While information at this stage is at best true and unconfirmed and at worst mere speculation, pharmacy those ‘in the know’ say it was due to Brad’s substance abuse, parenting and, interestingly, an alleged extra-marital affair with French actress Marion Cotillard. Considering that a similar conversation was unfolding 11 or so years ago in relation to Pitt’s alleged infidelity while married to Jennifer Aniston, it is interesting to consider how the dialogue has changed.
Anyone with a pulse in 2005 will remember the very public divorce of ‘Hollywood’s golden couple’ (whatever that means) and the subsequent damning rumours, which said that Pitt and Jolie- who met on set of Mr and Mrs Smith- had been having an affair. What you will also recall is the immediate and conclusive ‘roles’ assigned to the parties: Aniston was clueless, selfish wife who pushed Pitt away and wouldn’t ‘give him’ babies, Jolie was the vixen, the temptress, the seductive siren with a dark past who singlehandedly corrupted poor Pitt; and Brad himself? According to most tabloids, virtually blameless. The two women were then pitted (sorry) against each other in subsequent news stories- as Brad’s alleged bad behaviour faded neatly into the background.
This dangerous trend in the media of attributing blame to women proliferates beyond celebrity column inches. As campaigners and (mostly female) politicians work tirelessly to remove the ‘blame’ dialogue from cases of rape and sexual assault, media outlets globally continue to make women the malefactor in any situation where it seems easy to do so.
Jolie’s Wikipedia page – in between her Oscar wins and extensive humanitarian work- states that she was ‘involved in a well-publicized Hollywood scandal when she was accused of being the reason for the divorce of actors Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston.’ This wording -though perhaps unintentional- is maddening and careless. The suggestion that Pitt, married at the time, is entirely blameless in the alleged affair and that Jolie, single at the time, is the ‘reason’ immediately removes accountability from Pitt, who’s page has scant mention of fault, other than to say he ‘fell in love with Angelina on set’.
So how did this narrative develop? Well- the tabloid media love drama, because drama equals stories. After all, “Hollywood couple talk about their dull, normal marriage” isn’t exactly clickbait. And in order for there to be stories, there needs to be characters. The media obliges, and the ‘good guy/bad guy (or girl)’ roles are formed. Readers gamely buy into this- we want to believe in the characters to make the story more exciting/entertaining/provocative/easier to understand- so we ignore the damning evidence suggesting they might not be what we thought.
We’ve all done it. When my friend found out her Dad had an affair with another woman, her impulse reaction was “How could she do this to my family?” She wanted so badly to ignore the fact that her own father- who she trusted and adored- could be to blame. Same with cheating boyfriends- we’ve all sat round with cups of tea as a friend launches into an expletive ridden rant about the (often nameless) girl but don’t think twice about forgiving and forgetting when he- the one who actually betrayed the relationship- turns up with flowers and an apology.
Ironically, in the case of Jolie, the tables have turned. It seems that in the 11 years that have passed, Jolie has undergone a role change in the eyes of the media- I guess raising six children (including three adopted from some of the poorest, most war-torn parts of the world), winning Oscars, starring in and directing countless successful films and a decade of work as the UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador has paid off, and we are ready to forgive and cast a new ‘villain’ in Pitt.
At the core of this saga is a tragic, human situation: the couple have six young children together and are very much in the public eye, making a traumatic ordeal for all involved all the more difficult by its worldwide visibility. And as more information emerges over the next few weeks, let’s check ourselves before immediately blaming the easy target, whether it be Jolie, Cotillard or even Pitt himself.
Written by Alice Leahy