Carola Long: Brangelina and a 21st-century myth

This couple fulfil the desire to see own lives played out in glossy form

Share
Related Topics

In the minds of many gossip hounds, the next chapter of the Brangelina drama had already been written, and it was the finale. What a surprise then when the key players actually voiced their own parts and announced that they were beginning legal action against a newspaper which claimed they were planning to split. Their lawyer said the paper made "false and intrusive allegations" in reporting that the couple had agreed to separate and divide their hefty assets, and had made arrangements for the custody of their considerable brood.

But many celebrity-watchers are less likely to believe the two people at the heart of the story than the reports surrounding them. That's partly through precedents such as Cindy Crawford and Richard Gere's full-page advert in The Times, declaring the stability of their marriage, and Guy Ritchie and Madonna's strained smiles of togetherness at the premiere of RocknRolla. Both preceded divorce. It's also because the whole Jen, Brad and Ange saga fulfils so many classic narrative archetypes that it has the ring of authenticity. It's like a modern-day morality play, albeit a muddled, quasi-biblical Hollywood blockbuster version with better teeth and hair. Just imagine it directed by Mel Gibson.

Accordingly, Brad – whose love of sport and beer makes him an A-list everyman – succumbs to lust, in the form of siren Angelina. Along the way he performs some good deeds (charity donations) but the cliffhanger is whether he will achieve redemption by begging Jen to take him back. There is also a semiotic system at play deemed far more accurate than any leak in the press – or lawyer's statement. A long straggly beard paints a thousand words, and Pitt's seems to say, Garbo-like, "I want to be alone... in my man-cave." In the popular imagination he is punished for swapping marriage to America's sweetheart for some short-lived, hot lovin' with a leather-trousered temptress with airbag lips. Now the passion has cooled and he's stuck with a woman whose penchant for adoption made her the butt of Ricky Gervais's jokes at the Golden Globes.

Of course this is all utter conjecture, but that doesn't destroy the Brangelina myth. In fact the more neatly it fits into a fictional pattern, the more believable it becomes. As well as the age-old dichotomy of the good girl – sweet honey blonde Jennifer – and the bad girl– twice divorced, multiple-tattooed Angelina – there are more stereotypes at play, such as the pitiable forty year-old single, childless woman. Aniston, shoe-horned into this clichéd role, even sent up parallels between reality and fiction in a speech, quipping: "If anyone has a movie called Everlasting Love with an Adult Stable Man that would be great".

The Brangelina story not only has juicy rumours of rows and infidelity to keep us hooked but it also taps into a deeper curiosity about relationships. We want to see our own lives and dilemmas played out in glossy, abstract form, and the Jolie-Pitts are too rich and beautiful to be much more than allegorical symbols. We can sit back, relax and enjoy the salacious but instructive tales of their poor little rich lives without the burden of empathy.

c.long@independent.co.uk

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager / Section Manager - Airport Security

£40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a critical role within the secur...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £45-55k

£20000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The company is an established, ...

Recruitment Genius: E-Commerce Manager - Fashion Accessories

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Senior / Assistant Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Exciting new position available at an independ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
V&A museum in London  

Celebrating the cultural impact of PR at the V&A

Danny Rogers
 

Daily catch-up: will this be the election result? And other Questions To Which The Answer Is No

John Rentoul
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn