Why is it such a surprise that Jennifer Aniston can act? Twitter jumps to defend Friends star’s “effortless” screen presence

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Anna Brech
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As Jennifer Aniston emerges as a frontrunner to win her first drama Emmy this weekend, fans hit back at the insinuation that she’s somehow not a “serious” actor.

Ever since she rose to prominence as a 90s screen icon in go-to comfort sitcom Friends, Jennifer Aniston has found herself hijacked by some rather patronising media narratives.

First, we had the “poor Jen” dialogue that dragged on for years: Aniston was supposedly left in the shadows by erstwhile lover Brad Pitt

This belittling thread of celebrity gossip conveniently ignores the fact that, like all of us, Aniston is a grown-up woman with full agency over her own relationship choices. Moreover, she’s so evidently satisfied and successful, why on earth would she still be haunted by a failed marriage 15 years prior? 

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And now one of Hollywood’s highest-grossing talents is being minimised once again, with the insinuation that it’s a surprise that she can – shocker – actually act.

This revelation is probably not much of an eye-opener for Aniston herself, who has been treading the boards since the 1980s with a string of awards cementing her credentials as a hard-wired thesp. 

But somehow Aniston’s global celebrity status (not something she has ever actively courted) and reputation for comedy (one of the hardest genres there is) have negated her abilities as a “serious” actor – or so a new piece doing the rounds on Twitter this week suggests.

Jennifer Aniston is up for an Emmy award this weekend

Titled How Jennifer Aniston proved she can actually act, the article from US gossip column Page Six has provoked scorn and anger from fans, who have been quick to point out that Aniston has long been rather gifted in this department.

And, in the time-honoured manner of all Twitter rows, this one’s unfolding with a generous serving of pithy comebacks and on-point gifs.

The fallout comes as Aniston emerges as a frontrunner in the Emmys race for best drama actress this weekend, for her role as a frustrated news anchor in Apple TV+ drama The Morning Show.

“You did the work. It was just really clear,” Aniston’s former co-star Lisa Kudrow said in June, referencing her friend’s performance in the new drama for a Variety video call in June. “You were this other person. And you are poised, but it was a different shade of poise, maturity. It was just really thrilling.” 

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The Morning Show sees Aniston’s character embark on a one-woman crusade to combat industry sexism: something the actor is all too familiar with her own life.

“I think it’s also something about being this age, and having heard these stories over and over, over the last few years — there is such a rage that we as women are carrying, and hearing what so many women walked through and had to deal with,” Anison noted on the Variety call with Kudrow.

Jennifer Aniston has found herself being typecast by the success of Rachel in Friends

This furore over Aniston’s acting skills isn’t the first time she’s had her ability as a high-calibre actor called into question: but in many ways, it’s because she’s a victim of her own success.

So universally beloved was her character Rachel Green in Friends that Aniston been fighting to shrug off the typecast ever since. 

“You just exhaust yourself,” Aniston said at a Hollywood Reporter event in June. “I mean, I could not get Rachel Green off of my back for the life of me. I could not escape ‘Rachel from Friends,’ and it’s on all the time and you’re like, ‘Stop playing that f**king show!’”

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While Aniston’s ability as a comedic actor is flawless – and timing on a live TV show like Friends is a notoriously difficult skill to master – she is versatile enough to tackle all genres; something she wants the industry to wake up and recognise.

“Once you play comedy, they don’t think you can do the drama; and if you’re only seen as a dramatic actor, they don’t think you can do comedy,” Aniston told The Hollywood Reporter. “They forget that we’re actors and we actually have it all in there. It’s just about finding it and accessing it and getting the material.”

Spoken like a true pro.

Images: Apple TV+

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Anna Brech

Anna Brech is a freelance journalist and former editor for stylist.co.uk. Her six-year stint on the site saw her develop a vociferous appetite for live Analytics, feminist opinion and good-quality gin in roughly equal measure. She enjoys writing across all areas of women’s lifestyle content but has a soft spot for books and escapist travel content.