Monday, June 8, 2009

Angelina Jolie: A Leader For Feminists. Or Something.

Ugh. Naomi Wolf, did you really have to write an article about Angelina Jolie for Harper's Bazaar Magazine about why she placed #1 on the ...whatever it is, world's most powerful and rich and insanely popular celebrity list? Is work that scarce?

You, Naomi Wolf, author of life-changing thought-provoking book "The Beauty Myth", taking on pop culture as a "serious topic" to be examined? Wolf calls Jolie "...an "ego ideal" for women — a kind of dream figure that allows women to access, through fantasies of their own, possibilities for their own heightened empowerment and liberation." Is this true for you as well Naomi?

Oh for fucks sake. Is it because she can fly a plane? Because she plays Lara Croft, arguably the most masturbated-to video game heroine ever? Or because she's rich and can do whatever she wants? Or is it simply her beauty that enamors us?

Wolf points out that women not only want to be Jolie, we also want to sleep with her. Yes, even the straight girls pick her first. Well, she's hot. Ok, so that's fair. But where Wolf loses me is in her explanation that Jolie 'has it all' and that's why we admire her. "She makes the claim, with her life and actions, that, indeed, you can get away with it. All of it. Against every Western convention, she has managed to draw together all of these kinds of female liberation and empowerment. And her gestures determinedly transgress social boundaries — boundaries of convention, race, class, and gender — giving many of us a vicarious thrill." Hmm. Well, she does fly planes. And she chose to adopt children out of wedlock. Both symbols of different kinds of female liberation.

But can I just take a moment to suggest something? Jolie is rich. Jolie was born rich, to a rich family with ample opportunity. She did not have to struggle to become what she is, she attracted interest, and therefore power, simply because of her parents. I think that's a pretty good head start on the whole 'transgressing social boundaries' part, isn't it? It is definitely a good starting point for acheiving new levels of female liberation. You know, since she doesn't have social and cultural economics standing in her way.

The reality is that Jolie, like so many other women who we hold up as 'liberated' and 'modern' and 'icons' are trapped by the very beauty that made them popular. When it comes down to it, beauty is Jolie's commodity. Sure, a head start from the family helps, but Jolie is the most famous and powerful woman in the world for two reasons; 1. She's stunningly beautiful, and 2. she is stunningly beautiful and knows how to work the media. What else to we relate to with Angie? What other reason do we even have to know or care about who she is and what she does? Everything else is an afterthought that has come as a result of her beauty. Sure, people say we care about her children. But do we care about most single mothers with six kids? Not in the least. Why is Angie an icon? Because she's got great lips.

And isn't this exactly the kind of message Naomi Wolf wrote the Beauty Myth about in the first place? The damage is done on all of us, and now the damage is being ignored for a fluff peice in Harper's Bazaar.

To read these words from Naomi Wolf is particularly brutal. I'm going to go downstairs and read my copy of The Beauty Myth and go to sleep. Beauty rest, if you will.

1 comment:

Advizor said...

Wonderful article. Personally, I don't understand why people think she is beautiful. I know that I'm in the minority, about 1%, because I don't feel attracted to her at all. Her body is smokin' hot, to coin a phrase, but her face is as someone took a beating.

Her "power" or "clout" is based purely on her family connections, her talent as an actress, and now, because she is dating Brad Pitt. I'm not saying that Brad Pitt give her power, but dating Brad Pitt brings you lots of publicity.

If she can do some good in the role that she chooses to play, fine and good, but don't hold her up as an ideal for my daughter.