Why all the Hateiston?
I must admit to feeling a certain sort of shame in reading tabloids. Not enough to stop reading them altogether, but enough that I make excuses for it: they’re mindless time wasters on long subway rides, they make for good bathroom reading, I didn’t buy them, someone gave them to me! But no, it’s true, I have purchased In Touch and Star on occasion, as I enjoy a good celebrity train wreck as much as anybody. It’s oddly comforting to know that celebrities are sometimes as incapable of holding their shit together as regular folks, maybe even more so, and let’s face it, better undeservedly rich and famous people like Lindsay Lohan get “accidentally” photographed flashing her vajoo while getting out of a car than the rest of us.
These days I try to keep my shameful indulgence to a relatively low level, as I’m convinced that for every picture I see of a dead-eyed Paris Hilton appearing at the opening of an envelope something inside me shrivels away and turns to dust. However, even my limited exposure to Hollywood gossip has led me to a strange discovery: people really seem to hate Jennifer Aniston for some reason. Now more famous for being jilted by ex-husband Brad Pitt for Angelina Jolie, Aniston, nearing forty and with movies to promote, has taken to opening up in interviews recently about her feelings over the end of her marriage, as well as her on-again/off-again relationship with musician and vaguely annoying human being John Mayer, eight years her junior. Blessed with a body women half her age would love to have, she’s also posed semi-nude for both Entertainment Weekly and GQ. What you’d think would be greeted with resounding cheers of “You go, girl!” has instead been harshly criticized as “embarrassing.” Entertainment blogs Jezebel and Best Week Ever on the same day posted “open letters” to Aniston telling her to “stop talking,” claiming her behavior is “desperate” and “bonkers.” Jezebel went so far as to suggest “Just hang out on the beach with Jon [sic] Mayer and smoke some weed and stop worrying so much about controlling what the tabloids say about you. You’ll probably be a lot happier,” which sounds a lot to me like a nice way of saying “You lost, bitch, now shut up and sit down.” Now, I realize that bitchy commentary is the lifeblood of gossip columnists and entertainment writers, but I have to ask: what happened within the past two months or so that suddenly turned Jennifer Aniston into a tabloid pariah?
Before I go on, let me say that I’m not a dedicated member of either Team Aniston or Team Jolie. I was never a fan of Friends, but I found Jennifer Aniston to be one of the less irritating members of the cast, aside from inspiring a wildly popular haircut that didn’t look good on anyone but Jennifer Aniston. As for Angelina Jolie, while I agree that she is extraordinarily beautiful, I always found something manufactured and annoying about her creepy-sexy bad girl image, which, as you likely know by now, was exhibited by supposedly wearing a blood-smeared shirt to her first wedding and her penchant for tongue kissing and groping greasy second husband Billy Bob Thornton in public. Her overt, goth chick sensuality was a refreshing change of pace from the bland, boring mid-90s golden girls like Julia Roberts and Meg Ryan. Yet she always seemed to have a meant-to-be shocking quote about her alternative lifestyle at the ready whenever a microphone was shoved in her face, and after a while it felt as if we were being beaten about the head and shoulders with how “out there” she was. Okay, yes, she has a bunch of tattoos, right, she plays with knives during sex, all right, she does chicks too, uh huh, she’s into BDSM, etc., she made out with her brother on live television, right, she’s an EDGY MOTHERFUCKER, I GET IT GUYS, THANK YOU. Not surprisingly, when people like Britney Spears and Amy Winehouse turned the sexy bad girl image into something kind of gross and depressing, the media-savvy Jolie changed her image to that of sexy, humanitarian earth mother. The press is now so endlessly adoring of Jolie and her brood of adorable, multi-cultural children that photos of her practically have soft, beatific coronas of light surrounding her head. Not to take away from her commendable actions of adopting children from Third World nations, but Mia Farrow was doing that 30 years ago, and with significantly less publicity involved. She is not only still a media darling, but now one of unbesmirched character. Even “accidentally” admitting that she did in fact become romantically involved with current partner Brad Pitt while he was still married to Jennifer Aniston, despite earlier self-righteously claiming that she found such behavior abhorrent, barely warranted a blip in the tabloids, and when it did the general consensus was “Well, what could he do? Her vagina is lined with gold.”
