Jennifer Aniston turns 50 this week, an occasion which sparked roughly 9,423 articles asking why we still insist on calling the multimillionaire actress ‘poor Jen’. Except we don’t. Not in real life, anyway, although I grant you magazine editors have had a long and fruitful career picking over her various misfortunes.
They reported her marriage had broken up (it had) and her ex was now with someone else (he was), and she was heartbroken (she admitted this).
And, yes, after she met husband number two, there were many ludicrous years of bumpwatch: was Jen pregnant, or wasn’t she (as far as we know, she wasn’t).
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But the poor Jen myth assumes that women read these stories, and having read them, then began to pity Aniston.
It presupposes there are still many women out there who honestly believe that having a successful marriage (whatever that is) and having children is the only way of really winning at life.
Who are these women? I have never met any of them. The notion that mums with kids sit around and gloat like a four-year-old who’s won the egg-and-spoon race is laughable.
Smug marrieds may have been an unavoidable fact of life for Bridget Jones, but that’s more than 20 years ago. The world has changed a lot since then.
We don’t pity Jen. Far from it: we love her films, copy her hair, admire her outfits, and envy her easy-going charm – not to mention her bank balance.
For the poor Jen myth to hold any water, we would need to live in a society that still idolised the 1950s-style domestic goddess.
But the opposite is true. Advertising billboards and magazine covers no longer depict smiling housewives in aprons with children and husbands; instead they celebrate thin, beautiful, solitary women.
And frequently they celebrate Aniston herself, in dazzling fashion shoots or in myriad ad campaigns from Smartwater to Aveeno. Far from being a figure of pity, she remains the gorgeous girl-next-door we all aspire to be.
It’s about time we buried the tired old myth of poor Jen – and with it, the myth that married women think they’re perfect.
Author Will lives down to his own Self-image
THE interview started well enough. Novelist Will Self seemed to have the mood music right, telling the London ‘Times’ that men like him – Oxford-educated, white, straight, middle-class, and middle-aged – needed to pipe down a bit in the wake of the MeToo movement.
“Frankly,” he said, “I don’t have a lot of sympathy for white, middle-class men who are unable to question their position in the social sphere.”
Unfortunately, Will went and blew it almost immediately, by piping straight back up to dismiss Booker-prize nominated Sally Rooney’s writing as “simple-minded”.
Which is fair enough, but he was happy to admit that he’d reached this damning conclusion having read just “a few pages” of the Irish author’s book.
“It may say things that millennials want to hear reflected back at them, but it’s very simple stuff with no literary ambition that I can see,” he sniffed, sounding very much like a white, middle-class man who was unable to question his position in the social sphere.
Was Will winding us up? He may well have been – he was doing the interview as part of a campaign to promote Chinese new year fortune macarons at a London restaurant, the scripts of which he had apparently written.
I don’t think the uniquely talented Sally Rooney will be losing much sleep over it either way.
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