Angelina Jolie’s latest astonishing and inspiring move is a part of a brilliant life’s work both performing femininity and trolling the very idea of it.
Hey. So. Yesterday the entire news media/blog-o-twit-o-sphere/electro-typed words machine was talking about Angelina Jolie. It feels wrong to explain why, ‘cause surely if this minor blog post is he first you’re hearing of it, you must use the internet in a way previously unheard of by even lost cave tribes of distant yore. However, maybe you are a future archeologist. That’s nobody’s fault.
The Jolie story was a heart-warming, but bittersweet one, about Jolie’s preventative double mastectomy. Although there was some backlash, which is unsurprising as we are used to having to side-eye when celebrities do anything claiming it is for the good of others. We see something like Jolie’s going public over her cancer-not-cancer, despite breasts being a cornerstone of her lucrative career, and we see Bono strutting around claiming to be making poverty history or Phil Collins and Live Aid and his helicopter antics.
But Jolie’s been doing uncynical good stuff for a while. She deserves the plaudits. I think she deserves more than that. I think she deserves to have some special analysis done to the magnificent game she has been playing, followed up, perhaps, by an award of some sort. Essentially, I think Angelina might be the first person ever to win, the previously unwinnable game known as Being a Woman Under Patriarchy. Let’s inspect the facts.
Angelina Jolie has had an operation. She has written about it in a newspaper. But it is not just any operation. It is a boobie operation. It is a boobie REMOVAL operation. Oh, Angelina, you are magnificent. Jolie did something that was simultaneously a medical procedure she elected as the best choice for her and an elaborate high-concept comment on how our relationships with women’s bodies and, women’s breast in partic are socially constructed. Jolie, consider my hat tipped.
Because, up until now, didn’t so many of the bro-frat-bros of the world think they basically owned Jolie’s tits? Didn’t they pin pictures of those tits up on their walls and claim them? And hasn’t Jolie just turned around and gone. No. Nuh-huh. I own my body, bitches. I can even destroy it if I want. Yes, even those bits you like, because it is mine.
It’s been reconstructed to look the same. But is it? If not, why not? If yes, if the fake versions mean the same, what is the magical power you ascribe to titties? What the? Whatever. All you can conclude is that, yes, breasts actually belong to the women whose bodies they are attached to and any other meaning that might be thought or ascribed to them is lesser and often nonsensical.
And this blinder of body autonomy is just the latest move in Jolie’s magnificent game plan which I like to think of as utterly trolling the entire world over what it is to be a woman and what feminity even means.
Jolie began by playing deviant nympho starlet, snatching up an Oscar and cosying up with her own brother (who was – in the 90s – reasonably hot for a man in the 90s, so, ok). And then what happened next for Jolie? Did she fade from view forever like so many Best Supporting Actresses? No, fule. Nevah. Jolie goes and plays Tomb Raider – the ultimate boys’ own tissue-crispening ladyshape. Because that was the pinnacle of that type of lady she was at that moment.
Then, oh, bored now. So meet Angelina Jolie: maneater and crusher of long term het monog dreams (just happened to man-eat the sexiest man in the world, naturellement. This is Angelina, bitches. If she does it – it gets done. And crush the dreams of the woman we all loved the best, because, yeah, why not?) (SIDENOTE: She was also the crusher of my short-held notion that Mr and Mrs Smith was a gender twisting movie a la Tootsie or Mrs Doubtfire. Don’t know why I thought this, but I did. And it’s really not relevant – why am I even mentioning it?)
(Even her name Angelina Jolie is the most ladylike of all names. Are you even kidding me? Angelina? Jolie? Is that even…? Hell, yea. Her name literally means Lady Angel Mrs Super Pretty Lady. For serious. Look it up on googlepedia. She doesn’t have a proper last name. That would ruin the mind blowing ladyosity of it.)
The traditional, crunchy muesli triple face of womanhood is the maid, the mother the crone. So as Angelina had given us the pillow-lipped, blood soaked, lesbo-titted maiden of every soft-focus fantasy, she then swept that away to become, oh, just the mother of the entire world (with Brad Pitt, basically, as a prop she leant against while doing it. It’s like, oh I wanna be the mother figure now. I’ll need a father to stand in the background – I’ll just get that sexy man who is everyone’s favourite ever man. He’ll do.)
Even that leg poking out of that dress – because for women the Oscars are about who wins the dress wearing competition, and Jolie won it by totally trolling the idea of it. Here is a bit of me poking out of a dress. Here is a parody if that thing you like and it is still your favourite version of that thing you like, suckers.
Maid, mother, so are we now seeing crone? That sounds horrible, because no one uses crone to mean anything nice. There is no Crone I’d Like to Fuck acronym (because if you tried it, any self-respecting crone would snap your dick off with her be-toothed vag. (Vag-fangs, it’s part of the menopause. You’ll find out.)) But this could be cronery. You could view this move as part of the beginning of Jolie dismantling her fertile womanhood, because that is what being a woman is. That’s what happens so let’s be amazing about it and totally own it.
So Jolie is coming atcha with a version of that which you never thought possible. The change. The lady vanishes. The mother becomes the wise woman. Because: awesome. (And apparently ovaries too. Just in case we didn’t get it.)
The reasons why this is all amazing. And it is. It is amazing. Jolie is cycling thru every possible icon of femininity, like she’s flicking thru a tarot pack or listening to Kate Bush’s back catalogue on shuffle. And for each one she alights upon, she does it bigger and better than anyone else as and as a reflexive comment on the thing that it is. Who can touch THIS for a piece of life’s work performance art on what femininity means. (White, western, dominant ideology femininity, for sure, but that;’s the thing being deconstructed here.)
Patriarchy makes it hard-to-imposs to play the being-a-lady game and win. Be sexy or you’re irrelevant, but be too sexy and you’re worthless. Be a mother or your selfish, but you’re a bad mother if you still want to be a person after you spawn, etc, etc. Playing the game like Angelina shouldn’t be possible. Ticking every box then taking it to extremes and still making it work, like a lady boss.
Seth MacFarlane – the ultimate bro-frat-bro – included Angelina’s boobs in his song he did at the 2013 Sexism-themed Oscars, about how he owns and controls and is able to slut-shame at will all the actresses whose boobs he has seen. Not only has Angelina done an excellent job taking care of her own health and well being of her family, she has also played the best repost to that childish end-of-the-pier act ever – without even acknowledging it, or caring.
Seen my boobs have you, MacFarlane? How about I demonstrate to you, with the grace of a living saint just how much more powerful and complex and scary my female body is. And how I own it in ways you couldn’t ever understand.
Check mate, anyone who isn’t Jolie. I’d expect nothing less.
(The image at the top of this post is from this brilliant shoot for W Magazine – which kinda does some of the stuff I’m talking about quite overtly.)