Heigl cover

Defending Katherine Heigl…at the expense of Jennifer Aniston

During what will hopefully be converted into a roundtable discussion about the posters for the upcoming movie What to Expect When You’re Expecting – which quickly devolved into ‘I’d hit that’ speak, much to Kelly Stitzel’s dismay – someone jokingly asked, “How is Katherine Heigl not involved with this?”

It’s a fair question. This would seem to be right up Heigl’s alley. Perhaps she wasn’t interested in playing another pregnant woman after her breakout performance in Judd Apatow’s 2007 hit Knocked Up. Indeed, you could make an argument that she resisted the project for that very reason, that doing the movie would give people the impression that she’s trying to cash in on her former glory. The most likely reason, of course, is that the scheduling didn’t work out.

It’s also quite possible that they simply didn’t want her.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but Heigl is on a bit of a skid at the moment. Her last three movies, Killers, Life As We Know It, and New Year’s Eve, were loathed by critics and died mercifully quick deaths at the box office (though Life As We Know It somehow managed to break even). The two movies before them, 27 Dresses and The Ugly Truth, were commercial hits, if not critical ones. (I, for one, like 27 Dresses.) The Heigl backlash even popped up in Friends with Benefits, when Mila Kunis saw a poster for an upcoming romantic comedy and shouted, “Shut up, Katherine Heigl!” (This joke actually works on two levels, since Heigl beat out Kunis for the part of Alison in Knocked Up.) This string of bad luck does not look as though it’s about to be broken, either; Heigl’s latest film One for the Money, in which she plays literary gumshoe Stephanie Plum, was not screened for critics. Groupon is also running a discount ticket deal for the movie, a la The Lincoln Lawyer. That’s some bad juju right there, and the strange thing is that the trailer for One for the Money actually makes it look like a decent flick. If anyone can fill the shoes of the wise-cracking Stephanie Plum, you would think it’s Heigl.

Perception, however, is nine-tenths of the law when it comes to Hollywood stars, and right now, the perception – and therefore, reality – is that Heigl is nearly finished, from rom-com darling to box office poison in a mere four years, a precipitous drop in comparison to movie princesses of the past (Meg Ryan had a good 12 years as America’s Sweetheart™, which included her share of bad films along the way). Now, I know that there are several instances in which Heigl did not help herself (we’ll get to those, I promise), but overall, this seems wildly unfair. Does the backlash stem from the general lack of quality of her movies, her willful personality, or a combination of the two? If it is any one of those three, then there is someone else who by definition should be riding this train alongside her, but to date is not.

Jennifer Aniston.

Let’s review: both are rom-com actresses with spotty box office track records. Both are tabloid fodder. (Heck, Aniston has her own wing in the Tabloid Hall of Fame.) The one key difference is that people love Aniston, while Heigl is viewed as being difficult. And why is that, exactly? That’s the funny part, because if anything, it should be the other way around.

Let’s have a little fun here, shall we? Let’s break down Heigl’s best and worst qualities, and see how they stack up against Aniston’s. Let’s start with the one big pro, and then the cons.

She is very good at what she does

There isn’t a single actress on the planet who plays angry funnier or cuter than Katherine Heigl. There is a scene in The Ugly Truth where she’s directing Gerard Butler to get off the set after shooting one of his chauvinist rants, and she’s positively hilarious. If you don’t value that as a skill, you should; doing the angry/cute thing is not as easy as it seems. Take, for example, Leslie Mann – of whom I’m quite fond, for the record – in Knocked Up. When she flips out on Paul Rudd, it’s not funny – it’s sad, because you walk away from the scene thinking that his character is trapped in a marriage to a nasty human being. But more on that later.

That is not Heigl’s only skill, though. Towards the end of The Ugly Truth, she’s won the man of dreams, only to realize he doesn’t really love her; he loves the woman Butler’s character suggested that she pretend to be. Heigl then describes what she’s really like to the man, in all of her neurotic glory, then says, completely demoralized and broken, “And who would love someone like that?” It’s a heartbreaking scene in an otherwise unwatchable movie. You had to think that even Heigl knew that she was not making a masterpiece when she saw that she had to shoot a scene where it looked like she was giving a guy a blowjob in the bleachers, but she still gave this movie everything she had.

