Did you know that Jennifer Garner was on “Friends?” OK, OK. She wasn’t on “Friends,” but she did recently use her “Friends” Lego set to act out every single part from the episode “The One with the Embryos,” aka the one where Joey and Chandler compete in a quiz with Monica and Rachel about who knows whom better. No, this was not on network television or even YouTube. It was on Garner’s Instagram.
These days, most of America is most used to seeing the former “Alias” star and Mrs. Affleck on Capital One commercials. That is, unless you’re one of the 7.5 million of us who follow her on Instagram. Honestly, a post from J.Garn — as the social media stans (do not) call her — is the highlight of any given day. There is not only her “Friends” mania, bolstered recently by another Lego video and a dance routine set to the show’s theme song, but also cooking demonstrations that always go awry, dance video compilations and a light sprinkling of good-natured memes.
Most of America is most used to seeing the former “Alias” star on Capital One commercials. That is, unless you’re one of the 7.5 million of us who follow her on Instagram.
This is definitely lifestyle content, but Garner is not trying to play at domestic perfection like Martha Stewart nor is she going for the steamed vagina wellness of Gwyneth Paltrow. And in this middle gray area, she has carved out an escapist wonderland for millions of fans. According to her Instagram, Garner is a combination of earnest, goofy, wholesome, playful and self-deprecating. She’s like the one perfect mom at your kids’ school that you might actually be friends with because she can take the time to laugh at herself. This is a woman who posted herself doing tongue twisters after the dentist with a mouth full of Novocain. It’s funny. It’s relatable. It’s somehow absolutely perfect.
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The sincerity of her down-home appeal might seem a little much, but it’s always pierced with a silliness that is disarming. Just check out this video for Breast Cancer Awareness month where Garner spends her mammogram drawing cartoon faces on the photos of breasts on her chart and blowing up rubber gloves like an antsy 10-year-old.
Garner is technically still a movie star — fans may love her for 2004’s “13 Going on 30” but she’s managed to land starring roles throughout the last decade, including recently the (not very good) action film “Peppermint” and the (slightly better) HBO comedy “Camping” in 2018. The funny thing is, for someone living a movie star life, she doesn’t do much movie starring. When there is an old glamour shot of her, the caption is about how she misses her makeup artist who passed away. When she’s at formal gala, she’s on stage at a benefit for Save the Children, but she’s also singing a parody song about the charity she made up set to the tune of a song from “The Sound of Music.”
That is a perfect encapsulation of her social media strategy: She might be famous, but she’s going to use her fame for good. There has to be a strategy behind this and there has to be someone making these videos. Even her “Friends” video had laugh tracks inserted into it. There is a series of videos in which she reads children’s books to her dog, Birdie, but also acts out the stories in the book at the same time. They are both often in costume. They are so professional that they could be a short-form Netflix series. (Seriously, Netflix: This is a real pitch.)
I can’t imagine Jennifer squinting over some editing software putting these together, so there must be a very savvy assistant, an aspiring-producer nanny, or at least a social media intern in the Garner household. This video of her taking the family’s chicken, Gonnyi, to the vet with a prolapsed rectum (for real) was obviously not made by Garner alone. First, someone filmed it. But second, it included a relatively sophisticated splicing together of the hilarity of the medical condition, Jennifer’s calm cleanup at the vet’s office, the irony of the vet techs eating Chick-Fil-A for lunch, and the eventual sad conclusion when Gonnyi has to be put to rest. This thing has layers. It should win an Emmy. Do they give those out for Instagram?
Being that nothing good is actually ever free, I do have to wonder what Garner is getting out of this, though. She obviously isn’t doing it for fame like some wannabe influencer. If anything, the reason might be for her brand Once Upon a Farm, a company that makes organic baby food from produce grown on family farms. There are occasionally things that read as commercials, but even then it’s Jennifer harvesting pumpkins in overalls or setting up a lemonade stand with a cadre of adorable tots.
In a world where many are accused of stealing content, Garner goes the opposite route. She even tags Getty Images when using a picture they took of her.
Yes, everyone on social media is selling something (even if it’s just an illusion of themselves), but Garner does it so gently that one doesn’t mind. That’s because her Instagram is a safe bubble where nothing going on in the outside world could bother you. It never gets more political than a dance video encouraging boys to dance after a “Good Morning, America” host mocked Prince George for taking dance lessons. And even then, in the caption Garner thanked host Lara Spencer for apologizing and then she tagged every single person who appears in the video and every source where she found the video. In a world where many are accused of stealing content, Garner goes the opposite route. She even tags Getty Images when using a picture they took of her.
This is a time when Facebook has to answer for Russian election meddling, President Donald Trump is illegally banning anyone who disagrees with him on Twitter and celebrities are getting into online beefs seemingly every single day. But not Jennifer Garner. Hers is a guilt-free, ethical oasis where she just wants to help kids, sell some organic foods and put a smile on your jaded millennial face. The worst thing that will happen is you might ruin your raspberry preserves, and even that’s OK. Jennifer Garner’s Instagram is here to help.