Aren’t We All Jennifer Aniston?

If I were in a stressful laboratory situation — part of some study with a circular web of EEGs attached to my head — and scientists made me look at photos of Jennifer Aniston, I feel my heart rate would slow to a relaxed pace. The electrical activity along my scalp would tranquilize with the comfort of Jennifer Aniston’s taut smile and swimming pool colored eyes. We’ve known Jennifer Aniston’s face for a long time now; can conjure it as quickly as a childhood phone number, as our own belly-buttons.

Jennifer Aniston is a brand sold to us in a way that is vague enough for mass-consumption. She is a perpetual Woman in Her Thirties. She is the idea of doing yoga in your living room (sans DVD). She is that thing of drinking six to eight glasses of water a day. Or she is a symbol of a woman broken-hearted; “Jen: I can’t stop loving Brad.” Jennifer Aniston is flattened so that we can project people we know or believe that we are onto her; because as humans we can never see the thing we are looking at but only how it reflects ourselves back.

Jennifer Aniston is Every Woman. I look at Jennifer Aniston and because I know as much as anyone else I make up my own narrative: What would I do as Jennifer Aniston? Jennifer Aniston is a star (Just Like Us!) but how is she like me?

Jennifer Aniston is a doll with an airbrushed-on face and I will play with her.

***

JENNIFER ANISTON FAN FICTION | SCENE 1 

Jennifer Aniston is probably on a perfectly nice dinner date tonight; crosswise from her fiance, Justin Theroux amid an ambiance of soft lighting and the tinkle of cutlery. Jennifer sits — her bronzed shoulders glowing — in a consciously secluded area, shrouded with palm leaves. 

The recently engaged couple spent all day in bed on their laptops side by side, and now at dinner Jennifer isn’t sure what to talk about. When the waiter refills Jennifer’s wine glass, she realizes that she has drunk about a quarter more of the malbec than Justin has. Her mouth feels warm and in a moment of defiance, she suddenly decides not to care. “Yolo,” thinks Jennifer Aniston; a thought she finds funny. 

Lately when she and Justin are apart, Jennifer has found herself fantasizing about what she would do if he died. She pictures herself on the cover of the tabloids in sunglasses: Jen in shock. Jen Grieves for Fiance.

Maybe Chelsea would come live with her for a while. Maybe she would start working out more, do pilates five hours a day like Gwyneth. 

*** 

The Jennifer Aniston of tabloids — “Obsessed with Angie!” “Jen Gets Revenge” — is the most difficult version of Jennifer Aniston to square with reality; in any story, you have to trust the writer in order for the character to become real.

In celebrity gossip culture female stars are given dramatic narratives around their weight, love-lives, drug-use. We police female stars the way we police ourselves and we attack celebrities with a cruelty usually reserved for inner monologues. This is the way this system works: The fears, the ‘flaws’ of the masses are exploited in capitalistic exchange. Celebrities are built on our envy. They represent you, but a better version. One you can fantasize about being but never truly live up to.

We judge female celebrities through an imagined male viewer; weight, clothing and behavior evaluated through a patriarchal lens of social sanction. This is easy to do because, as women, we are used to doing it for ourselves. We are always aware of our own image: A ghost-like figment of how we might look [to a male eye] in any moment. How do I look while taking out the trash? While slumped in a chair at work? While crying during this movie? We watch a celebrity like Jennifer Aniston with the awareness of ourselves being watched. 

***

JENNIFER ANISTON FAN FICTION | SCENE 2

Jennifer rests her face in her hands; she watches through fingers horizontally as the waiter sets a tray of wobbling oysters on the table. “Sorry, it’s just my mood,” she says to Justin. “I’ve been feeling like people are no different than cats. There is no free-will. We are all robots. Etcetera.”

Jennifer’s eyes are closed and she envisions a choppy sea; black waves that are wrinkled and aggressive. Jennifer knows that right now, she is in the dark part of her spiral but that next there will be an ‘up phase,’ a slutty-nuts-phase, which she imagines as driven by the moon.

Justin is talking to the top of Jennifer’s head. “It’s true, Jen. Everything that humans do is all predetermined…” Jennifer is still thinking about the darkness when she realizes he is talking; saying things like ‘eons of evolution’ and how his preferences are shaped because of ‘ancient man.’

When they were first dating, Jennifer might asked: “Is that why you can’t figure out how to use an i-Phone?” Or maybe she’d gather up her silverware with her thumbs and scream: “Oh my God, what are these???”  then let them clatter to the floor. A joke. But now she feels tired; aching from the core.

“See I, as well, as any man is attracted to you, would love you, Jen… because your face is as symmetrical as a cut gem. And your pheromones…”

“There is no such thing as pheromones, Justin.” Jennifer snaps.