Aniston, meanwhile, is rarely the best thing about any movie she does. In fact, someone should invent a drinking game around Aniston grabbing her rack, a move where she’s essentially saying to the world, “As long as I’ve got these, I’m still going to get work.” (To be fair, that philosophy has worked well thus far.) Instead of making a bad movie better, she is often the source of the problem (ahem, The Bounty Hunter). She knocked it out of the park in Horrible Bosses, but where Heigl will at least try to rise above bad material, Aniston seems content to wallow in the muck.

So there’s the pro. Now Let’s look at the cons.

She has a big mouth

Guilty as charged. It does appear that the comments she made on David Letterman’s show about the long work hours she endured on the Grey’s Anatomy set were out of line (the producers insist those long hours only existed because they accommodated her request to do press for a recent film), but the bit that seemed to seal her reputation as a loudmouth diva was when she dared to suggest that Knocked Up is perhaps just a wee bit sexist. And come on, where the hell does she get off saying bad things about the movie that made her a star?

There’s just one small thing: she’s absolutely right.

The female characters in Knocked Up (I’m referring to Heigl and Mann, who’s married to Apatow) are shrill, humorless succubi. In fact, I’d argue that most of Apatow’s female characters are underwritten and oversexed, but that’s another column for another day. What Heigl said about the movie wasn’t untrue, but she came across as ungrateful, and no one likes an ungrateful movie star…unless he’s a dude. Guys talk trash about their old movies all the time, and no one bats an eye at it. If Heigl’s Ugly Truth costar Gerard Butler came out and said that 300 was crap, would anyone make a big deal out of it? No, they wouldn’t. Seems a little…sexist, don’t you think? Yes, well, now you know how Heigl feels.

Aniston, meanwhile, has never taken heat for saying anything out of turn in the press. She has always been very careful to maintain her image as an American Sweetheart™, and she has been rewarded for this by an adoring public. This is hilarious, because in reality Aniston is a ruthless, cunning, stone-cold killer when it comes to promoting her “brand.” If Heigl wears her heart on her sleeve, Aniston’s is secured behind six inches of steel in a vault surrounded by a moat filled with crocodiles. She doesn’t make a single move without first analyzing it from 17 different angles for its potential impact on her Q factor. Look up each time the tabloids went nuts over Jen’s new boy toy, and you’ll see that each one of them lines up with the opening of one of her films. Aniston hasn’t had an unguarded moment, or made an uncalculated move, in over a decade. This makes her arguably the fakest celebrity of all time, which is saying something considering the asshats that we call celebs today.

Her characters are high-maintenance pains in the ass

So were Reese Witherspoon’s, for the most part, and no one’s held that against her. Also, women are complicated. It’s actually nice to see one refuse to play the bimbo or the fool. As for her role in Killers, well, that was just bad casting. She had no business playing a naive shut-in with no self-esteem.

She’s hell to work with

I wouldn’t know anything about that firsthand, and even if she were, using that as a measuring stick to determine which actors to like or dislike is a hypocritical copout. (Psssst: Russell Crowe, Tom Cruise, Edward Norton, Jack Nicholson, Sean Penn, Daniel Day-Lewis, and Christian Bale thank you for not holding this quality against them.)

Her movies are bad

This is mostly true. However, Aniston’s made five times as many bad movies as Heigl has, and she continues to be forgiven. And it’s not as if there are great romantic comedies being made all around Heigl; the genre is suffering a drought, and a girl’s gotta work.

I am not saying that Jennifer Aniston deserves to suffer what Katherine Heigl is going through at the moment. Ideally, both actresses would be treated equally; they are paid to entertain us, and that is all that should matter. But let’s get some proper perspective on them: what Heigl has said and done, in the grand scheme of things, is pretty innocuous, while far greater Hollywood crimes have, for the most part, gone unpunished. Not to mention, the Heigl backlash sends a dangerous message to little girls everywhere that if they want to succeed in life, they should keep their mouths shut. Aniston, meanwhile, is being rewarded for her steely grasp of the media machine, and how she worked the power of her image into a sustainable brand, long past her career peak. She’s not even known for being an actress anymore – she’s known for being a celebrity, and with an entire generation of kids who crave fame more than love, achievement, or happiness about to overtake the entertainment business, that sends an even worse message than the one about keeping quiet.

