.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why did Elizabeth Taylor have so many marriages?
Elizabeth Taylor was married eight times to seven different men over the course of her life. She spoke of her dedication and belief in the institution of marriage, which led her to repeatedly embark on marriages that the public deemed ill-fated. Taylor also acknowledged her struggles to find lasting fulfillment and steadfast relationships as factors in her many unions.
What made Elizabeth Taylor such a controversial figure?
From her tumultuous personal life to her disruptive behavior on sets, Taylor frequently made scandalous headlines. Her unapologetic sexuality, extravagant lifestyle, outspoken nature, and defying of gender stereotypes caused shock and criticism amongst more conservative groups. These qualities also earned her admiration from more progressive circles.
How did Elizabeth Taylor’s weight fluctuate so dramatically during her career?
Taylor’s weight swung up and down by over 50 pounds at various times due to factors like health issues, depression, alcoholism, prescription drug use, and crash dieting. The press obsessively covered these weight changes, often ridiculing Taylor’s curves and speculating about possible eating disorders.
What lasting legacy did Elizabeth Taylor leave on film and pop culture?
With legendary films like Cleopatra, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Taylor left an indelible mark on cinema with her acting talents. Her glamorous, jet-setting lifestyle also inspired fashion and set beauty trends. Taylor’s AIDS activism and stance on equal rights also impacted attitudes. Her contributions are still referenced today.
Why did Elizabeth Taylor advocate so strongly for AIDS research?
After her friend and co-star Rock Hudson died from AIDS-related illness, Taylor devoted herself to raising funds and awareness to fight the disease. Having lost other friends like Montgomery Clift as well to AIDS, Taylor campaigned tirelessly for more research and compassion for those suffering. Her efforts helped reduce stigma around the disease.