As word broke that the Tom Cruise-Katie Holmes union had been pronounced dead – another smaller story caught my eye about the last truly seismic split in Hollywood. It seems George Clooney got some ink when TMZ realized he’d shared a private jet with Jennifer Aniston just hours before meeting up with best bud Brad Pitt. The conclusion drawn in most subsequent coverage was that perhaps the formerly married couple have finally buried the hatchet. Of course that could just be baseless speculation on what was probably a mere coincidence.
Then after reading Chloe’s great piece over viewing their epic tale, I began to wonder if any other modern couple’s divorce received as much spotlight as Brad and Jenn? Not Paul McCartney and Linda Mills, not Madonna and Guy Ritchie – or even Nelson and Winnie Mandela. Only time will tell if Tom and Katie’s split will rival Brad and Jennifer for coverage – however there’s a notable difference between the two.
There was something undeniably unique about the pairing of Pitt and Aniston – something almost intangible that people most certainly responded to. Maybe not since Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn has such a likable duo hitched up with the public’s blessing. Everyone, it seemed, was actively rooting for them- even if that support was steeped in a bit of jealously.
Since word broke 7 years ago that the couple was no more – and that clearly Angelina Jolie played some role in that – it was pure soap opera on such a basic story. Boy meets girl, they fall in love – boy meets another girl, breaks first girl’s heart. At first there was extreme hostility aimed squarely at Jolie. People seemed to give Pitt a mulligan for some reason. E!’s Chelsea Handler was extra venomous – calling her – well, let’s just say it starts with a ‘C’ and ends with UNpublishable. Chelsea’s sentiment was widely held, and some speculated it could damage Jolie’s box office appeal. That proved not be an issue.
Former Pitt girlfriend (#37) Gwyneth Paltrow caught a bit of flack for criticizing the pair when she told People Magazine that their problems could have been avoided. “It would be a lot easier (on them) now had they not talked to the press about each other and everything to begin with” She said this, of course, while talking to the press herself. Yet just weeks later in a GQ profile, Jen seemed to agree with Paltrow’s advice, saying “She’s absolutely correct. I feel like there is a graveyard of celebrity couples who now have learned their lesson.”
Most people eventually forgave Angelina. A common sentiment was Who could blame her – it was Brad Pitt. They seemed to forgive him even more quickly, perhaps also because of who fate chose to tempt him with. Let’s be honest, these would be moral high bars for anyone to clear. We may not know for years, if ever, just what the transition was actually like for the three. Pitt and Jolie have moved ahead, and naturally Aniston had no trouble occupying her evenings. She went from John Mayer to The Bounty Hunter co-star Gerard Butler. She and current squeeze Justin Theroux celebrated one year together in May. People Magazine reports that recent headlines about a secret engagement were, in fact, mistaken.
Yet as they move ahead along separate paths, some can’t help looking back and wondering what might have been. That massive coverage only fed into the public’s ongoing separation anxiety over the very idea of a split. We hated to hear that our storybook image was now shattered. It’s doubtful we’ll see this reaction with TomKat. Their coupling was always viewed with widespread skepticism for a number of reasons, some of them quite valid.
Leaving aside issues of Tom’s identity or concerns over Scientology, it was likely the age discrepancy that first soured the union for many. Following a string of PR slips that culminated in gymnastics on Oprah’s furniture – people were already beginning to view the Cruiser as a loose canon. That factor did not exist with Brad and Jenn.
As observers we can get sucked into the hope and prospects of a new relationship, even though we aren’t one of the leads. Same happens with our friends and family. With some couples you might accurately predict a shorter affair, and it’s no big deal. For the ones we hoped would make it, even distant strangers can have a hard time letting go.
Will King is a television and media critic who splits his time as a stand up comic. He collects conspiracy theories and claims to have invented Teflon. In his spare time he follows presidential politics and all traffic signs. He lives in Charlotte, NC.
Selma: Boo Hoo!! Let’s just get over Jenn and Brad already. Brad probably did have an affair with Jolie. Jennifer Aniston should have played how affairs happen and she may have learned a lesson or two. Chelsea Handler is quite the b*tch if you ask me and has a big mouth, mind your business people… mind your business, it happens.
Giulia: Jennifer Aniston has not had an easy time when it comes to men… or should I say little ‘boys’ because that’s exactly how her guys act! Doesn’t anyone in Hollywood know how to treat a classy lady?! I recommend this DiscoveryGame for Justin Theroux so he can treat Aniston right!