Brian Boyd: Brangelina break-up could benefit the world
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie at the forefront of celebrities taking on intractable global problems
Something got torn in the natural order when actors and singers decided, on the back of a successful film or album, that they would now solve global problems. Photograph: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for WSJ
It’s technically known as Celebrititis and is characterised by an inflamed reaction to celebrity news. Symptoms include withdrawal from functioning society, the abdication of reason and sense, and a Stockholm Syndrome-style identification with egomaniacal gazillionaires who would turn their security detail on you if ever you were to so much as ask for their autograph.
Within this celebocracy, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are gold standard media currency. Their relationship was a mother lode. From the wringing of hands over Jennifer Aniston (poor Jen!) to the reports from the security guards at their Kenyan beach “love getaway” resort some years ago that they had to storm Brad and Angie’s villa late at night as they believed the noises emanating from within were from “a wounded animal, or someone being killed”.
But now that Angelina’s lawyer has confirmed that the actress is filing for divorce, and “that this decision was made for the health of the family”, there will a fire-damage sale on every conceivable aspect (real or imagined) of this relationship. The “Team Brad” and “Team Angie” T-shirts haven’t even hit the shelves yet but already we are in need of an exit strategy.
Celebrities save the world
There was a time when the entertainment industry made entertainment. People were trained to sing or act to a very high standard and this was generously rewarded with money and fame. But then came celebrity sex tapes, chihuahuas in handbags and Ginger Spice being appointed a United Nations ambassador with special responsibility for the Aids epidemic and maternal healthcare in sub-Saharan Africa. What was Geri Halliwell going to advise them on? What to do with their Fendi clutch bags when their waters broke?
Something got torn in the natural order when actors and singers decided, on the back of a successful film or album, that they would now solve intractable global problems. Professionals who were experts in local conditions but had the misfortune of never appearing in Die Hard were shunted to one side as caring celebrities would say “It’s really sad here” from a balcony overlooking a famine-wreaked area before being escorted back to their still revving private jet by armed guards.
Steering clear of diarrhoea
Celebrities who have trouble spelling their own name, singers looking to adopt a fashionable disease, whacked-out Scientologists and the plain pathologically narcissistic were “raising awareness” because that’s an easy in-and-out job compared to the hard slog of effecting the political change that frees people from unconscionable misery.
According to the World Health Organisation, the biggest killer of children under five is preventable and treatable. But no celebrity will go near it. After all, who wants to have their star-studded name associated with diarrhoea?
Journalist Marina Hynde’s book Celebrity: How Entertainers Took Over The World and Why We Need an Exit Strategy expertly collated the most egregious examples of ego-driven celebrity intrusion.
Sharon Stone appointed herself a Middle East Peace Envoy. Her strategy? “I would kiss just about anybody for peace in the Middle East”.
Jude Law took it upon himself to go on a “mission” to Afghanistan. He never got a chance to conduct drama improvisation workshops with the Taliban (or whatever daft idea he had) because, as he reported on arriving back: “Obviously, it was too complicated for us to sit down with the actual Taliban.”
Brangelina exert control in Namibia
And here’s why we need not just an exit strategy from Brad and Angelina’s divorce but also an exit strategy from the exhibitionism and exploitativeness of Celebrity Concern: when Angelina Jolie travelled to Namibia for the birth of her and Brad’s daughter in 2006, her bodyguards allegedly cordoned off roads, ransacked local houses in case they were hiding members of the media, assaulted a restaurant owner and used pepper spray.
The Namibian government enforced a no-fly zone above the coastline where Jolie was to give birth in a clinic. The Pretoria News in South Africa reported at the time that the, “Namibian embassy in Pretoria has told journalists seeking visas for Namibia that they must have permission from Pitt and Jolie in writing before they will be allowed into the country.”
The Apartheid South African state only ended its illegal occupation of Namibia in 1988 and the country gained its independence. Jolie, who is a UN Goodwill Ambassador, told reporters that she had wanted to give birth in Namibia (with her Los Angeles obstetrician flown in to supervise) because Namibians “just recently learned to govern themselves, we need to help them understand better how to govern”.
“Never in my life have I seen two individuals exercise so much power here – they effectively captured the state,” Phil ya Nangoloh, a Namibian human rights director told the New Statesman. “Ms Jolie is a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations, yet she seemed to tolerate the removal of human rights that are guaranteed by the UN.”
Shutting down air-space, restricting movement into the country, control of the media – Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt were widely accused of Celebrity Colonialism.
On the back of her neck, Jolie has a tattoo. It reads: Know your rights.