I've been hearing a lot of things about Jennifer Aniston recently, which got me thinking. What kind of noise do you make when you hear the name “Jennifer Aniston”?I hear “urrrgh” or “yaaaay!” or “gaaaah” or “squeee!” or “SHHH”. Turns out that for such a supposedly vanilla streak of innocuous American camera-fodder she's quite a controversial figure. (This blog post, by the way, is about her career, not her personal life.)
I've been asking folk what they think of her, and the noises do indeed come before the coherent verbal opinions. Sometimes it's a non-committal “mehh”, usually meaning they remember her from Friends but they don't have any opinion on her, but often it's a far more committed sound, either very negative or very positive. Hollywood certainly thinks we have a great positive reaction to her. Because, as a unit, we kind of do. Innit.
She's nice. Look at her hair and everything. She leapt into the limelight with Friends, where spoilt and selfish Rachel turned into a sympathetic and appealing flag-bearer for young city women. Jennifer Aniston became synonymous with Rachel, and because Friends was such a broad and inoffensive series Jennifer Aniston became a role model for young girls.
I grew up watching Friends, and, like everyone else in the universe, my favourite characters were Chandler and Phoebe. But as an adult I decided that Chandler was self-righteous and Phoebe was just mean, and Ross and Rachel became my favourite characters, because they were the most real to me in an albeit idealised sitcom – and Rachel most of all. And I didn't give credit to the scriptwriters, but to Jennifer Aniston.
You know how people say Jennifer Aniston “just plays Rachel” in every film she's in? Bruce Almighty, Marley & Me, and so on. It's because she very much made the Rachel character her own, independent even of scriptwriters and directors, and that's why I give her credit for the attractive traits of the character. So Rachel married Ross, lived happily ever after... then they went on a break and Rachel went on to become Rom Com queen.
Therefore, you can't really like Rachel and dislike Jennifer Aniston. Unless! You're judging Jennifer Aniston on what you imagine her to be like. We all know that the media reports information (and misinformation) to us in the shape of fully-formed opinions, so our judgements on celebrities have to come from our own personal insights. She seems smug, or plastic, or robotic, or prissy, or punch-drunk...
Or maybe she just seems too... widespread. She's in so many similar films. But at the same time, it was inevitable after Friends that she'd be typecast, so it's an admirable ability to be able to embrace this. She thrives in her typecast form. She does what she says on the tin. And what a good-looking tin. So why so many negative noises directed at her? Over to you...
Eleanor is on the MA Scriptwriting degree at Goldsmith's, specialising in comedy drama. Join her on Facebook here and read her own blog, here.