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Monday, July 21, 2008

Undulating Jolie

Don’t you feel as if you almost know Angelina Jolie personally from all those times you’ve seen her in the check-out line at the grocery store these past few years? I feel like she’s a long lost cousin who got all the good looks and won’t share any of her fortune with me. So how many different weekly angles can there be of her ongoing exploits? This public and media obsession with her is quite a phenomenon. Not that it’s unusual for movie stars to be sensationalized, but her case in particular. I would imagine they’ll get tired of her after a while and move on to someone else, but her run thus far has been rather remarkable. Joining forces with Brad Pitt will only enhance her persona for the time being, so she may be around a bit longer in the public eye. And she’s only 33. One can only wonder what her shelf life might be.

If I’m not mistaken, we as a public have been fawning over her for the past six or seven years, to the point that we’ve been dissecting her every move. If you remember the movie “The Truman Show,” the viewership kept very close tabs on Truman — 24 hours a day — watching him intently through the lens of the media. Unbeknownst to Truman, there were video cameras in his house, and everywhere he went, he was duly followed. His whole life was scripted. I wonder if Ms. Jolie feels this way. I kind of feel sorry for her, although there would be ways of getting off the Hollywood bangwagon and settling into a more serene existence if she wanted to break that tie and kill the cash cow.

Jolie comes across as an upright, well-meaning person, having been involved in humanitarian work and adopting children of her own. At the same time, she’s been fully complicit in her portrayal as a diva, so she’s selling the image too. True, she’s not involved in scandals like so many of the diva set are, and I’m not here to cast aspersions on her. Instead, it’s the overall caricature of her that is over the top. She’s just part of the system. It’s amazing to me that the life of one actress could garner so much attention. Her life has been turned into a soap opera, almost a plastic figure representing our thirst for real-life drama.

Anyone searching for a third-party candidate for president this election year may want to consider the Jolie popularity base. If only the voting age were lower… Still, don’t be surprised if Obama appoints her to a humanitarian position in his cabinet… even if he doesn’t win. It would be a nice gesture regardless.

The question remains: are our lives so drab that hers seems interesting by comparison? Other than having people taking pictures of her non-stop, what else is going on that’s out of the ordinary? She’s a brand name that currently sells. It’s a fascinating sociological study which deserves a serious look.

Does knowledge of the Jolie ilk give people a sense of belonging, to peer into the lives of celebrities? If we feel like we know them, does it make our own lives appear to be more meaningful? Is Pitt any more noteworthy than your cousin Andy? And then one wonders by what process being good at acting elevates a person’s status in society’s spectrum.

I wonder if she and Jennifer Aniston have been laughing all the way to the bank on their alleged feuds following the divorce of Aniston and Pitt. But then ultimately, who esteems any of these details? Myself, I already know more about Jolie than I care to. Perhaps for me this is a disclaimer in purging the incessant media bombs surrounding all cultural discussion, and to move on to ideas more worthwhile — or at least less pretentious. It could very well be impossible to write a piece on fluff without engaging in the fluff for a moment. Consider yourself fluffed, by the way.

I understand that People magazine paid $4 million for the photographic rights for Jolie’s natural daughter, Shiloh, when she was born in 2006. If we’ve truly gotten that curious, then maybe there’s some disconnect going on that we ought to confront. I get the impression that People magazine is selling its soul in exchange for not having to write $4 million worth of substantive articles. But I suppose I expect too much to begin with. That’s entertainment…

In 2008, Time magazine listed Jolie as one of the most 100 influential people in the world. They didn’t, however, distinguish between varying types of influence. What kinds of things is she influencing people to do? Watch movies? Have plastic surgery? Get hooked up with other famous people? Adoption is undoubtedly a good thing, but is she causing more adoptions? If so, it’s not being reported.

Jolie and Pitt have six children, and by the time some of them are about ten years old (the oldest is seven), I’d imagine Jolie will opt out of the limelight in favor of her family’s sanity, so that her children aren’t bombarded by the media machine. Madonna “kind of” grew up when she hit 40-ish, so it could happen. But then this creates a dilemma… Who are we going to put on our magazine covers when that happens? I’ll have to get a whole new friend in the check-out line.

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