“What you are saying, is that you wouldn’t love me if I were fat. And that’s because you’ve been taught that my value is — in a large part — my looks” Jennifer says. “You are brainwashed by culture, Justin. And you don’t even realize it.”

“But what’s the difference in between being brainwashed by culture or brainwashed by biology? The end result is the same, isn’t it?” Justin asks. 

Jennifer suddenly becomes aware of the feeling of her her toes compressed and touching inside of her shoes. It was during the last slutty-nuts-phase that she hooked up with two different crew hands on set; something she thinks of now but won’t tell Justin. 

*** 

In general, “selling out” is shedding nuance; that’s the price for fame/money. But male celebrities seem to have more opportunity to present themselves in multiple facets. We are aware of James Franco’s even mildest interests and it isn’t hard to imagine Russell Brand publically spewing something about culture and biology. Even Justin Theroux recently penned a “humour op-ed” for GQ. Meanwhile A-list female stars must be Role Models; adhering to a watered down set of mainstream liberal ethics so as not to offend. (Like good girls.) 

In part, there is a feminist thirst for Role Models because we want to see ourselves making it. As women we want to see ourselves represented. But we then ask that our female celebrities speak for all of us and here they lose autonomy. They become Jennifer Aniston, who is the spokesperson for a brand of bottled water. To be a Role Model, too often, is to be unallowed to fuck up, especially if you have contracts with Neutrogena and L’oreal. 

Did you know that until recently Jennifer Aniston IRL was a smoker? Would you be surprised if her SmartWater contract specified that she couldn’t be photographed with a pack of Marlboro Lights? She could probably have made a deal like that with gossip rags. A friend who used to work at one always reminds me that these celebrities want to be in the magazines. It’s all controlled by agents or money. But it doesn’t mean necessarily mean the celebrities control the narratives.

***

JENNIFER ANISTON FAN FICTION | SCENE 3 

The wine — which has left a plum spot on her bottom lip — tastes so good that it makes Jennifer’s muscles loosen. She is talking about her relationship with Justin; she is talking about monogamy and how it is the cruelest of jokes. “I mean really. Of course this is the inclination. Of course this is what you want to do!” She gestures between the two of them with her glass and her eyes begin to water.

Jennifer Aniston knows that if her fiance did die, plastered all over the tabloids would actually be: JEN SAD AND ALONE FOREVER. The same story she has been trapped by; the one she is trying to escape. 

***

Jennifer Aniston is a brand and now you can be too. Who are you online? What are you selling? While the Internet brings more possibility to be sprawling as a personality — to be honest, to embody all aspects of yourself — the Internet has also become a fame machine. You can make Time Magazine’s 140 Great Twitter lists but you need to fit into a category: Fashion! Humour! Sports! You are a multi faceted person but to become a brand within capitalism means defining yourself as narrowly as possible. 

With the Internet fame machine, we all have a shot at celebrity. It isn’t the same sort of massive  A-list fame that Jennifer Aniston experiences but it is a small percentage of it. A piece of the same fame. But to actually be Jennifer Aniston must feel like a million flashbulbs going off at once; all of the cameras, each one stealing a piece of your soul. 

Is Jennifer Aniston an atheist, do you think? Does she want to believe in reincarnation? Is she more of a pot smoker or a drinker? Does Jennifer Aniston trip on mushrooms and think to herself, “I am Jennifer Aniston,” while sitting on a yoga mat, nude.

“What does this mean?” does Jennifer Aniston wonder, “What does it mean to be Jennifer Aniston?” 

***

JENNIFER ANISTON FAN FICTION RESOLUTION

Jennifer dabs her eyes with a napkin as the waiter places a plate of grilled octopus in front of her; the tears projecting rainbows in her lashes. Circular rainbows onto octopus tentacles. Jennifer Aniston, the perpetual woman in her thirties, knows how to cry on a dinner date. And later, she knows how to pick up the check while Justin is in the bathroom.

Jennifer Aniston exhales slowly and feels calm. She is staring at the wall, her mind emptying, but then from the side of her eye, she catches the flash of an i-Phone. Someone at a nearby table is looking at her. Jennifer pulls her phone from her clutch. “Hey,” she texts and lays the phone on the table. A moment later it buzzes: “Hey” Jennifer’s own phone number says back. “Miss you” Jennifer texts herself. She puts the phone down and Justin returns from the rest room, smiling. When Jennifer’s phone buzzes, she momentarily forgets it was her, texting herself. Jennifer checks the message: “Miss you,” she says. TC mark

image – s_bukley / Shutterstock

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