The picture is a happy one—deliriously, flamboyantly happy. Her eyes are squinting, and her mouth’s in the shape of a big, goofy grin, as if she were on Space Mountain at Disney World. “Brangelina: 2004–2016” was printed on the top left corner in small font, and Aniston’s face explained the rest. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s marriage was dead, the Post said, and Jennifer Aniston was dancing on its grave.
This, in a nutshell, perfectly encapsulates the public’s relationship with Aniston for the past 14 years. Her happiness, in their eyes, has been determined solely on her love life—specifically in comparison with Jolie and Pitt’s marriage. By now their love triangle is ancient history: Aniston and Pitt were married from 2000 to 2005, and they divorced shortly after he met Jolie on the set of Mr. & Mrs. Smith. There were allegations of infidelity on Pitt’s end that were never confirmed, but the media had already painted its narrative: Pitt and Jolie are happy, and Aniston’s sad.
Sad and single. That last word is key, because apparently Aniston can’t be fulfilled if she’s single—even though she has millions of dollars, a great career, and good health. Nope, that’s all null and void as long as Brangelina’s in tact and Aniston has no man. The tides turned for Aniston in September 2016, though, when she was blissfully married to hunky Leftovers actor Justin Theroux and Jolie and Pitt were divorcing. The exact events needed for the public to view Aniston as “happy” were unfolding. Twitter was thrilled.
Until news broke yesterday that Aniston and Theroux are divorcing after two years of marriage, that is. Now we’re back to the same old story. Aniston’s “alone” and getting divorced again, and people just want her to be “happy.” The implication here is clear: that happiness is synonymous with “having a man.”
Below, just a few people concerned for Jen’s “wellbeing.”
The plot thickens, though, because Aniston’s not just “sad and alone” like she was in 2006; she’s single at a time when Pitt is also single, so you can probably guess where the Internet’s at right now. Finally! Jennifer Aniston can snag the lifelong happiness she’s always deserved by getting back together with her soulmate, Brad Pitt! They were meant to be! It’s fate! This will be the thing that gives her everlasting bliss. Here are just a few (of many) people on this train:
This is bullshit, of course. Twitter’s shipping of Aniston and Pitt right now is beyond problematic because it suggests, yet again, that Aniston is incapable of being happy on her own—that Brad Effing Pitt has been the key this entire time, and now she can finally have him. It’s insulting.
Aniston is one of the most accomplished and in-demand actresses in Hollywood, with a reported net worth of $220 million, a slew of friends, and endorsement deals galore. Are people saying none of this matters if Aniston isn’t with Pitt—or married in general? It’s beyond frustrating our culture at large still has trouble seeing single women as content—that professional accomplishments play second-fiddle to the white-picket fence ideal, even in 2018. Aniston’s said, on multiple occasions, that she’s fulfilled with her life, and yet here she is: fighting the spinster persona tabloids gave her at 36 years old. She’s now 49. It’s been nearly 15 years.
This might be a radical thought to some, but what if Aniston’s divorce from Theroux is actually a good thing? Perhaps she realized she didn’t want to be with him anymore and made an empowered, autonomous decision to move on? Why is the mainstream image of a divorced woman still a broken one? It’s entirely possible (and probable) Aniston is stronger now than she’s ever been before.
Brad Pitt isn’t “the one who got away.” He’s someone Aniston was married to for five years and divorced, just like she’s divorcing Justin Theroux right now. People split. It happens. Life goes on, and Aniston will certainly move on from this—and it’s time we do too.