The two made headlines over the weekend after they were spotted having a moment at the 2020 Screen Actors Guild Awards in Los Angeles.
The actors, who were married from 2000 to 2005, each won awards and celebrated the other’s win.
During the ceremony, Pitt made a speech after winning an award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role for Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood.
“Let’s be honest, it was a difficult part,” Pitt joked. “The guy who gets high, takes his shirt off and doesn’t get on with his wife. It’s a big stretch. Big.”
Cameras quickly cut to Aniston, who clapped and smiled.
Soon, social media sites began to flood with pictures of them meeting in person, along with a video of Pitt watching Aniston’s speech on a TV screen.
But what is it about these two and their past relationship that fans can’t seem to get over?
Denise Marigold, an associate professor at the University of Waterloo in Waterloo, Ont., tells Global News the interest in the actors’ former flame goes back to their early acting days.
Jennifer Aniston was ‘America’s sweetheart’
“ being America’s sweetheart and Brad being such a movie star/heartthrob, particularly when they first got together … they are both so appealing on their own, together they seemed like the ultimate couple,” she said.
“The statement when the split made it seem amicable but there was also a lot of talk about Brad developing a relationship with Angelina Jolie while still married to Aniston, so people were intrigued to understand what the feelings really were.”
But a lot of the focus, she adds, is around Aniston in particular. After their split, Aniston did not get married again until 2015 when she tied the knot with actor Justin Theroux. The two separated after two years of marriage in 2017.
Then there was the “poor Jennifer” sympathy that followed when Pitt got married to Jolie, Marigold says.
Aniston also did not have any children, which was debated, criticized and discussed by the media for years, she adds.
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“Anytime a woman does anything that is out of the ‘norm,’ they get questioned and criticized,” she said.
“People expect women, in particular, to defend themselves if they don’t follow the expected path.”
In 2018, the former Friends actor opened up to Elle magazine on the thousands of rumoured pregnancy headlines she saw over the years.
“We live in a society that messages women: by this age, you should be married; by this age, you should have children,” Aniston said.
“That’s a fairy tale. That’s the mould we’re slowly trying to break out of.”
Our obsession with celebrity relationships
Marigold says not only is the public interested in how Pitt and Aniston’s relationship has changed over the last 20 years, but there is also the idea of romanticizing two people who are “meant” to be together.
“People love the idea of love, and to see two beautiful, talented, powerful people who are adored by millions getting together, it seems like a romantic dream, which is appealing,” she said.
But there is just as much interest when celebrity couples break up.
She says this in part is due to curiosity — nobody actually knows the full details of a couple’s divorce, separation or breakup unless the celebrity speaks up — and for some, a “downward social comparison.”
“ ‘I’m not beautiful, rich, successful or powerful, but I least I don’t have a string of failed marriages,'” Marigold said.
In the Guardian, Stuart Heritage writes there’s also interest in what life would be like if the two didn’t separate.
“We would have been spared a billion ‘poor Jen’ magazine covers for certain, but maybe the ripple effect of their happiness would have spread outwards,” he said.
Marigold says it’s “funny” people are still rooting the idea of them getting back together.
“As if the perception that they are a good match would mean that it should all fall into place for them if they tried again,” she said.
“Often in the rearview, the good parts of an ex-partner loom larger and make them more appealing. Maybe it’s that way for Brad and Jen, who knows? But often when people actually get back with an ex, they realized that all the old issues are still there.”
— With files from Global News’ Katie Scott
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.