When it comes down to it, I think the reason people dislike Katherine Heigl is because they’d be scared to death to be friends with her, because if they were doing something she disapproved of, she’d make sure they knew it. Most people don’t want to be friends with that person, but the fact is everyone needs at least one person like that in their lives, because it works both ways. If you were being a bully, she’d tell you to step off. If you were being too passive, she’d tell you to stick up for yourself. She could use some work in the diplomacy department, yes, but who do you want on your back in a bar fight, the person who says the right things in order to please everyone, or the one who will fight to the death to defend your honor? (See: Heigl’s public shaming of Isaiah Washington after he called Grey’s co-star T.R. Knight a faggot.) Heigl may be neither of those people in real life, but based on her comments to the press, she’s far closer to the latter than she is to the former, and I find that admirable. Aniston, meanwhile, is still an enigma, 17 years after most of us met her for the first time. Oddly enough, this earns her a few bonus points for keeping her private life private – at least until such time as it’s convenient for her to sell this or that scoop to a tabloid in order to advance her career – but that raises the question: why do people like her so much, when after nearly two decades in the spotlight, we still know next to nothing about her?

Fight the good fight, Katherine. In an industry that is referred to as high school with money, it’s nice to see someone on the fringe of the popular clique look at the other popular kids from time to time and say, “Wow, you guys are douchebags.” If you ever find yourself in a bar fight, I will totally have your back.




  • just me

    Goodness me who is this two penny “writer” trying to disguise his hatred for Jennifer Aniston behind such an insipid article? The whole premise and the tone of this garbage speaks volumes about Mr. Medsker’s utter lack of creativity and talent. Mr. Medsker – while I give you credit for being a little street smart by adding Aniston’s name to the headline and thereby guranteeing yourself some clicks, I advise you to go back to high school and get yourself an education and only then think of ever penning another article. 

  • just me

    Goodness me who is this two penny “writer” trying to disguise his hatred for Jennifer Aniston behind such an insipid article? The whole premise and the tone of this garbage speaks volumes about Mr. Medsker’s utter lack of creativity and talent. Mr. Medsker – while I give you credit for being a little street smart by adding Aniston’s name to the headline and thereby guranteeing yourself some clicks, I advise you to go back to high school and get yourself an education and only then think of ever penning another article. 

  • just me

    Goodness me who is this two penny “writer” trying to disguise his hatred for Jennifer Aniston behind such an insipid article? The whole premise and the tone of this garbage speaks volumes about Mr. Medsker’s utter lack of creativity and talent. Mr. Medsker – while I give you credit for being a little street smart by adding Aniston’s name to the headline and thereby guranteeing yourself some clicks, I advise you to go back to high school and get yourself an education and only then think of ever penning another article. 

  • just me

    Okay confession – I had nothing else to do right now so here I am. I was so baffled at the convoluted topic of this review – just seemed like it was written to diss Jennifer Aniston and I could not see why! So I quickly googled this “writer”(hack)’s name and added Jolie to the search terms and voila – a few articles came up – and in every one of those, this guy has something positive to say about the always overacting Jolie. He goes down to the extent of praising her “English” accent in The Tourist (an accent btw, which was derided, rightly ridiculed by any journalist worth their *ahem* salt!) He admires her in her shrieking-like-a-banshee and hamming role in Changeling too! Enough said. Shows me how biased this man is. How do these immature fan boys manage to get a byline I wonder?

  • http://www.bastardradio.com steed

    Man, even I, who watches pretty much nothing but dumb and/or romantic comedies even question whether spending money on a movie with Jennifer Aniston is worth it these days.

  • http://www.popdose.com Michael Parr

    “Compare this to Aniston, who may be the cinematic equivalent of beige wallpaper”

    BRAVO!

  • Seebellecreate

    A friend showed me this blog article, given the fact that I used to work with Katie (Heigl).  To shed some insight, Katie is a SWEETHEART.  Super-smart, super-talented and very devoted to family.  She is simply a good person, through and through.
    Where is it written that women are not allowed to speak their minds…or perhaps open their mouths on occasion by accident?  The 1950s somewhere? Most of the men I know cannot seem to edit what comes out of their mouths.  Ever. But no one ever seems to mind that. I really wish the Heigl-Haters out there would stop allowing THE MEDIA to dictate who someone actually is.  Black and White is NOT how the world should operate. It’s not realistic.
    I stand by what I say…and I had 15 years inside Hollywood to back it up. She’s an absolute doll and I cannot say a bad word about her.

