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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, Accreditation, ITIL)

£70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, A...

C# Developer (HTML5, JavaScript, ASP.NET, Mathematics, Entity)

£30000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Integration Developer (.NET, Tibco EMS, SQL 2008/2012, XML)

£60000 - £80000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Integration...

Biztalk - outstanding opportunity

£75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A new election forecast indicates Nick Clegg's Liberal Democrats may hold the power in deciding who forms the next government  

General election latest: computer model predicts the Lib Dems might have even more of an influence than they do now

John Rentoul
Mrs Brown's Boy: D'Movie has been a huge commercial success  

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

DJ Taylor
Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?