Wednesday night on Jimmy Kimmel LIVE!, Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, and Lisa Kudrow gathered for a surprise Friends reunion on a mock of the old set of the beloved NBC series, 10 years after the series ended. On Thursday morning, media gathered on Twitter and learned that Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt got married, nine years after Aniston and Pitt famously parted ways and Pitt and Jolie famously began their relationship. So, really, the response was inevitable: The most famous couple in the world once again upstaged poor Jen. Still, even if the cast of one of TV's longest-running sitcoms hadn't come together for a nostalgic meet-and-greet, the reaction would have been the same. After all, erroneous reports ran just 24 hours ago that Aniston and Jolie had fought over Pitt at George Clooney's wedding. Because even though Aniston — a respected talent whose hard work has earned her the spot of Hollywood's third-highest-paid actress — has taken strides to establish herself not as a love-spurned woman in need of a man, but a successful woman seeking professional and personal satisfaction; to media and gossip mongers, Aniston will always be: Poor Jen.
Just look at some of the tweets that poured in after news broke that Jolie and Pitt had wed in Chateau Miraval, France:
In some ways, we can't blame the public response. The media turned Aniston and Pitt's divorce into such a scandal that the Friends actress is inexorably linked to Brangelina for life. As Grantland's Molly Lambert wrote back in 2011 (yes, six years after her divorce and her status as a nonmarried woman was still a headline):
Aniston has millions of dollars, a hugely successful acting career, and great comedic timing. But she is also Jennifer Aniston, the losing point in the world’s most famous love triangle, and therefore subject to constant public humiliation about her dating prospects.
Even when Aniston announced her engagement to boyfriend Justin Theroux — the one thing you'd think would cause media to step back and reevaluate its approach to the actress' personal life — the headlines persisted: Would Aniston beat Pitt and Jolie to the altar? And now that she hasn't, there's little doubt that the mockery will continue to turn, as Lambert puts it, Aniston into "a punching bag...for cuckolded divorcées, for anyone who’s ever had the rug pulled out from under them and then been told they should never have bought that rug to begin with because they can’t afford it." Even if Aniston doesn't care that her ex-husband got married over the weekend, tabloids will make sure that we think she does.
Does this look like the face of a woman who is still thinking about her ex? I think not.
It's even harder to swallow now, considering Aniston had appeared to make progress with the media over the last few months. Speaking with Carson Daly on The Today Show Wednesday, Aniston rightfully made headlines for her views on motherhood, or, more accurately, her views on why people couldn't stop asking her why she hadn't entered motherhood:
I don’t have this sort of checklist of things that have to be done, and if they’re not checked, then I’ve failed some part of my feminism or my value as a woman because I haven’t birthed a child. I’ve birthed a lot of things and feel like I’ve mothered many things, and I don’t think it’s fair to put that pressure on people.
And back in February, the actress sat down with famed feminist Gloria Steinem and hit the "Poor Jen" problem head on:
The public has a great interest in our personal lives. I know you’ve come up against this, and I certainly have too — where being a woman and our value and our worth is basically associated with our marital status or whether or not we have procreated.
Steinem's response to Aniston's statement? "Well, I guess we’re in deep shit."
And, sadly, nothing proves that more than the response to the Jolie-Pitt's marriage.
So let's be real. Instead of bringing Aniston into the picture, just let her be and remember the following: Jennifer Aniston is the third-highest-paid actress in Hollywood. Jennifer Aniston is in a healthy and happy relationship with a man who is the star of a successful television show. Jennifer Aniston has spent the week being heralded for her refreshingly feminist perspective, something that's sorely lacking in Hollywood right now. And even if you're talking about it for the wrong reasons today, you're still talking about that Friends reunion.
Poor Jen, my ass.