Angelina Jolie’s public image has undergone a huge metamorphosis since that much talked about, uncomfortable kiss with her brother on the night of her Oscar win. And her mastery of the PR machine has never been more apparent than with her divorce from Brad Pitt.
She was Hollywood’s bad girl: the gorgeous goth who never failed to make us wonder what the hell she’d do next. From the aforementioned too-familiar kiss at the Academy Awards, to wearing her then-husband Billy Bob Thornton’s blood in a vial around her neck, to their red carpet proclamation that they had “f***ed in the limo” on their way to the event, we thought we had seen it all from her.
And then came Brad Pitt.
We all know the story. Pitt and Jennifer Aniston were supposedly living in domestic bliss until “homewrecker” Jolie came into the picture and seduced him with her magical v — at least, that’s how the tabloids spun it. So Jolie decided to spin it back. And it worked.
While we were all drawing lines in the sand over whether we were Team Aniston or Team Jolie, she was busy turning herself into a savior. When news of Pitt and Aniston’s split broke, Jolie headed to Pakistan to visit Afghan refugee camps. Pitt later joined her for a trip to Kashmir to bring attention to the plight of displaced earthquake victims.
“Presto, they come out looking like serious people who have transformed a silly press obsession into a sincere attempt to help the needy,” Michael Levine, a celebrity publicist and author, told the New York Times Magazine in 2008.
A cynical take, to be sure — it was charity work, after all — but not necessarily out of line. It is wonderful, and some believe obligatory, to use your fame to help others whenever possible. Jolie has certainly done that. And she has done it in a way that has changed the way the media talks about her.
In the past 12 years, Jolie has expanded her brood from one to six and changed her image from sexpot to earth mother. For years, instead of reading about her love life, we’ve been reading about her work on behalf of refugees. She’s been doing important work, and making sure she gets publicity for it, first for the causes themselves and secondly for her.
So now we come to yesterday’s events. She filed for divorce from Pitt, after a 12-year relationship and two years of marriage. She made sure to request full custody of all six children and her statements specifically mentioned parenting, not the rumors that Pitt cheated with Marion Cotillard and a bunch of Russian hookers. Complaining of infidelity would simply serve to remind the public of the couple’s inauspicious start (as if we need a reminder) and change her narrative from human rights crusader to hypocrite.
Instead, she is once again shaping her narrative. Stories are appearing saying Pitt’s drinking and pot use, coupled with an anger problem, led to the marriage’s demise. Is her team responsible for this? The mama bear must protect her cubs, and no one can argue with that. But Pitt seems to be onto it and he is refusing to allow her to shape his narrative, too.
“Brad thinks Angelina is a great mother,” an insider told People. “But he is also a great father. There is no way he is going to be absent for any part of his kids’ lives.” Angelina shouldn’t hold her breath when it comes to full custody, it seems. But perhaps Pitt should keep in mind that she has already cut him a break. She filed the divorce paperwork after the week’s editions of tabloids had already gone to press. She has plenty of time to reshape the story before next week’s editions.
What do you think about Jolie’s transformation and the way she and her team are handling the divorce? Let us know in the comments below.
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