When did Reese Witherspoon become America's sweetheart? Was it when the nation flocked to see her starring turn in Legally Blonde, a few months before 9/11? Was it when she accepted the Oscar from pretend Ray Charles for being the best pretend June Carter Cash anyone could ever remember, in March of 2006?
Or was it at approximately 12:40 a.m. on April 19th, 2013, when she was filmed Mean Girl-ing an officer of the Georgia Department of Public Safety who had pulled over her second husband on suspicion of driving while intoxicated, just before she was charged with "disorderly conduct"?
Do we love Reese for telling a crowd of Hollywood bigwigs "I never thought I'd be here my whole life, growing up in Tennessee"? Or do we love her for drunkenly hollering at a Georgia cop "I am a U.S. citizen...I am allowed to stand on American ground."
There are two Reese Witherspoons: The one we're supposed to love but don't quite like; and the one that scares the shit out of us and leaves us obsessively smitten. And there is one place on the internet where you can witness and fully understand this important division.
In some ways, Reese Witherspoon's Instagram account is just what you'd expect. It is a vast online repository of old photos of young Reese Witherspoon, behind the scenes goofing on set with Sofia Vergara, and things Reese Witherspoon feels are "Southern," like this quote about windshields written on a mirror. She spends a lot of time tracking the sun's activity (rises; sets; rises; sets). She says "Good night" to Africa.
But there is another side to Reese Witherspoon's Instagram account, cast in shadow. It is the side maintained by an eidolon we will call Laura Jean, in homage to Reese's birth name, Laura Jeanne.
Reese Witherspoon's tastes tend toward toward the auntish: she likes magenta flowers and posters that say "MY FAMILY" and ecards that subvert the premise of those subversive ecards that juxtapose banal vintage images with deadpan, humorously honest captions, by circling back around to make the captions banal again. When she sees the word "HARMONY" written on the ground in tiles, she snaps a picture of it and files it to Instagram as: "Excellent reminder #NOLA." What do the harmony tiles remind her of, if not the time she saw the harmony tiles? Unclear. But Reese Witherspoon loves harmony.
Laura Jean is a hellcat who will meet someone and tell them "I don't know what your fuckin' name is," then give them unsolicited bedroom advice in an elevator. She thinks you must see this deliberately overexposed portrait of her face. She once sat in the same seat as Matthew McConaughey (or something?) on an airplane, but that's neither here nor there. She is a graduate of charm school, but an adjunct professor at harm school. She will have one Bacardi cocktail, please.
Reese Witherspoon tells America she is "so sorry and embarrassed" for being party to a drunk driving incident. Laura Jean says to her arresting officer "Do you know my name? ... You're about to find out who I am ... You are going to be on national news."
Reese Witherspoon loves her husband. Laura Jean leans in real close and asks you to kill her husband, and waits just long enough for you to say "yes" before laughing and telling you it was a joke.
Reese Witherspoon makes you breakfast. Laura Jean makes you deeply anxious, and completely enamored.
Laura Jean is the kind of girl who tells you to tell your mom you're spending the night at her house and she'll tell her mom she's spending the night at your house, but actually you guys are going to go to Brooks Whelan's house because he promised to drive you to Twin Arrows casino in exchange for "a favor," the details of which you are not privy to.
Laura Jean is the kind of girl whose favorite place to spend a Saturday night is Donelson Strike & Spare. Bowling alley bars get a bum rap, says Laura Jean, but this is the best margarita you're gonna find in Tennessee and that's a fact, plus it's a heavy pour and I like that.
Laura Jean is the kind of girl who repeats the bartender's name back to him and says I'll remember that because that's my daddy's name.
Laura Jean is the kind of girl who makes you take a picture of her striking a come hither pose in the bathroom and then texts it to her ex-boyfriend with the caption "Hmmm....Guess where? #Nashville" and when you say I thought you guys broke up? she rolls her eyes and says What are, you a detective?
Laura Jean is the kind of girl who tells the members of Troop 20728, The only thing you absolutely need to wear when you leave the house is Coco Mademoiselle. Anything more than that is between you and God, ladies. The theme of the meeting is "Swimming Safety."
Laura Jean is the kind of girl who gets so drunk during the first round of bowling you beat her by double-digits, and then she grabs your wrist like she just thought of something and whispers One more round, double or nothing—or are you afraid to lose $40? and your skin feels hot under her hand and your stomach feels nervous under her smile so you agree and that's when you realize she was never drunk at all.
Good night, Africa.