Oh Angelina, Jolie be thy name
The Hollywood starlet has been slated for her diva-like behaviour in interviews. Yet her diva-like ‘celebrity colonisation’ of Africa is cheered.
Is Angelina Jolie the new messiah?
Please don’t hold that as a frivolous question. You may think that Jolie’s growing collection of rainbow-faced children, her Namibian birth rituals, her goodwill diplomacy and her recent portrayal of Mariane Pearl, the widow of American journalist Daniel Pearl who was beheaded by Al-Qaeda, don’t match walking on water, turning water into wine and all that hocum. But it has now been made clear by American Esquire (no less) that Angelina Jolie is ‘the best woman in the world’. Esquire also declared, in a huge headline, that ‘Angelina Jolie dies for our sins’. She is a bee-stung lipped Mother Teresa (without the wrinkles and the awful headgear), a double-D Mother Africa, parachuting in to the world’s armpits of misery, doing her bit to ‘raise awareness’ and then busting out to sashay down a red carpet in a little yellow number.
Angelina is holier than thou, and me. She’s adopting the world’s children, doing her bit for landmines, saying a lot of ‘aware’ stuff in interviews. Maybe you haven’t been paying attention to her words of wisdom; fortunately, modern-day Christians have. And in what could become a more glamorous version of those little knitted ‘What Would Jesus Do?’ bracelets, Christians in rural Golant in Cornwall, England, are devoting Evensong this Sunday to asking ‘What would Jesus say to Angelina Jolie?’ I’m serious. I rang Philip de Grey Water, vicar of St Sampson’s Church where the Angelina sermon will take place, to find out exactly what He would say to Angelina. But the vicar wasn’t in. His wife assured me that he will upload his sermon on to the web straight after delivering it, so that all outside the parish and around the world can discover what Christ would say to St Angelina.
Being a bit wet, He will probably say she’s doing her best.
To recap, for those who still persist in ignorance of the Second Coming – when all our consciences will be raised by spectacular feats of do-gooding photographed in magazines – Angelina Jolie is an American movie star, most famous for playing Lara Croft, the bazooka-breasted action hero of a video game of the same name. She is the daughter of Hollywood actor Jon Voight, and she won an Oscar for Girl, Interrupted. She has been tattooed like a trucker and variously married; at her most recent wedding, to Billy Bob Thornton, she and the groom exchanged vials of blood. Currently she is shacked up with Brad Pitt, the World’s Most Handsome Man. For all this, Angelina is, according to a Q Score survey, ‘familiar to 81 per cent of Americans’. She is in the top 100 celebrity lists of Forbes and Time. She is a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. She donates one third of her income to charities. And she is (according to People magazine) the most beautiful woman in the world.
Unfortunately, right now, just like Jesus, Angelina is getting crucified by her public. In America, she is being pilloried for trying to impose a legally enforceable contract on celebrity journalists who interview her about her new film A Mighty Heart, in which she plays Mariane Pearl. The contract stipulates that ‘the interview may only be used to promote the picture’, and will not be used in any manner that is ‘disparaging, demeaning or derogatory to Ms Jolie’. As an article on Slate pointed out, the idea that any interview with Ms Jolie has ever been ‘disparaging, demeaning or derogatory’ is ludicrous. Ms Jolie, as previously stated, has a big fat Vietnam/Ethiopian/Cambodian orphan baby-rescuing halo atop her great brunette mane. She has the twinkle of charitable initiatives in her eyes. Where Cleopatra merely bathed in milk, and Kate Moss in champagne, Angelina bathes in our tears of admiration, and washes with a bar of our Western guilt. She doesn’t need a legal document to make the press fawn over her; it does that already.
Angelina says a multitude of stupid things and gets away with it every time. On the love she feels for her children, she explained to Elle magazine: ‘I think I feel so much more for Madd[ox] and Zee [Zahara] because they’re survivors, they came through so much. Shiloh [Jolie’s biological child with Brad Pitt] seemed so privileged from the moment she was born. I have less inclination to feel for her.’ Despite this rather callous expression of extra feelings for her adopted children over her biological child – where she described the newborn Shiloh as ‘a blob’, clearly too snot-nosed and silver-spooned to merit much interest – there was still no snag in the Jolie-worship. According to a source close to the Pitt-Jolies: ‘Angelina and Brad want to make sure Zahara doesn’t feel alienated as the only black face in their family.’ Angelina, apparently, ‘feels the children need a balance of faces in their life’. Well, Dolly Parton wanted a coat of many colours – but how is it relevant?
Angelina’s outrageous diva-like behaviour before press briefings may upset some American journalists, but her outrageous diva-like behaviour in Africa merited not a whimper of protest. If anything, she was praised for singlehandedly breathing life into African tourism: a miracle from our celebrity saviour! When Angelina went into labour with Shiloh in the African state of Namibia (she chose that country because it is ‘the cradle of mankind’ and she wanted the birth of her child to be an extra ‘special’ experience) she had an impoverished sovereign state of 1.8million people at her beck and call. As Brendan O’Neill reported on spiked last year: ‘As they awaited the birth, [Pitt and Jolie] reportedly surrounded themselves with their own personal security detail and armed Namibian police…. There was even a no-fly zone, enforced by the Namibian government, over the luxurious Burning Shore beach resort where Pitt and Jolie were holed up.’
Any journalist wishing to enter Namibia during the time of St Angelina’s Labour had to be approved by the Pitt-Jolie camp first. In effectively shutting down national borders so that she could give birth in the way she wanted, Jolie scaled new heights of celebrity colonialism. Madonna contents herself with plucking a toddler from Malawi; Bono struts around with a lot of red things; Geldof just says ‘Fock’ all the time – but Jolie outdid them all when she had an African state shut down, like Posh Spice might close an LA department store for an afternoon’s shopping.
In Mumbai, Jolie exhibited similar behaviour during the filming of A Mighty Heart. During one take, a brawl erupted on set between parents trying to pick up their children from school and Brad and Angelina’s bodyguards, who physically blocked the parents from getting to their kids. Jolie explained that it was all the fault of paparazzi, who were there trying to take her photograph. Clearly wishing she could push around the Indian government in the way she had the Namibian, Jolie was quick to blame the press rather than her own bodyguards and diva-style security detail: ‘It was not the film production that caused chaos… We were only guilty of bringing the paparazzi.’
So there we have it, poor old Angelina, her halo replaced with a crown of thorns – all for trying to push around the media in a country like America, which you can’t dictate orders to like you can desperate African officials keen to boost their tourism figures. Chances are, however, in a very short while, once the media crowd that has assembled to throw things at her has dispersed, and she has undertaken yet another patronising tour of an unfortunate place, Angelina will, like Jesus, rise again. And this time, she will probably be more unassailable than ever. She is, after all, the ‘best woman in the world’.
Emily Hill is staff writer at spiked and a blogger for Dazed and Confused.
Brendan O’Neill looked at Brad, Angelina and the rise of ‘celebrity colonialism’ and welcomed us to the People’s Republic of Bono. Mick Hume outlined the importance of trashing celebrity culture. Or read more at spiked issue Celebrity.
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