Caitlin McBride: Sorry Anton and Piers, you've missed the point about Jennifer Aniston
Published 14/07/2016 | 14:46
An opinion piece about a woman’s right to how her body is represented was always going to ruffle feathers.
When that woman is an A-list celebrity, a conversation would be started. Make that A-list celebrity Jennifer Aniston and we’re approaching ‘breaking the internet’ levels of discussion.
She was largely met with praise, but there was one common element among her critics – namely that they're men.
On the same day her piece was published on the Huffington Post, Piers Morgan argued she missed the point of her own op-ed about objectification and scrutiny because she’s posed on sexy magazine covers.
“There’s another reason why the media objectify and scrutinise famous women, and why little girls get confused about beauty and body image,” he wrote in his Mail Online column.
“It’s this: female stars like Jennifer Aniston deliberately perpetuate the myth of ‘perfection’ by posing for endless magazine covers which have been airbrushed so much that in some cases the celebrity is virtually unrecognisable.
“This morning, I Googled ‘Jennifer Aniston magazine covers’ and a veritable avalanche of results appeared.”
The magazine covers he references? Each adheres to the publication’s own identity – not Jennifer’s.
GQ? She’s entirely nude except for a red, white and blue tie in keeping with the men’s magazines ethos. Vogue? She wears a red couture gown perched on a rock on the beach. Allure? She beams, showing off her impossibly white teeth and healthy skin for the beauty bible. The Hollywood Reporter? She wears a knitted jumper with shorts and high heels, gleaming as she ponders her future.
This argument would accurately apply to nearly every celebrity out there who complains about media invasion while they try to flog another new clothing line, makeup range or app (ahem, Kim Kardashian).
The point is - we don’t really know much about Jennifer Aniston and that’s the way she likes it. She’s happy to fit the mould – within reason – while promoting a film, but other than that, she’s out.
We see her at the Oscars, the Golden Globes and the Sundance Film Festival; not the Met Gala or the Grammys. And she only attends her own movie premieres or that of her husband Justin Theroux.
She doesn’t seek out fame in the way other actors do – there’s no calculated romances in time for awards season, no staged paparazzi photos and she doesn’t frequent restaurants where she knows she’ll be photographed. She doesn’t even have a Facebook account.
She’s one of the most bankable actresses in Hollywood and you’d be hard pressed to name 10 personal things she’s ever really shared in two decades worth of interviews.
Since the day she split with ex-husband in Brad Pitt in 2005, she immediately became Hollywood’s ultimate “victim”, a woman whose personal life the tabloid media could manipulate for years to come.
At the time, many blamed the end of their marriage on the fact that she didn’t want children. And he, as a red-blooded male – well, what else did you expect him to do? Stay? Sure, she threw him into Angelina Jolie’s arms.
This is despite the fact that neither party ever publicly discussed their family plans, with Jennifer only selectively saying she was “doing her best” to make it happen and Brad expressing his joy at having six children with his wife Jolie.
Aniston is not only representative of the way women of a “certain age” are treated for breaking the mould, she is their unequivocal leader.
Cameron Diaz, who had the audacity to marry Benji Madden at the age of 42, publicly declared her desire not to have children, telling Esquire: “I like protecting people, but I was never drawn to being a mother.”
In 2009, she was asked how she, an award-winning actress, could possibly comprehend the depths of motherhood in My Sister’s Keeper because she doesn’t have children in real life. Her response?
“It’s the same thing as playing a pickpocket in ‘Gangs Of New York’. I didn’t really have the urge to go out and pick people’s pockets.”
Similarly, Kylie Minogue, who is recently engaged at 46, said children “might not be written on the pages for me.” That doesn’t mean people won’t stop asking the cancer survivor about it.
But neither of these successful, talented and internationally famous women have been subjected to the same scrutiny as Aniston. Every week, she appears on a new tabloid cover with a new “marriage breakdown”, a new “baby bump” or “reveals her adoption plans” story to lure in readers who have been cheering on her happiness since that messy split with Pitt all those years ago.
The thing is – it’s their idea of happiness. Not hers. In her op-ed, she says: “We are complete with or without a mate, with or without a child. We get to decide for ourselves what is beautiful when it comes to our bodies.”
A point which many - mostly male - commentators seem to have missed.
In his newspaper column today, which was published on this website, Today FM broadcaster Anton Savage declares that Jennifer Aniston surely can’t complain about body-shaming if she’s the spokesperson for a body moisturiser Aveeno.
Personally, I’ve never found my skincare regime and bodily autonomy mutually exclusive.
Endorsement deals are par for the course for A-list celebrities. It’s an easy way to make millions and she's only ever been part of a handful of campaigns for products like Smart Water and the aforementioned Aveeno, which all cater to her cool-girl California image.
Just because she likes yoga doesn’t mean her personal opinion no longer holds weight.
It might be a case that men really are from Mars and women really are from Venus, but what does it say about us if, in 2016, we can’t even find some middle ground on Earth?