This photograph of Jennifer Aniston, on the red carpet at the Directors Guild awards ceremony in Los Angeles on January 28, is not just a routine image of a Hollywood star. For months there have been newspaper reports that Aniston is finally pregnant, and it's hard to believe that her publicity team didn't take this into consideration when a glittery, incredibly short and overly young Dolce & Gabbana dress was selected for her to wear, along with high-heeled sandals whose ankle straps barely grip her bare and pedicured feet.
Aniston will turn 43 this week. For the past six years she has been starring in a drama the likes of which have not been seen since Debbie Reynolds' husband dumped her for Elizabeth Taylor. A symbolic drama in which she is the good princess whose prince has been enchanted by an evil queen. And from the moment those two came together, it is not the good princess, but the evil Angelina Jolie who has gone on to incredible success: to receive an Oscar nomination for a serious, well-crafted film by the legendary Clint Eastwood; to direct; to become famous in an almost inconceivable way. And at the same time, Jolie presents a complex model of motherhood - a combination, not so rare in Hollywood, of parenthood as a nonbiological and altruistic concept (she adopted three children ) and of fertility and physical potency (she gave birth to a daughter and to twins within three years, and is apparently pregnant again ). The fact that Jolie is also extraordinarily beautiful only makes her a more fascinating figure. It sometimes seems that, just as she is a unique and obviously real person, she is also an allegory. The ultimate composite of ideal characteristics.
Of course, in comparison, Aniston, so exposed here in her teeny-tiny dress, arouses pity. Her story may be discussed in terms of identification with her suffering, with her having been dumped, with her "lack of success" in finding a stable partner. But now that Aniston is reaching the upper limits of her potential childbearing years, the focus of the story is shifting from the romantic triangle to the question of whether she's missed the boat in that department, of whether she'll ever get pregnant.
Yes, there are women who have conceived and given birth naturally after age 43 (Cherie Blair and actress Monica Bellucci at 45, even ), but the majority of women that age - 95 percent, according to a study published recently in this paper - need to resort to medical intervention and the use of another - younger - woman's genetic material. Examples are Holly Hunter (twins at age 47 ) and Geena Davis (a daughter at 46 and twins at 49 ). Though not openly discussed, and perhaps it should be, pregnancy at this age involves the donation-purchase of genetic material. It is part and parcel of a fundamental and dramatic shift in the perception of human identity.
All of this is standing there with Aniston and her lovely bare legs that are too tanned for this time of year. This is the dress that is meant "to put all the pregnancy rumors to rest," as the gossip mags have it. But the dress is also designed to divert attention from the center of the body to the legs. And strangely enough, it can thus conceal the first stages of a pregnancy every bit as well as a cape. For everyone still agrees on what the happy ending to this story should be.
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