The Jennifer Syndrome

Article excerpt

Byline: Ramin Setoodeh

Two stars, one first name. How Aniston and Lopez lost the fame game.

Pop quiz: Bennifer. Raise your hand if you still remember what that means. Before there was Brangelina or TomKat, there was Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck, the first superstar couple of the Internet age. Starting in the summer of 2002 and continuing for an endless 18 months, you couldn't go anywhere without seeing pictures of the doting pair: the magazine covers, the 6.1-carat Harry Winston engagement ring, the cheesy Dateline interview, the canceled wedding, and finally the breakup. Both Ben and Jen blamed the media for their demise, but it turns out it wasn't just a soulmate they were mourning. It's no coincidence that neither of them has been able to open a movie since then. We'd seen too much of them, and for free. Why would anybody pay to watch them fall in love, or anything else?

The Back-up Plan is the name of Lopez's first film in four years, and the title also feels like a commentary on her career. She was on track to be in a different league--she even had her own superstar nickname, J. Lo--before the paparazzi dimmed her star wattage. The same thing happened to another Jennifer in theaters right now, America's favorite Friend: Jennifer Aniston. Collectively, these two Jennifers became a cautionary tale--how overexposure in the press can harm your career. It wasn't really their fault. At the time, Hollywood stardom started to be diluted by the march of reality-TV stars, who are only too happy to pick fights in New Jersey bars or trot out their eight kids and their doomed marriage if it means getting on the cover of Us Weekly. At the same time, the old-fashioned celebrities took far greater control of their images. They started to tweet and make their own homemade YouTube videos, sharing the mundane details of their private lives and thus diminishing the paparazzi's influence. …