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I Hate That I Care About Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt

Kevin Fallon

This is a preview of our pop culture newsletter The Daily Beast’s Obsessed, written by senior entertainment reporter Kevin Fallon. To receive the full newsletter in your inbox each week, sign up for it here.

Brad and Jen and Kevin

I ran into an ex on the street a few months ago. I was on the way to work. He was going to the doctor. We hugged. We said four or five sentences to each other. Then we were whisked apart by the steady flow of Manhattan foot traffic before small talk ran out, interactions got too awkward, and things could morph beyond anything but “that was pleasant, I’m glad he’s well,” which it was and I am. No one wrote any think pieces about it. 

Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt saw each other this week. Both attended the SAG Awards, and both won in their respective categories: Aniston, Best Actress in a Drama Series for her sensational work in The Morning Show; Pitt, Best Supporting Actor in a Film for inhabiting the platonic ideal of celluloid cool in a Quentin Tarantino movie

They saw each other backstage, where the exes, whose marriage and divorce have been the dominant celebrity tabloid narrative for over two decades now, were photographed having a warm run-in together.

Two grown adults had a civil interaction in public. The world had a manic fit of euphoria. 

I so desperately want to be smug, talking down from my holier-than-thou perch about how obscene it is to be invested in a celebrity relationship and how juvenile it is to cheer and swoon because two famous people smiling at each other at an awards show makes you believe in love again. AND YET!!! I do care and I hate myself for it.

As much as I hate to ascribe any kind of rooted cultural narrative to things that should only exist in stratospheres of lunacy, Aniston and Pitt’s respective SAG wins and their earnestly touched reactions to being celebrated by their peers do say something meaningful about resilience. I want you to know that I cringed at myself as I typed that entire sentence. 

The irony in everyone’s gaga reactions to these photos is that that resilience comes despite us—the carnivorous, crass, boundaryless, empathy-free, shameless culture-vulture monsters that made their lives a living hell, or at least as hellish as the lives of the very rich and very attractive can be. 

That Brad and Jen won these major awards on the same night is significant, proof that two people whose lives, identities, privacy, and reputations were stuffed through the wood chipper—by us, the gossip mobsters—can somehow put the pieces back together themselves, better than ever. 

People think that because I cover entertainment I have extra insight into the personal dramas and traumas of the Us Weekly glitterati. (I do not.) I realized this once when I was asked to appear on an entertainment TV program to talk about Jennifer Lopez’s stalker. I assumed I would be talking about the concerning phenomenon of celebrity fandom, which I am fairly knowledgeable about. 

Instead, I was asked how Jennifer was feeling at this moment, as if we were personal friends who had been in constant contact throughout the ordeal. (I am not personal friends with Jennifer Lopez.) Nonetheless, I was asked to say, with flair and scaremongering intensity that escalated each time I was made to do it again: “JENNIFER LOPEZ IS TERRIFIED!!!!!!!!!” Was she? We’ll never know.

But we like to think that we know what’s going on, what they’re feeling. We want to be able to project onto that Jen and Brad photo whatever narrative makes us happy, absolves us of guilt, makes us believe in love again—or at least believe in the next best thing: amicable divorce. 

I have so little interest in my very dearest friends talking to me about their exes. Like, none. I forgot the guy’s name three days after I knew I would no longer have to ask him polite questions about his consulting job and so I certainly don’t want to hear more about… I want to say Greg?... now that you’re no longer together. 

I do not know Brad and Jen! Simple logic should state that I do not care about their interactions either. Yet I can’t help it.

The Brad and Jen story, as my hilarious coworker Alaina Demopoulos wrote this week, was formative, even defining, over these last 20-something years. It spoke to gender norms, institutionalized misogyny, fantasy escapism, the industry of celebrity, and so much more. “I was 11 years old when Jen taught me everything I’d ever need to know about how to deal with disappointing men,” Alaina wrote. 

I think maybe at the end of the day, how I feel about the Jen-and-Brad photo is that it is... nice. A nice photo. They seem like nice people. That interaction seemed nice. I feel nice about it. Lord knows that today we all could use something nice.

This is a preview of our pop culture newsletter The Daily Beast’s Obsessed, written by senior entertainment reporter Kevin Fallon. To receive the full newsletter in your inbox each week, sign up for it here.

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