  • Seebellecreate

    And PS: Aniston is also a doll.
    If I were to write a scathing article about ANY actress, her initials would be “J.R”….don’t waste time on these 2 gals.  They’re fabulous. Move on.

  • Adfs

    you lost me when you said the trailer for this new movie makes it look like a pretty decent flick…from the trailer alone this looks like one of the worst movies ever

  • Adfs

    hey now hey now…Changeling was a good movie, and yes you could say it was a bit hammy but it actually fit within the context of the film, whereas yes she usually is like that when the movie doesnt even call for it

  • Asd

    Totally forgot about Friends With Money…good movie, a rare female ensemble that is good…cant remember it very well,will re netflix that

  • Anonymous

    I find both Katherine Heigl and Jennifer Anniston to be pretty intolerable. I’m amazed that both of them made it out of their shit television shows, which frankly, is where they belong. Granted, they’re both cute and have some mild charm, but it blows my mind that people are willing to pay money to see them in a movie. 

  • Chris L

    Who cares about whether I want to be friends with her? She exhibited absolutely no talent in One For The Money, and that’s after picking a role in a script that is one gigantic whirlwind of racial stereotypes and offensively bad lines. If Aniston picks duds, then Heigl is picking poison. 

  • Toyboxinc

    OK, JT—-LOL…… So all of Heigl’s $100 million dollar sucesses aren’t that? Those are great numbers for Knocked Up, 27 Dresses, The Ugly Truth, Killers, Life as We Know It and New Years Eve all making over $100 million. Andy was the only onewho did his research and your marketing costs argument holds ABSOLUTELY NO WEIGHT! Stop spreading misinformation and doing it so prententiously!

  • CorrectingLies

    Heigl is in “bad shape”? Really? You’re distorting the number of $100 million dollar box office successes she’s had. I count 6 and I think they’re all in a row—-with small budgets. Seems like your bias of the actress is distorting your “opinion”.

  • http://robertcashill.blogspot.com BobCashill

    Correcting Lies, did you even open the link? I’m not saying it, New York magazine is saying it…and her latest film opened decently, though it won’t hit the “century mark,” as Variety says. Except for Knocked Up none of her films has in the US: http://www.boxofficemojo.com/people/chart/?view=Actor&id=katherineheigl.htm&sort=gross&order=DESC&p=.htm

    Neither one of them is worth obsessing about. But Heigl can only gaze upon Aniston’s boxoffice numbers with envy and wonderment. If, in fact, she cares. 

  • Eliza

    XOXO Life is sometimes boring. Have you ever felt that something wonderful should be injected? Please come–casualloving.c-0-m —, you are bound to find your saucy match with hundreds of thousands of cute guys and pretty girls from around the world eager for asecure short-term relationship! ^_^ 

  • Bryan

    Heigl may not have an Oscar nom, but she *did* win an Emmy.

  • Bryan

    Heigl may not have an Oscar nom, but she *did* win an Emmy.

  • Bryan

    My only real beef with Heigl is that she stubbornly *refuses* to do anything good. Why can’t she do a movie like The Help or Midnight in Paris? Other than that, I think she’s gotten quite a bum rap. I mean, look at Lindsay Lohan: she’s *always* making bad movies, going in and out of rehab, in and out of jail, showing up late to the set, etc., etc.-and yet no matter how many times she fucks up, everyone’s always willing to give her a “comeback”, as if she’s the modern-day Bette Davis! Katherine Heigl, on the other hand, makes a few remarks people don’t like, refuses an Emmy nomination, and it’s like, her career is over, everyone hates her, she can’t act, etc., etc. Never mind that she’s a MILLION times more talented and beautiful than Lohan will *ever* be (Heigl even has an Emmy, how many awards does Lohan have?)! It just doesn’t seem fair to me.

  • Bryan

    My only real beef with Heigl is that she stubbornly *refuses* to do anything good. Why can’t she do a movie like The Help or Midnight in Paris? Other than that, I think she’s gotten quite a bum rap. I mean, look at Lindsay Lohan: she’s *always* making bad movies, going in and out of rehab, in and out of jail, showing up late to the set, etc., etc.-and yet no matter how many times she fucks up, everyone’s always willing to give her a “comeback”, as if she’s the modern-day Bette Davis! Katherine Heigl, on the other hand, makes a few remarks people don’t like, refuses an Emmy nomination, and it’s like, her career is over, everyone hates her, she can’t act, etc., etc. Never mind that she’s a MILLION times more talented and beautiful than Lohan will *ever* be (Heigl even has an Emmy, how many awards does Lohan have?)! It just doesn’t seem fair to me.

