A tragedy has taken place. One which was so momentous that in between NDTV 24X7’s live ticker on US President Barack Obama addressing the UN general Assembly for the last time, a ticker announcing this development interrupted what he and John Kerry were hopefully going to say about Pakistan. So while we were reading about Obama waxing eloquent on global issues, we were informed that Brangelina was no more. No, they weren’t dead. It was simply that Angelina Jolie had filed for divorce from Brad Pitt.
This was absolutely earth-shattering stuff. A Hollywood couple – a breed known for their longstanding marriages – was calling it quits. How could this be? What would we do? People on Facebook and Twitter seemed to be in the throes of agony. Relatively intelligent people I know, posted updates ranging from “Say it isn’t true” to “I thought they would be together forever”.
Through my tears, I switched to BBC World's Global With Matthew Amroliwala, where they had an expert guest commenting on the matter in studio. Although to give both the expert and Amroliwala credit, they both looked extremely bored. As if they knew that this was required for TRPs, and they had to go through the motions. The only new piece of information they provided was that Jolie will be represented by lawyer Laura Wasser, who has represented Johnny Depp, Kim Kardashian, Stevie Wonder and Britney Spears in their divorces.
Despite TMZ breaking the news, which does qualify as Breaking News for a tabloid like them, one would think it would not be Breaking News for mainline news channels or websites. But it was, and soon a flurry of articles appeared. The best of which was Daily Beast’s hilarious memento mori on media and public reactions to the breakup. By Wednesday morning when I checked, Guardian had three separate articles and India Today TV had a full segment on it.
Of course, it’s news. No one is disputing that. It’s two of the world’s most high-profile stars getting a divorce after forming a mini-United Nations of children between them. (The couple have six children together - Maddox, Pax, Zahara, who are adopted, and biological children Shiloh and twins Knox and Vivienne.) The reason we know all these details is because if anyone has used the media to their benefit, it is Jolie-Pitt.
Every time a child was adopted or born, we were along for the ride. When Jolie and Pitt got married, we were shown pictures of the wedding dress which their children had decorated with drawings. Jolie wrote in New York Times about how she removed multiple organs she felt could go south in her body, it began with a double mastectomy and then went on to include her fallopian tubes and her ovaries, to stop herself from running any chance of getting cancer.
We were there when she gave birth in Namibia. So when you post your private life and private virtues in public papers for public adulation, it’s expected that your private tribulations will also be discussed with as much enthusiasm.
What I fail to understand is why everyone, who is not from Hollywood or the Jolie-Pitt family, is so distraught that they split up. And why the artifice of these celebrity lives, escapes them.
Am I the only cynical one out here? Which could well be the case.
First, there is a lot to look up to Jolie especially for. She is one of the many celebrities who has used her celebrity for good. Today, she is known more for her charity work - as a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Refugee Agency for 11 years before becoming a Special Envoy in April 2012 – than for her acting. She’s currently teaching a course at the London School Of Economics.
But this couple, who everyone is weeping over, has a very big chink in their shiny and very handsome armour. Ever since the coming together of Jolie-Pitt, they have proceeded to show their humanitarian largesse by travelling to various countries and adopting children from them. An act which has put Cambodia, Ethiopia and Namibia in public discourse. They've also had three biological children. All of which is commendable if you have the financial means to look after children who need homes, but would be more commendable if you gave these children a stable home to live in.
Their have been allegations of Pitt having an affair with his co-star, Marrion Cottilard for a while now, which many reports have claimed to be the straw that broke the camel’s back. Jolie has asked for full physical custody of the children because she doesn’t approve of Pitt’s “strict parenting skills”, his “substance abuse” and “anger problems”. How wonderful for children to hear that their mother doesn’t think their father is worthy of playing an active role in their lives.
It's all very Woody Allen-and Mia Farrow-esque. I love you and our mini-UN family, till divorce do us part. Then, suddenly, this perfect partner devolves into being the worst person on earth. And must be kept at many arms’ length from your and their children. Not the best example to set for divorced women or parents. And this is important, because Jolie likes setting an example for all that is right and virtuous in the world – from saving refugees. to saving your body, to saving children from across the globe.
I just find the entire artifice of hanging out your public life and woes and virtues to dry out through the media, distasteful. I’m all for people not staying together if they don’t get along, which is also why you need to think a million times before having kids. And in this case, before adopting a village. Yet, I find the fact that they took in all these children into their home, only to tell them that, “hey, not only do mummy and daddy have ‘irreconcilable differences’, but mummy/daddy’s a scummy parent and can no longer be part of your lives”, utterly self-centred and selfish.
If you do have kids and split up, why drag the other parent through the dirt. How does this help? Other than to score points at the cost of what it does to your child. Hearing your father or mother is suddenly considered unfit to be your parent, cannot have a positive impact on any child. And also reduces the Jolie-Pitt kids into little multiracial pawns in a divorce game which will be recorded and reported for posterity in the news forever.
The Jolie- Pitt divorce is not a sad comment on celebrity marriages. It is a telling comment on poor parenting and putting your own self before your multiple children. And if the Mia Farrow-Woody Allen divorce is anything to go by, the repercussions on the children will be felt for decades. So quit hailing Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt as the perfect couple who were shining examples to look up to, and spare a thought for those six kids who had no choice in being part of this very public playout of what promises to be the War Of The Roses.