Have you come a long way, baby?
Jennifer Aniston is rich, famous and successful: and yet, the media persist in painting her as the eternal victim
So, how would you feel about a glamorous, gorgeous Hollywood star with millions in the bank and a steady succession of positively edible eye-candy on the arm? A star who holidayed in scenic locations throughout the year, showing off bronzed limbs and a perfectly-toned torso? A star who made frequent appearances in the gossip columns, thanks to a torrid and sometimes hectic love life? A star who seemed to have everything: money, fame, success, and lots of sex?
Let me guess. You would admire this apocryphal figure, right? You would gaze enviously at the holiday homes and the private jets. You would marvel at the numbers of partners notched up. You would wonder about how lucky some people can get.
Yes, if we were talking about George Clooney, this is exactly how most people would respond. Here’s a handsome movie star with a jet-setting lifestyle, complete with private planes, holiday homes in exotic locations, and a bevy of interchangeable beauties who seemed to grow ever younger as he grew older and greyer.
Wow! What’s not to love? Or to envy.
But if the star in question was Jennifer Aniston, the reaction would be very different, wouldn’t it? As, indeed, would the narrative, even when the facts of the case are much the same.
Yes, the rules are reversed when it comes to the ladies. So while Clooney is written up as the man who has everything, Jennifer Aniston must always be portrayed as ‘poor old Jen’, always so unlucky in love. First, her husband, Brad Pitt, left her to play Happy Families with his Mr and Mrs Smith co-star, Angelina Jolie. Then her rebound guy, Vince Vaughn, didn’t quite work out. And let’s not even get into John Mayer (honestly, what was she thinking?) or what’s his face, Paul Sculfor.
And now, poor thing, she’s looking for love with a younger man, Justin Theroux. But hang on. She is now 43. Yes, you read that right: 43. Is it too late for her to have babies? Has she put her ovaries on ice for far too long? Can she ever have the fairy-tale ending that all women long for: with a doting husband and a brood of beautiful babies?
Poor old Jen, indeed! It must be a dreadful life, right? To have made enough money to never have to work again unless you choose to; to have your pick of the handsome leading men of Hollywood; to still look amazing on the shady side of 40; to be in control of your life. God, I can’t quite figure out how she copes!
But sarcasm aside, isn’t it a tiny bit worrying that even if you are a Hollywood star in the 21st century, you still have to abide by some romantic, medieval notion of how women should live their lives? That unless you are in a happy marriage – which has produced a couple of kids – your life is essentially worthless. And that you must be spending all your time chasing that ever-elusive dream; no matter how loudly you protest otherwise.
To be fair to Jennifer Aniston, she has never played into the poor old Jen narrative of her life story, as retold by the tabloid press. She never tires of pointing out that she is fed up of the eternal triangle she is expected to form with ex-husband Brad and his new partner Angelina. She has moved on; and so should we. She loves her bachelor lifestyle. She is in no hurry to get married again. And she is not sure about having children because kids can get a bit ‘messy’. In other words, she loves her life the way it is.
But no matter what Aniston may say, somehow the narrative of Jen as victim has gotten some sort of insidious hold on the world. And even now, when Justin has announced that he got the ‘best birthday present ever’ on his 41st birthday when Jennifer accepted his proposal (and an eight carat, emerald-cut diamond ring), we are still not willing to let it go.
So now, it’s become all about how Aniston, the poor thing, is trying to steal the Jolie-Pitt thunder by announcing her engagement in the week before her ex-husband and his partner are planning to get hitched in a private wedding at their French chateau. Poor old Jen. She never did get over being dumped by Brad.
Meanwhile, George Clooney continues to party his way across the world with his current squeeze, the former wrestler (honestly, you couldn’t make this stuff up!), Stacey Keibler, having dumped the gorgeous Italian model, Elizebetta Canalis, when she became too clingy. Nobody treats him like a failure because he has never re-married after a brief fling with matrimony early in life. And nobody regards him with pity because he has failed to procreate (though, God knows, the world could do with a few mini-Clooneys).
George Clooney and Jennifer Aniston have a lot in common. They both started out as TV sensations, he with ER, she with Friends. They both went on to have film careers, albeit with varying degrees of success. They both had failed first marriages. And they both went on to have a string of relationships afterwards. But you wouldn’t guess that from the way their stories are told by the media.
I guess in the end it really doesn’t matter just how far you’ve come, baby. If you’re a woman, your life is still deemed worthless unless you have a baby (or two), and a husband to call your own. Yes, even if you are Jennifer Aniston.