  • Evan Bolick

    I definitely disagree with this article.

    First, even assuming Aniston has been involved in more bad endeavors than Heigl, the fact remains that Aniston on balanace has been involved in a LOT more better projects too. Arguably, Heigl has been involved in three projects regarded widely as “good,” of which only 2 are high profile (Knocked Up and Grey’s Anatomy being the high-profile ones, with Roswell being the other “good” project). Meanwhile, Aniston has Horrible Bosses, Office Space, Along Came Polly, The Good Girl, The Iron Giant, Marley and Me, Bruce Almighty, a memorable guest voice on early South Park, oh, AND Friends (which is much better than Grey’s or Roswell put together, and Im not even a Friends fan). I am sure Heigl would love that. She even has some good will from the Leprechaun film. I agree that she never really elevates material outside of Friends, but she never really pulls material down either.

    Also, I’m sorry, but no matter who you are, you get bashed for distancing the things that made you a star, man or woman. And there are plenty of female stars who don’t keep it close to the vest that have thrived, including Sarah Silverman, Rosie O’Donnell, Madonna, Helena Bonham Carter, OH and Angelina Jolie whose life seems to be a total open book on all matters from sex to children to family disputes with Jon Voight.

    Basically, Heigl just goes for the same character in the same role – and unlike Aniston, doesnt often attach herself to good choices (Hugh Grant is the same in every movie, and yet, his CHOICE of movies have allowed him to excel (see Notting Hill, About A Boy, Love Actually) whereas since Knocked Up, Heigl only indulges in tripe in the EXACT same genre each time. Rachel McAdams, who I find to be a similarly limited actress, at least tries to expand into different variations on the rom-com theme (like Wedding Crashers or Mean Girls) and occassionally even leaves the genre (Red Eye).

    Heigl, in my opinion, for choosing poor roles, NEVER stepping out of her comfort zone, and trashing the things that made her famous (both Knocked Up, AND until recently, Grey’s Anatomy) make me dislike her and rightly so.  

  • Evan Bolick

    I definitely disagree with this article.

    First, even assuming Aniston has been involved in more bad endeavors than Heigl, the fact remains that Aniston on balanace has been involved in a LOT more better projects too. Arguably, Heigl has been involved in three projects regarded widely as “good,” of which only 2 are high profile (Knocked Up and Grey’s Anatomy being the high-profile ones, with Roswell being the other “good” project). Meanwhile, Aniston has Horrible Bosses, Office Space, Along Came Polly, The Good Girl, The Iron Giant, Marley and Me, Bruce Almighty, a memorable guest voice on early South Park, oh, AND Friends (which is much better than Grey’s or Roswell put together, and Im not even a Friends fan). I am sure Heigl would love that. She even has some good will from the Leprechaun film. I agree that she never really elevates material outside of Friends, but she never really pulls material down either.

    Also, I’m sorry, but no matter who you are, you get bashed for distancing the things that made you a star, man or woman. And there are plenty of female stars who don’t keep it close to the vest that have thrived, including Sarah Silverman, Rosie O’Donnell, Madonna, Helena Bonham Carter, OH and Angelina Jolie whose life seems to be a total open book on all matters from sex to children to family disputes with Jon Voight.

    Basically, Heigl just goes for the same character in the same role – and unlike Aniston, doesnt often attach herself to good choices (Hugh Grant is the same in every movie, and yet, his CHOICE of movies have allowed him to excel (see Notting Hill, About A Boy, Love Actually) whereas since Knocked Up, Heigl only indulges in tripe in the EXACT same genre each time. Rachel McAdams, who I find to be a similarly limited actress, at least tries to expand into different variations on the rom-com theme (like Wedding Crashers or Mean Girls) and occassionally even leaves the genre (Red Eye).

    Heigl, in my opinion, for choosing poor roles, NEVER stepping out of her comfort zone, and trashing the things that made her famous (both Knocked Up, AND until recently, Grey’s Anatomy) make me dislike her and rightly so.  

  • Ats3409

    Anyone else find it completely ironic that this dude bashed Jolie just so he could further bash the writer?

  • Ats3409

    Anyone else find it completely ironic that this dude bashed Jolie just so he could further bash the writer?