Comment: Jennifer Aniston's a hypocrite and so are you
Published 16/07/2016 | 02:30
Picture the scene: Jennifer Aniston is on a cover shoot for a glossy magazine.
Under the glaring lights of the photographer's studio, a team of assistants runs around, ensuring her make-up is flawless, not a strand of her famous honey-hued hair is out of place, and her dress - haute couture, with a price-tag that would bankrupt a small African nation - sits just so, flattering every soft curve of her yoga-toned physique.
She's smiling that familiar, starry, all-American smile - but it's all a charade. Inside, Jennifer is slowly dying. She's doing this photoshoot entirely against her will, because actually, she's opposed to the objectification of female celebrities and is really sad about the way society idolises women who are thin and pretty, like she is.
She feels really guilty about her expensive dress, because there are children starving in Africa and even in America there are some poor people for whom it represents a year's salary, but if she didn't wear what the stylists wanted, then there would have been a row and she's far too nice for rows.
As for the accompanying interview where she talks about her workout secrets, her yoga routine, her skincare regime, her love for her husband, her enduring friendship with Courtney Cox and her feelings about motherhood? Well, honestly, she'd rather have been talking about the rise of Donald Trump, the impact of Brexit on the global economy, or the widening gap between rich and poor in America, but the pesky journalist kept asking her about the other stuff, so the conversation just veered off course.
And the millions of dollars she earns for the L'Oreal and Aveeno Skincare ads which also feature in the mag? Well, Hollywood mansions don't run on fresh air, and someone has to pay the staff who keep the Aniston show on the road. What's a girl to do, only play the game?
And playing the game is exactly what Aniston has done, to near-perfection, over the two decades she's been famous. So why did everyone pronounce themselves so impressed this week when she wrote a 'Huffington Post' blogpost lamenting the objectification of women and the media's obsession with celebrity culture? Few people have benefited from that circus more than she has.
If Aniston had confined her ire to the paparazzi whose long-lens shots sparked the latest round of pregnancy speculation, she would have been on very safe ground. Hounding stars in such a way is wrong, and those images should never have been taken. But her ascent to the moral high ground in a far-reaching debate about celebrity culture and the portrayal of women - where she clearly feels she's a victim ('The way I have been portrayed ....") - is laughable.
Over 20 years, Aniston has appeared on the cover of 'InStyle', 'Glamour', 'Cosmopolitan', 'Marie Claire', 'Vanity Fair', 'Rolling Stone' (naked), 'Elle', 'Harpers Bazaar' and 'Vogue', peddling images of perfection that women around the world duly aspired to.
Now that she's found herself in middle-age and losing a little of the allure that she has packaged so perfectly for decades, she's cynically trying to pass herself off as a passive, unhappy victim of an image-obsessed culture.
What breathtaking hypocrisy. As someone blessed with abundant talent, beauty and riches, Aniston is a very powerful woman indeed. She could have chosen to play the celebrity game any way she wanted; she could have gone the Adele route, and only given interviews focused on her actual work. She could have taken a leaf out of Zooey Deschanel's book and politely declined to answer questions about her private life on the basis that men don't get asked the same stuff. But instead she laid it all out there from the very start, most noticeably in the area she complains about most bitterly today: her fertility.
Do a quick Google and count for yourself the number of quotes which Aniston has given on the topic of having kids. There are a lot.
Here's just one example, from the 'Friends' era, when she was asked about body image: "Women are obsessed about their hips; mine are really wide, as if they were made for having children. The day I become pregnant the baby will have all the room it wants."
She was asked about her body, and she replied by talking about pregnancy, like the boring girl at the party who can't focus on anything but her ovaries.
But her comments underline the fact that marriage, motherhood and weight are not some sordid little tabloid obsession.
They're not the only topics women care about, but they form part of the way we talk about our daily lives. If Jennifer so willingly raised the topic herself, doesn't she at least have some responsibility for the decades of 'Wombwatch' that followed?
She claims that women are judged for being childless, but I think she's wrong: childlessness is just not that interesting any more. It's one of the biggest sociological trends sweeping the western world, and we're surrounded with examples of high-profile, fabulous women living happy, fulfilled child-free lives. Most women couldn't give a toss whether other women have kids or not. What they do care about is their own decisions: whether or not to procreate is a big question in a woman's life. Could it be that Jennifer's own obsession with the issue is what's really eating her?
As for the people who've enthusiastically applauded Aniston and declared themselves similarly fed up of celebrity nonsense, they need to have a little think. Have they ever clicked on a tabloid article about a celebrity's waistline? Have they ever whiled away an idle lunch hour browsing the Sidebar of Shame? Have they ever bought or even read a gossip magazine? If they can honestly answer 'Not Once!' then I applaud their excellent moral and literary choices. But if they can't, they need to ask themselves what part they personally played in the Persecution of Jen, because it's quite a large one.
I wouldn't personally be advocating that anyone climb through the undergrowth to get a grainy shot of an actress in her bikini, but I accept that as an occasional reader of 'Heat' and its ilk, I've got newsprint on my hands. Without a market for that kind of journalism, it wouldn't exist.
If Jen is serious about what she says, she can only go one route: she'll steadfastly refuse any glossy magazine covershoots. She'll drop her lucrative beauty contracts in protest at the unreasonable expectations they create for women. When any journalist asks about her private life, she'll politely tell them to get stuffed. She'd probably find that the media soon loses interest in her. But is that what she really wants?