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Saturday, June 22, 2024
The Observer

The glorious return of Jennifer Coolidge

Trends have a tendency to repeat themselves. Claw clips, flared jeans and (hopefully) a national championship-winning football team — all of these exemplify how things that become popular usually find their way back to fame down the road. This pop-culture phenomenon manifests itself in no one better than Jennifer Coolidge. When you hear the name Jennifer Coolidge, you have to be thinking, “Wait, that sounds familiar.” It should, especially if early-2000s teen movies were an integral part of your childhood. 

Jennifer Coolidge first graced our screens with her charm and humor when she played one of Jerry Seinfeld’s girlfriends on the 90s sitcom “Seinfeld.” While she hoped landing a role would provide some momentum with booking more acting jobs, she wasn’t able to find another notable guest role until 1999 when she became a recurring character on “American Pie.” While she was never able to take on a lead role, “American Pie” became her lifeline, with Coolidge taking guest appearances on the show up until 2012. 

Still, with few breakthroughs in the industry, Jennifer Coolidge became an icon for our generation when she landed the roles of Elle Woods’ (Reese Witherspoon) manicurist in the 2001 film “Legally Blonde” and as Sam’s (Hillary Duff) evil stepmother in the 2004 film “A Cinderella Story.” These two films are quintessential to the range of iconic teen movies from the early-2000s because of their memorable phrases and iconic scenes. Maintaining her trend as a supporting actress, Coolidge first etched herself into our memories by popularizing the “bend-and-snap” in “Legally Blonde,” which she later recreated in Ariana Grande’s “thank u, next” music video. It was only three years later before she reminded us the importance of thinking of others after climbing out of her pink tanning booth in “A Cinderella Story.” While I will always think of these movies as essential to the formation of my own self-confidence, Coolidge’s career seemed to plateau from there. That is, until “The White Lotus” came about. 

Created, written and directed by Mike White, “The White Lotus” is an HBO Max satire show that follows a group of employees and guests at a hotel set in an idyllic location. While the first season was set in Hawaii, the second finds itself in Sicily at a new hotel with a new cast of employees and guests, except for Jennifer Coolidge’s character, of course. 

Jennifer Coolidge plays Tanya McQuoid-Hunt, a woman seeking inner peace after her mother died, and she’s one of only two characters to reprise their role for season two of the show. Coolidge’s performance in “The White Lotus” sparked her rising status in pop-culture today, as she has won Emmys, Golden Globes and more for White’s show. Her acceptance speech for the 2023 Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress — Limited or Anthology Series or Television Film, specifically, is when I realized just how much we were missing out on Coolidge. After turning on the award show with no expectations of actually being entertained, Jennifer Coolidge’s chaotic acceptance made me laugh and brought me to tears within its four-minute time frame. In her speech, she details how hard it was to persevere in a career that didn’t seem to be going anywhere and how important Mike White was to giving her a chance to become popular enough to where her neighbors finally invite her to parties. 

So, to return to where I started, things that are popular always seem to find their way back to the limelight, and we especially love it when beloved actresses from our childhood finally stand in the spotlight. Growing up, Jennifer Coolidge made us laugh and smile, and 20 years later, we’re lucky enough to see her achieve the acclaim she’s always deserved.