As far as scorned women go, especially those scorned in such a public manner, Jennifer Aniston seemed to be handling it in a dignified way, despite the tabloids running maudlin stories about her spending holidays alone and weeping over wedding pictures, occasionally accompanied by photos of her forlornly walking on a beach by herself. At the same time Pitt and Jolie settled into fabulously attractive domestic bliss while forming their own United Nations of offspring, Aniston continued to be unlucky in love, dating eternal frat boy Vince Vaughn and then John Mayer, who broke up with her and then held a press conference to explain why. The two later reunited, at around the same time Aniston was misquoted as saying she found Jolie’s admission of when she got involved with Pitt “uncool,” and suddenly the snarling backlash began. Ted Casablanca of E! began sniping about her appearance, referring to her as “Maniston,” and a photo of her wearing a minidress was captioned with “Little Black Desperate.” Now Aniston just can’t seem to get over Pitt leaving her for a more attractive, more talented woman. She pulls publicity stunts such as, holy shit, talking about her personal life in order to draw attention away from her perceived rival, and demands validation that even though she’s, god forbid, ancient at nearly forty, she’s still sexy. She’s making other scorned women and first wives look bad with her constant attention whoring and refusal to move on; no wonder Pitt dumped her needy, self-absorbed ass.
When I think “attention whoring,” I think Courtney Love staggering into a Burger King and letting a random stranger feel her up, or Spencer Pratt and Heidi Montag having an impromptu, “private” wedding in which Us just happened to be present. It’s baffling to see the vitriol aimed at the largely inoffensive Aniston for having the audacity to still have some sore feelings about how her marriage ended, to imply that the sainted Angelina Jolie may have acted improperly in getting involved in an affair with her husband. Further, how dare she be proud of her body, despite it being past its expiration date by Hollywood standards? Aniston’s mistake is merely in trying to cooperate with the press–if she keeps talking about her ex-husband and his current partner, it’s because that’s all anyone ever asks her about. It’s easy to say “Well, she doesn’t have to answer those questions,” but her interviews would consist of a lot of “no comment”s and “…” Nobody cares about Friends anymore: observe how often you’ve seen David Schwimmer in the press recently. It’s doubtful Aniston’s latest film Marley & Me, in which she appears to play second fiddle to a dog, will make a huge dent at the box office. Her relationship with Pitt, and the fallout when it ended, is the most interesting thing about her, and even in the unlikely event that she becomes an actress of Meryl Streep proportions it will follow her around for the rest of her life. Pick up any gossip magazine that features a story on Pitt and Jolie (and pretty much every one will, every week), and you’ll see that the story will invariably include a sidebar in which some supposed friend or “insider” will speculate on how Aniston feels about the situation, or worse, what she’s allegedly going to do to with compete with them. If Pitt and Jolie are looking to buy a mansion in France, Aniston is house hunting in Beverly Hills. If Pitt and Jolie are welcoming yet another child, Aniston is seeking fertility treatments. If Pitt and Jolie are planning to marry, Aniston is racing to beat them to the altar. Her supposed constant need to upstage her ex and his new partner seems largely made up by the press (she’s been about to announce that she’s pregnant with twins for around the past two years now), and yet it’s the press who is turning it around and remaking Aniston into a relentless publicity hound.
Perhaps what’s most disturbing about the anti-Aniston contingency is how much of the hatred of her comes from other women. I can understand strong dislike of the aforementioned Britney Spears, Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan, as they really do embarass themselves as women. Nevertheless, much of the comments on the Jezebel letter were positively poisonous, suggesting that her biggest offenses in her marriage to Pitt were being a bit shallow and failing to give him a child. In other words, she deserved to be cheated on and publically embarrassed. We’re like a big flock of Mean Girls gathering around to poke fun at the snobby popular girl who got jilted for the even more popular girl. Ha ha, sucks to be you. One wonders if, should Pitt and Jolie eventually break up (which seems likely, given how often they publically proclaim how strong and wonderful their relationship is), if Aniston’s reputation as a likeable but mostly unremarkable TV actress will be restored, or if she will forever be the Miss Havisham of Hollywood.