Aniston and Lopez: The Jennifer Syndrome

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?

Some people like to pick on the Jennifers for making bad career choices (one word: Gigli), but that really misses the point. Just as grades don't matter when it comesto electing a high-school homecoming queen, the public never turns on America's sweetheart for producing junk. Just count up all the terrible movies from Julia Roberts, Drew Barrymore, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Sandra Bullock—who, as Gawker pointed out last year, has some of the worst-reviewed films of the decade (and we still have her back against Jesse James). The issue for both Aniston and Lopez isn't the movies they've made; it's that we're sick of them.

OK, so the bad movies aren't exactly helping either. Angelina Jolie has escaped the Jennifer Syndrome because she's smart enough to pick some projects, such as A Mighty Heart, that make her stretch and require us to see her as someone else. Aniston especially seems stuck not only in romantic comedies but in romances that keep reminding us how single and lonely she is—Love Happens, He's Just Not That Into You, and now The Bounty Hunter. (Even worse, she keeps dating, and breaking up with, her costars—and John Mayer.) The funny thing is, both Aniston and Lopez are talented actors. Onscreen, they can both be likable, sexy, and funny, and can radiate heat with the right costar (and sometimes even with the wrong one). Watch Lopez in Selenaand Out of Sight, or Aniston in The Good Girl. They're delightful. The problem is, that was then.