In today's Guardian, Hadley Freeman asks why Cameron Diaz and Jennifer Aniston — both unmarried, famous, and over 35 — get such different treatment in the press.
Freeman ticks off the men with whom Diaz has recently been linked (Jason Lewis,Jude Law, Leonardo DiCaprio, and now Keanu Reeves) and then writes,
Diaz gets portrayed as an enviable lady with a phenomenal sex life. Yet Jennifer Aniston, who is of a similar age (40 to Diaz's 36) and has even dated many of the same men, prompts international media condescension. Why the unfair discrepancy?
Freeman has several hypotheses, ranging from the plausible to the distasteful. She argues that Diaz has studiously avoided commenting on her breakup with Justin Timberlake — which, while true, doesn't fully explain the difference. Another theory is downright rude:
Both women are beautiful but Aniston clearly works, like most would have to, quite hard at this, as a comparison between early Friends episodes and recent GQ shoots proves. Diaz always came across as a naturally gorgeous tomboy who just surfs to work off her chips. This adds to the impression that Diaz would be a lot of fun to hang out with, particularly as she was a slapstick girl from the start, gaily making fun of herself in The Mask and smoothing spunk in her hair in There's Something About Mary.
To be fair, Freeman seems to be describing rather than endorsing this ethos, but it's still pretty sad to hear her pronounce Cameron Diaz lovable because she's naturally thin. The idea that women are supposed to be super-skinny but also "fun" ( i.e., eating junk food, not spending too much time in the gym) is one of the most annoying and limiting aspects of modern sizeism, and it's not particularly woman-friendly to categorize actresses in terms of how much it seems like they work out. But Freeman does offer one very likely explanation for the Diaz/Aniston dichotomy:
No matter how many teeth-whitened smiles Aniston makes to the camera, she will always be the woman who was left by Brad Pitt for the sexiest woman on the planet. The tabloid world has set this image in lucrative stone.
Basically, tabloids have a narrative for Jennifer Aniston, and that narrative is based on a relationship that ended over four years ago. It's a sexist narrative, and it's also become pretty repetitive and boring. But apparently it still sells magazines, or Jennifer Aniston wouldn't be on the cover of everything from Us Weekly to Vogue next to inconsequential quotes about Angelina Jolie. Cameron Diaz doesn't have a comparable story, perhaps partly because she's more tightlipped, but also because she can't be shoehorned into a triangle of really huge stars. The fact that Diaz gets to tell Vogue how eco-friendly she is, while Aniston will be answering questions about Angelina Jolie until the end of time, has to do less with how naturally thin we like our women, and more with a system that tries to fashion celebrity lives into an ongoing soap opera even when they're not onscreen.
Of course, Aniston's handlers know this, and exploit it by putting her on magazine covers from GQ to Vogue to Elle. Her publicists, agent, and Hollywood what-have-yous may not be outright telling her to keep talking about Brangelina — and she doesn't really explicitly mention them all that often. Still, if she'd never talked about her personal life, she might not be as famous as she is today. And those of us who are fucking sick of hearing how not-lonely she is would be a whole lot happier.