Jennifer Aniston: pitied or proud?

It’s a rare woman who doesn’t have an opinion on Jennifer Aniston. What’s yours? Do you see her as a tragic victim? Of Brad’s abandonment? Angelina’s husband-stealing? Her own biological clock? Or do you see her as pretty damn happy and lucky and fully in control of her life, a worthy role model for the 40-something single woman, doing it for herself?

I came across a terrific little piece about the appeal and enigma of JA in The Guardian republished here with full permission, by film critic David Cox who writes….

A mystery envelops Jennifer Aniston. On the one hand, she’s pitied by the pretentious, mocked by the gossip sites and disdained by the critics. On the other, magazines fight to get her face on their covers, people never stop talking about her and she’s eagerly booked for film after film.

Naturally, this enigma’s much probed. Experts agree the reason must have something to do with the way Jen‘s career and private life have fused. Thereafter, however, theories diverge.

One school holds that the key lies in her girl-next-door image. A sometime waitress, she made her name on TV, not Broadway. She doesn’t flaunt herself on yachts with the world’s celebrity plutocrats. Instead of putting on Tinseltown airs, she remains ever demure and self-deprecating.

As such, this argument runs, she provides abiding comfort for us all. Aniston’s experience shows that we too could make it in the movies, if we just became as thin as her, got a haircut as expensive as hers and worked as hard as she does. Obviously we can’t be bothered, but Aniston shows us that if we but stirred ourselves we could be just as successful as her. Of course we love her.

This reading is contradicted by its main challenger, which holds that it’s not Aniston’s success that has us in her thrall, but its very opposite. Though she inhabits Elysium, she’s also something of a loser, on and off screen. Her film career has locked her into a Sisyphean purgatory of third-rate romcoms that bring her humiliation. She’s had the sexiest man in the world plucked effortlessly from her grasp. There’s no man, nor baby now, though she apparently yearns for both.

This picture is supposed to offer us a different kind of satisfaction. Movie stars, it tells us, can be even worse off than the rest of us. We therefore needn’t aspire to enter their world. Even in its glittering embrace we might end up as woebegone as Aniston, so we might as well stay as we are. Of course we love her.

Neither theory quite fits the facts. The girl next door has just moved into a lavish Beverly Hills mansion complete with spa, fruitwood Sauter piano and an antique Thai gong to summon diners. The butt of the critics’ contempt can act impressively when she feels like it, as anyone who remembers The Good Girl will know. Anyway, she’s a box-office wow – Hollywood’s second-biggest female earner. If she really wanted a boyfriend, she could have her pick.

Aniston herself, however, tirelessly burnishes both of the conflicting myths that she’s managed to inspire. Other stars rebuff interviewers’ questions about their personal affairs. Aniston’s happy to remark: “If I’m the emblem for ‘this is what it looks like to be the lonely girl getting on with her life’, so be it.” As an established crowd-puller, she doesn’t have to condemn herself to grotty romcoms that mirror her supposed private heartache. She chooses to, presumably to strengthen her idiosyncratic brand.

The Bounty Hunter sees this strategy essay new heights. An action romcom with little to offer in the way of either action, romance or comedy, it nonetheless succeeds in subjecting its heroine to hitherto unparalleled indignities. Aniston is locked in the boot of a car, tipped into a lake and handcuffed to a bedpost. Her claim that she used to be a model brings forth the response: “How long ago was that?” She crawls back to the brute she divorced. Next up comes an infertility drama, coarsely named The Baster.

Why does she do it? Perhaps because it works. Pretending to be both a girl-next-door top dog and a celebrity basket case could after all make sense. Maybe we want to believe that people like ourselves can become glitzy successes but must suffer for their presumption. Bona fide stars, we may prefer to think, must be gods and goddesses cut from a different cloth than mere mortals. Only thus can they justify our enduring fealty.

If this is Aniston’s game, then she seems to be winning it. Look what’s happened to her fabled antagonist. Angelina Jolie may be a transcendent megastar begotten of genuine Hollywood royalty, but the stardust’s fading, as it must, and her relationship with Aniston’s ex is the subject of vulgar gossip. She may be revered, but she’s also decried as a haughty predator.

Meanwhile, Aniston’s not just rich, carefree and desirable; she basks in the world’s affection. Belittle her at your peril.

I really like Jennifer Aniston. I’m not so much into the whole Team Jen vs Team Ange thing but her everygirl-ness has always appealed to me. Having said that, I’d never pay money to go see her in a film. The last Jenifer Aniston film I saw was The Breakup when I was fortunate enough to be invited along to the premiere, complete with Actual Jen and Actual Vince Vaughn, her boyfriend at the time. I even walked past them. Breathed a bit of Jen’s Actual Air while she was doing an interview on the red carpet.

It was a cute enough movie but apart from The Good Girl, she always seems to play exactly the same character. Whether her leading man is Vince or Jim Carey or Adam Sandler or Gerard Butler….she’s always Rachel from Friends.

She even looks the same.

Which I guess is reasonably smart given the popularity of that show and of her character.

I certainly don’t see her as someone to be pitied. I like the way she gives it back to the media for constantly trying to portray her as sad, lonely or disatisfied with her lot.

As I said, it’s a rare woman who doesn’t have an opinion about Jennfier Anniston.
What’s yours? Seen many Jen movies? Will you see The Bounty Hunter?

And here is a special Frockwatch on Jennifer. Rarely gets it wrong. Timeless looks whether she’s on a red carpet or the street.