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Our Unyielding Obsession with Jennifer Aniston

by Melissa Silverstein
August 14, 2012 12:53 PM
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If you've been under a rock for the last couple of days I am here to inform you that we can all calm down now because Jennifer Aniston has finally gotten engaged.  If you haven't been under a rock, you have been inundated with hideously titled articles that make me want to cringe.  CNN did a photo spread called Jennifer Aniston's Men and USA Today wondered Has Jennifer Finally Found Her Happy Ending?  (Those are the only ones I read the headlines of before giving up.)

We have been publicly obsessed with Jennifer Aniston since she got the haircut named for her character Rachel on Friends about 15 years ago (Yes it has been that long.  The show premiered in 1994.)  All the shows stars became huge but Aniston was the biggest breakout.   Then when she started dating Brad Pitt and they got his and hers matching highlights for the wedding the deal was sealed.

She was pretty, seemingly perfect and had snagged the cutest guy in Hollywood.

We all know how that turned out and since the breakup of "Bennifer" we have as a culture have been unyielding obsessed with watching Jennifer's love life and waiting for her to find the perfect man.  Is this one going to give her the long desired baby?   Will that one hurt her like Brad? 

I duly note that people are also incredibly obsessed with George Clooney's love life.  But with him it's always about what young woman he has been showing off and what a great life he has as the single man about town.  Don't get me wrong, I admire him and his politics.  But there is never an air of desperation in the stories about him.  His stories are about freedom.

The stories people have written about Jennifer always make it seem like she is just desperate to get married and have a baby. 

About the baby obsession.  It has really gotten out of control.  Kids seem to be another Hollywood accessory of late.  Her desperation to get married was always coupled with her desperation for kids.  As if an independent woman of means could not have a kid by herself if she wanted one.

Caitlin Moran said it best in a recent interview with Terry Gross on Fresh Air.  (and by the way, read her book, How to Be a Woman.  I just started it and it is great.)

I mean just this week on the cover of Grazia, kind of like the biggest selling women's magazine in the U.K., was yet another picture of Jennifer Aniston with, you know, Jennifer's baby fear. And you know, we've spent 15 years discussing whether this woman is going to have a baby or not. I just think that's so rude. It's just, you know, we don't know what issues she's got. You know, that's totally her decision. The idea that this is like a national debate that we have all the time. You know, is she pregnant? Isn't she pregnant? Does she want a baby? Is she sad? Did she still wish she could have Brad's baby? Is she going to adopt a baby? Is she going to have a baby with this new boyfriend then leave him so she can be a single mother? It's just never been an option for Jennifer Aniston not to have a kid. Imagine if you saw George Clooney on the cover of a magazine every week with, is George broody? Is George going to adopt a baby? When is George going to have another kid? It would just seem weird. We'd seem demented, yet it's totally valid for women.

Jennifer Aniston illustrates a culture that is still so incredibly ambivalent about single women even though the numbers of single women -- and single moms -- keeps growing.  So while women are establishing and accepting their independence, at the same moment, the culture is tearing women down because it still really wants to promote marriage and so-called traditional values.  As if there are any traditional values anymore. 

Only a crazy loon would not wish Jennifer Aniston much happiness in her life.  Maybe now that she is on her way to becoming Sadie, Sadie, married lady now people will leave her the hell alone.  But I kind of doubt it.  i'm guessing the tabloids are already prepping  baby bump stories.

I'm glad Jennifer Aniston is engaged. But I'd be happier still if nobody cared (The Guardian)

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  • Katherine | August 15, 2012 2:31 PMReply

    Bennifer was Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck, yo.

  • Zsuzsanna Budapest | August 14, 2012 9:02 PMReply

    I am sure Aniston's publicity agent had a LOT to do with keeping the audience emoting over Jennifer. These narratives are paid for. I think she is a wonderful actress, but she is still doing "Friends" in different costumes. I celebrate women who are single. I think our ratio is growing.
    Its the male publicity agents who are in the last century.

  • Trixie | August 14, 2012 7:20 PMReply

    Totally true!
    Thanks for this...

    (Just one thing: Bennifer was Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez, not Brad and Jen.)
    (I am sad that I know that.)

