The XX Factor

How Jennifer Aniston Is Like Elena Kagan

Lauren, you made an astute point last week about how Sandra Bullock had replaced Jennifer Aniston as the tabloids’ favorite sadsack . But Bullock’s reign as America’s loser in love is already over , after a mere seven days. The cover of Us blares in bright yellow: “Sandra’s New Life As a Mom.” Bullock has already put her husband’s egregious infidelities behind her, Us tells the reader-she’s jumping into raising adopted son Louis “with a passion” and “despite the unraveling of her marriage, motherhood has made her a stronger person.”

Contrast that with the article about Jennifer Aniston, which begins a mere four pages after the Bullock piece ends. The title seems inoffensive-“How Jen Stays So Young”-but then it launches into a passive-aggressive tirade about how she’s pathetically clinging to her fit body in a losing battle against aging. “She thought she looked rough-especially in the daylight scenes,” a helpful source reveals in the opening paragraph about Jen’s upcoming movie The Switch . After that, Us goes full underminer: “Snipes the source ’[Aniston’s] starting to show her age.’ For the already insecure star-who hasn’t had a hit film since playing a mom of three in 2008’s Marley & Me -that may be the harshest insult.”

The obvious difference between Sandra and Jen is that Sandra now has a child. The tabloids can put her in the “happy mommy box.” With Jen, they must continue to denigrate her because she remains single and childless-in other words, she refuses to give the tabloids the happy ending of marriage or motherhood that they desire. Oddly, it reminds me of Dahlia’s smart piece about Elena Kagan , in which she discusses how Supreme Court nominees’ singledom is always scrutinized. She calls Kagan “Choose-Your-Own-Anxiety Barbie,” and the tabloid treatment of Jen reflects the cultural anxiety women have about getting married and having children before it’s too late. Whether Jennifer Aniston actually has these anxieties herself is entirely unclear.