Jennifer Aniston wrote an op-ed for Huffington Post yesterday and it blew up all over social media. If you haven’t read it, click the link. Support for Jen has been widespread. Celebrities are fist-pumping, magazine writers are fist-pumping, and the MiniVan Majority is fist-pumping. As you know, the MiniVan Majority has been her fanbase for a very long time, consistently galvanising behind her ever since she and Brad Pitt broke up. And, in analysing Jen’s piece, it’s an important fact to keep in mind – because Jennifer Aniston has always played to that fanbase, played to their expectations, played to their loyalty, understanding, quite astutely, that this demographic is a power source of her fame. The fame cannot be maintained without feeding that battery. It is, to borrow a word she uses in her article, only with a slightly tweaked context, “an agreement”.
That agreement forms the basis of the Celebrity Ecosystem. As I’ve written many times before, the Celebrity Ecosystem cannot exist without ALL of its components functioning by several different equations. One of the most simple equations being:
Celebrity uses media to deliver product to fan. Fan accesses celebrity via media.
A criticism of the Celebrity Ecosystem – this “celebrity news culture”, as Jen calls it – is, therefore, incomplete without criticising all the elements that make up the ecosystem. Jennifer Aniston is calling out the media, the “tabloids” that she accuses of perpetuating negative obsessions and malicious rumours, the paparazzi for taking unflattering pictures and body-shaming, and the gossip blogs (hi!) for engaging in personal conversations that compromise celebrity privacy and integrity. That’s ONE component of the ecosystem. But can the media exist on its own, independently, without cooperation? There’s more than one variable to this equation. And the reason Jennifer Aniston’s op-ed fails is because she doesn’t acknowledge the other side. She does not acknowledge the celebrity’s role in the ecosystem – HER role in the ecosystem.
Because if it’s just the tabloids that are to blame for the intrusion in her private life and the fascination with her body and whether or not she’s having babies, how do you explain this?
That pretty much covers it all, non?
If the paparazzi are unconscionable, what’s going on here?
What’s going on is that she just got engaged in 2012. And these were the first shots of her ring. Taken in Sante Fe, New Mexico. You ever heard of paps hanging out in New Mexico just hoping to get some pictures of Jennifer Aniston?
As for her point that “(t)he message that girls are not pretty unless they’re incredibly thin, that they’re not worthy of our attention unless they look like a supermodel or an actress on the cover of a magazine is something we’re all willingly buying into”…
Oh, you mean like this?
That, by the way, topless in the jean shorts on a bed, was 2005, the year she and Brad Pitt broke up and Brange happened. Earlier in 2005, she gave a now-infamous interview to Vanity Fair for a cover that featured her in nothing but a white business shirt declaring that “I never said I didn’t want children. I did, I do, and I will!”
So…to go back to what she wrote in her op-ed about the “message that girls are not pretty unless they’re incredibly thin, that they’re not worthy of our attention unless they look like a supermodel or an actress on the cover of a magazine”…
Who’s sending that message? The media? The fans? The bloggers? All of the above? Sure. And? WHO ELSE? Who else belongs in that equation? Who else is a member, a central member, of the ecosystem?
Jennifer Aniston has the right to pose however she wants to. Let me be clear that this is not my objection. My objection is that the rant she’s on right now is all about pointing fingers. It’s all about assigning blame arbitrarily without self-reflection, without an acknowledgement that the entire system is complicit – and that includes herself.
Which is standard operating procedure, as we’ve seen time and again, with celebrities. Look what they’ve done to me! I’m just being famous all by myself over here and look what they’re doing to me! And never ever the question – but wasn’t I part of the game? There is no game without all the players. She is one of the most active players of that game.
But that would be the more interesting, insightful conversation, wouldn’t it? To look at a system that she thinks is broken and consider how she – and her peers, and her own industry – may have had a hand in creating and maintaining?
Jennifer Aniston cherry picks from within the very ecosystem that has made Jennifer Aniston possible. Without the interest in Jennifer Aniston – her relationships, her personal life – there would be no “Jennifer Aniston”. And still, even in this piece, even while she writes a crusade against tabloid culture, she’s still f-cking cherry picking. Because if not, what is the point of this sentence?
“Yes, I may become a mother some day, and since I’m laying it all out there, if I ever do, I will be the first to let you know.”
It’s a sentence that comes after a lot of words about how women should not be valued for whether or not they are “married or mothers”, that it’s every woman’s right to decide and not anyone else’s business.
OK, well, um, thanks? If you’re laying that out there, am I allowed to care? Or is my caring completely determined by when and whether you tell me I can care? Is that how this works?
Pretty much. That’s the goal of most celebrities: to turn the ecosystem into a dictatorship.
Attached - Jennifer Aniston leaving a salon in Hollywood the other day.