The Question: Should we be interested in Brangelina’s split?

Pitt and Jolie were an avatar of true love, like the fairytale couples of our childhood

Angelina Jolie and  Brad Pitt: “a perfect blank canvas, the pleasingly beautiful couple on the red carpet”. Photograph: Reuters/Hannibal Hanschke

Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt: “a perfect blank canvas, the pleasingly beautiful couple on the red carpet”. Photograph: Reuters/Hannibal Hanschke

 

The relationship between Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt was, we can safely say, one of the longest-running soap operas of modern times. And now that it is over, we naturally begin to question our fascination with it: can such massive interest in a celebrity couple, even a celebrity couple of unparalleled Hollywood star wattage, ever be anything more than frivolous gossip?

It is very probably the most scrutinised and catalogued relationship ever – over the past 12 years, US tabloid magazines have devoted thousands of cover stories to the couple, mostly spurious.

People magazine, explaining the special edition it is rushing out to cover the divorce, said: “Our audience is deeply connected to the couple. Every scenario of their life together is fascinating.”

Aspirational ideals

All that coverage lent the relationship a somewhat fictional quality – and for most of us, Pitt and Jolie might as well be fictional characters. They were as much an avatar of true love as the fairytale couples of our childhood. We are inculcated to see in Sleeping Beauty and Prince Charming the aspirational ideal of a relationship, so it’s no surprise that we instinctively seek out those tropes in later life.

They were a perfect blank canvas, the pleasingly beautiful couple on the red carpet that in some senses represented a glamorised amplification of the picture of happy unity that most of us try to project in our relationships, though admittedly with fewer flashing cameras.

Relationships are demanding, in many ways the most central challenge of our lives. For many people, I suspect, the fact that Jolie and Pitt seemed to make it work, with all that scrutiny and temptation, was a source of comfort and perhaps hope.

With the sudden news of their divorce, we are fleetingly, subconsciously forced to reckon with the frailty of our own relationships. Just as their bond represented the aspirational ideal of true love, so their separation represents the elusive impossibility of attaining it.

So, yes, it is frivolous to be interested in celebrity marriages and celebrity break-ups. But it is also deeply human.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.