Former Hollywood golden couple Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt were the talk of the SAG Awards – though not because they both picked up a statuette on the night. The photos, now gone viral, of the couple visibly relaxed, with Pitt clinging to his ex-wife's hand as she walked away, finally, though unintended, saw the Friends alum receive a different narrative from much of the tabloids
What is it about handsome leading men in Hollywood? One cheeky acceptance speech and a few awards later and all apparent transgressions are forgiven and forgotten.
The man, in this case, is of course Brad Pitt. No one is saying he's not easy on the eyes (he still is). And no one is saying he doesn't deserve the awards for his performance in Tarantino's Once Upon A Time In Hollywood (he's fantastic in the film), but why does he still get the 'supportive ex' and 'wounded Hollywood star' labels while his former wife has been shamed by the tabloids for decades over her breakups and decision not to have children?
Pitt is now a 'still-hot bachelor' – not bad for the divorced, father-of-seven who had an affair on Aniston. Pitt never got the sad, single-guy story. He hardly even got scorned with the cheater narrative. He still doesn't.
In the morning-after SAG Awards coverage, Jolie was hardly mentioned, in fact. Which is odd, because that same line – with the gender-reversed – followed Aniston so much that it almost overshadowed her career.
After decades in the public eye, Jennifer Aniston is still an enigma to the media at large. Why hasn't she settled down? Why hasn't she had children? How can she be this successful and still single? yell the tabloid headlines. At 50, the actress, currently starring in the brilliant The Morning Show, is still the subject of public obsession that only seems to get more intense as the years go on. So, why has the (generally unflattering) commentary on her personal life never abated?
An uneven narrative
"Maybe it has everything to do with what they’re [critics] lacking in their own life,” she said in an interview last year.
‘Why do we want a happy ending? How about just a happy existence? A happy process? We’re all in process constantly. What quantifies happiness in someone’s life isn’t the ideal that was created in the ’50s. It’s not like you hear that narrative about any men. That’s part of sexism — it’s always the woman who’s scorned and heartbroken and a spinster. It’s never the opposite’
It's long been known as the 'Poor Jen' narrative; she was the jilted wife that "never recovered" from Pitt's slimy, distasteful betrayal to Jolie, the "childless" woman that has never quite made it in terms of having a family or a second marriage that didn't work out.
A picture is frequently painted of a woman that we should feel eternally sorry for, yet she says frequently she's one who never chased the 'having it all' dream. By keeping the "Poor Jen" narrative going, the suggestion is that she has failed deeply in some way.
Even Aniston was forced to directly address this in an eloquent op-ed for the Huffington Post.
"The sheer amount of resources being spent right now by press trying to simply uncover whether or not I am pregnant points to the perpetuation of this notion that women are somehow incomplete, unsuccessful, or unhappy if they’re not married with children,” she wrote at the time.
— SAG Awards® (@SAGawards) January 20, 2020
Which is why the SAG Awards photos proved so intriguing. The pair of them look genuinely thrilled to see each other. No bad blood there, in fact, both haven't directly said one unkind word over the other. And look at it in the context of other photos taken that evening – one shows Pitt, alone and rapt, watching Aniston’s acceptance speech on a backstage monitor, while another captures him holding on to Aniston’s hand as she walks away.
— Pop Crave (@PopCraveMusic) January 20, 2020
The photos could have been staged (doubtful) but even then, the point is this: do they paint a portrait of a lonely woman scorned and still yearning for her former husband? Hardly.
The second photo in which she walks away says it all, even if it was just a split-second captured on camera: she couldn't give a toss. The shoe, it appears, is well on the other foot.
‘And all this is before we get into the one-sided coverage which pointed out Brad's win, speech and once-again thriving career, alongside Jennifer's "first win in 24 years," "beaming" photos with her ex and "slightly too-sheer" gown. She also won an award, made a great speech and has a thriving career, in case anyone failed to notice’
Finally, over a decade later, we have fresh photographic examples that the tabloids' latched onto a stereotyped, sexist narrative of a famous woman in the public eye supposedly ruined over a public affair years before – and didn't want to see anything else. The one that, usually, without fail said because she is unattached and without a child, she must be miserable.
Jennifer Aniston is happy, thriving and, judging from the photos, floats away from Pitt, too (we know she can do better, tbh).
And 'America's Suffering Sweetheart' (a gross disservice of a title she was once given), she can never be called again.
Related: These are the best dressed stars from the 2020 SAG Awards