A hate-Love relationship

Jennifer Love Hewitt is young, successful, thin. Does she have to be everywhere you look, too?

June 20, 1999|By Tamara Ikenberg | Tamara Ikenberg,Sun Staff

The other day I was eating Nutella with a spoon and doing the Teen People crossword. The Teen People crossword is easy. I can do it myself. When I do the New York Times crossword or the TV Guide crossword I have to enlist a team of three Ph.D.s, two Nobel laureates and Greg Kinnear.

I was on a roll.

4 Down: The _____ Street Boys

16 Across: Puff _____

Then came 21 Across: Jennifer _____ Hewitt. I cringed and dropped my pen.

There are many dangers in the world today: Unbalanced Eastern European dictators. Senseless violence in schools. Techno-Cher. For me, however, one threat outweighs them all, even though this threat weighs less than my left thigh.

The threat, my friends, is Love.

Not love, as in that beautiful emotion that makes people buy expensive gifts, jaunt through meadows hand-in-hand, then fall apart, leading to years of therapy, Prozac and empty Ben & Jerry's cartons. No, this is Love, as in Jennifer Love Hewitt, the 20-year-old elfin media empress with the nature-defying chest.

"Love" is what her good friends call her.

Lovely.

Love's career is growing faster than the facial hair of her pubescent male admirers. Last month, she was a provocative Rolling Stone cover model: "The Love Goddess." She's recently been named one of Teen People's "21 Hottest Stars Under 21." She's already on pop album No. 3. And she plays Audrey Hepburn in a coming TV biopic.

The Texas-born star of TV's "Party of Five" has become Generation Y's most irritatingly omnipresent yet innocuous icon: baser than the Backstreet Boys, shorter than Brandy, only slightly less rodent-like than Britney Spears.

She's frequently said to have a girl-next-door appeal. (The girls who lived next door to me, though, weighed 200 pounds and never once quarreled with Scott Wolf. The only thing they had in common with Love was an X chromosome.)

Love is one of a strange, late-'90s breed of three-named teen-zine nymphettes, including "Buffy the Vampire Slayer's" Sarah Michelle Gellar and "She's All That's" Rachael Leigh Cook.

So far, Gellar and Cook show no signs of pursuing world domination through their celebrity. The same cannot be said of the ubiquitous Love. Other female superstars, such as Celine Dion and Barbra Streisand, also have been charged with seeking world domination. But at least they can sing.

It is not clear, exactly, what Jennifer Love Hewitt can do besides inspire legions of boys to glance glandularly at the "I Know What You Did Last Summer" movie poster, which features Love in a rather cozy tank top.

Let me amend that. As of yet, it is not clear what Jennifer Love Hewitt can do well. Because, of course, she does a lot; enough to make you wonder if she's actually some kind of Fox network fembot.

To date, the power of Love has extended into these sectors:

* True Love: On "Party of Five," Love plays Sarah Reeves, the loyal, brainy girlfriend of Scott Wolf's character, Bailey Salinger. She is very cute scenery. Watch her blend into the wallpaper. I had to watch the show about six times just to tell her apart from fellow wonder waifs Neve Campbell and Lacey Chabert (Warning: another potential menace. Watch out.).

* Tough Love: In Neutrogena print and television ads, Love dons a sports bra, jockey shorts and a pair of boxing gloves to fight back against acne. Like she's ever had a zit in her short, vapid lifetime.

* Love Life: Love's romantic entanglements are much-publicized teen-mag fodder, as she struts through MTV specials and teen-zine spreads on the arm of equally bland MTV VJ beau Carson Daly.

* Love Songs: Love, who started her career singing in a Barbie workout video and on "Kids Incorporated," has already released three albums. One is wholesomely titled "Let's Go Bang." Her current single is called "How Do I Deal?" Dude! That was my question!

* Love and Death: In the "I Know What You Did Last Summer" teen slasher film franchise, Love is a Gen-Y Jamie Lee Curtis. Other film credits include "Can't Hardly Wait" and the coming "Cupid's Love," which she is producing. The plot, she says, came to her in a dream.

And things are only getting worse. This fall, Love gets her own "Party of Five" spinoff. In "Time of Your Life," Sarah relocates to New York City.

Wow. Big challenge. Same character, different coast. C'mon, Love, why not stretch that acting muscle with more demanding roles? May I suggest:

* Love in the Time of Cholera: Love gets a painful disease.

* The Love Boat: Love is on a boat. It sinks. (Kind of like "Titanic," but nobody will cry.)

* Love on the Rocks: Love as a raging alcoholic. L'chaim!

* Love Sick: Love as the leader of a support group for zaftig, bitter women who are slightly older than she is, resent her and resort to writing nasty columns about her to placate their feelings of inadequacy.

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