CULTURE

Who Is this Strange Man Lurking Behind Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston?

His face speaks to the pain and fear of renewed hope.

Emma McIntyre/Getty Images

America cannot help itself when it comes to Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston.

Brad Jen Sag 2 Emma McIntyre/Getty Images

Anytime they're in the same room together, a series of sirens immediately goes off in the offices of various tabloids and celebrity magazines. A familiar race kicks off to publish an updated carbon copy of a thousand previous articles with a handful of new pictures and some wild speculation about the two of them getting back together.

It's been happening since they divorced, 15 years ago, but has obviously accelerated since they both became single—Aniston having divorced Justin Theroux in 2017, while Pitt and Angelina Jolie finalized their prolonged divorce process last summer. We seem to have collectively decided that we all know these celebrities' lives better than they know themselves.

The story goes like this: Brad and Jen should never have broken up. The early 2000s were clearly the happiest time in both their lives, and the whole mess in 2005 was just one big misunderstanding orchestrated by Jolie's evil seduction on the set of Mr. and Mrs. Smith. We want them to need each other, and we need them to want to get back together. How we pieced together the entirety of their private lives through telephoto lenses and third-hand rumors remains a mystery, but we've done it, and we know what's best for them. We just know.

Brad and Jen Sag Emma McIntyre/Getty Images

That's what makes the strange man lurking in the background of their latest interaction so upsetting. It's unclear what his role at the SAG Awards was—a member of security? Event staff? Brad and Jen were nominated for their performances in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and The Morning Showthey both won—but what is this tall, broad shouldered stranger doing there? He seems designed to project strength, but he just can't. Not with the scene that's unfolding before him—with Jen's hand pressing against Brad's chest, Brad holding her wrist as if to make that touch linger a little longer. The strange man lurking in the background is allowing his pain to show through his façade of strength. He is wounded. Wringing his hands. He's been burned by this hope before—allowed himself to feel a glimmer of love again through the imagined restoration of this lost, perfect couple.

And now Brad has quit drinking and settled the custody dispute with Jolie. We can't help but wonder if he is finally mature enough to be stable and strong for Jen—who is two years out from her second marriage and looked as amazing as ever in a sheer, silvery-white dress. And there in the background, those pleading eyes are staring at Brad Pitt, begging him not to hurt us again. Don't hold onto her hand like that if you don't mean it. Don't look into her shining eyes with that charming smile if you aren't ready to commit to an entire country full of desperate shippers.

I don't know who the large, sad man in these pictures is, but I don't need to, because we are all him, and he is us—wanting to believe in love again, but so frightened of being hurt.

sag lurker 2 Emma McIntyre/Getty Images

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