  • Sophie | August 14, 2012 4:06 PMReply

    I think it is so important that we look at this amd see it for what it is: a cultural shaming of women if they are not married. I was so happy when Caitlin Moran spoke up about this. If you look beyond the way the media has portrayed her she ACTUALLY seems to be living a fabulous life of freedom - she's filthy rich and spends her life traveling all over the world. This woman is living the life of her dreams! But instead the media portrays her as 'desperate' without a husband. It's telling women the same goes for them.

  • Patricia | August 14, 2012 3:44 PMReply

    Double standard ! Yes, the stories about Jennifer always make her sound desperate and needy because she is a single woman, whereas George Clooney is constantly portrayed as the charming ladies' man who enjoys life to the fullest because he remains single.

  • JensPRcreatedHERvictimhood | August 24, 2012 2:55 AM

    There is no double standard. There have been cool, single, childless, women role models who have ruled the world in Hollywood starting from Katherine Hepburn, to Diane Keaton (until she adopted in her 50s), to current day Cameron Diaz, Sandra Bullock (childless into her 40s), Halle Berry (childless into her 40s) - though these women would eventually have children, unlike Aniston, their bought and paid for PR flack wasn't creating pitying, sympathetic,. and 'womb watch,' items in the media every month.

    There's a simple reason Aniston gets this kind of press - it's because her power PR flack buys it on her behalf -- he knows it's the only kind of press she merits (face it her movies suck, as does her 'acting,' in said movies) - her biggest draws are her tabloid ready split from movie star Brad Pitt, and her efforts via her PR placement to offer a sympathetic image while demonizing the ex and his new partner Angelina Jolie (and Aniston is still at these games today - ask her bestie and new PR labelmate, Chelsea Handler - she signed on Aniston's reps dotted line a couple years ago, and since then has been going HARD on Angelina, as a kind of pitbull surrogate all with the blessings of Aniston's PR let's people know...oooh Jen is still bitter, and she wants us all to keep hating Angelina --' remember America, Jen's not over don't you be over it!'.

    Clever eh? They know this is what drives her ink, and they keep reinforcing it. Whether it's romcoms that play up the lonely single childless characters, breakups, etc., or her mainstream women's magazine covers (Jen - Happy AT Last! Jen Surving the Pain, Jen; Don't Pity Me Jen:I'm Hurt and Lonely, etc.), or her talk show appearances (crying on Oprah's lap at least 3 times, and starting a catfight with just Angelina in 2008) - it's all STRATEGIC.

    So please don't insult us Melissa Silverstein, by saying Cam Diaz is treated the same - she is not, because she does NOT play the victim. Look at the big stars and high profile women who have divorced husbands w/ whom they've had children, in what many assume was over infidelity. Reese Witherspoon, Sandra Bullock, Uma Thurman -- all of these women are KICK As.S - and they don't need to be pitied, and so guess what? They are NOT.

    Cut to Aniston - who STILL is. Maybe it's because the woman her ex moved on to next is the most famous (and beautiful) woman in the world - so those that pity Jen increase it 100 fold over this fact, still, Aniston doesn't have to GIVE them the keys to the car.

    So let's not try and pretend this isn't coming from Aniston herself, it does a disservice to the women who DO live their lives, carefree, single, happy and loving it - women that ARE admirable in appreciating their good fortune, and happily say they're not interested in having kids yet and enjoy being single....

    ....however Aniston, is the LAST person to embrace that -- once she says that....the pity tour dries up, the angst over the ex disappears...THAT cannot happen: she needs that to keep the ink rolling....even now, newly engaged, they don't compare her current date mate with her last, or the one before, or the one before that...inevitably, they ALWAYS go back - 8 YEARS - to Brad Pitt. It's sad and pathetic.

    The truly independent happy single women that have NOT given interviews where they 'SWEAR they will be married and with kids in years, so nah nah nah ex-husband w/ big beautiful family,' (Team Aniston cheerleaders applaud wildly enabling her false image further) are the ones who don't deserve to be lessened just because Aniston has cloaked herself in this poor pitiful me imagery to advance her career and generate interest in it.

    When you have talent like those other ladies, you don't need to attach yourself like a weeping boil to your ex's asss.

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