Wednesday, May 15, 2013


You probably heard about it all on the news yesterday, but you still might be interested in reading the short essay Angelina Jolie wrote for the NY Times, entitled My Medical Choice, about her decision to undergo a preventative double-mastectomy.

I have long loved Angelina. She was always an interesting, original, and beautiful figure; I loved her Morticia Addams look, and the tattoos, and I thought the vials of blood she and Billy Bob Thornton wore were nice and appropriate expressions of the intense love they felt for each other. She tried her best to live free, and I respected that. But I think the interest turned to real admiration sometime around 2001, to which time she dates her interest in humanitarian causes, after filming Tomb Raider in Cambodia. After contacting the UNHCR for information on conflict zones, she began making visits (paid for by herself) to refugee camps, writing about her experiences, and speaking out on behalf of refugees.  Soon after, she became a Goodwill Ambassador for UNHCR, and off she went. She remained an ambassador for ten years, and is now Special Envoy for Comissioner Antonio Guterres, regularly giving her time and profile to worthy causes, both in this role and independently; most recently speaking out for victims of sexual violence in military conflicts, whom she described as "the forgotten victims" at a summit in London (where she had to stand near and even speak to the despicable Nick Hague). She chose to adopt children from Cambodia, Ethiopia, and Vietnam, and in doing brought renewed attention to the need in those countries, and set up a foundation in Cambodia in Maddox's name. Since then, she and Brad Pitt have begun the Jolie-Pitt foundation, an international aid organisation. She directed a movie set during the Bosnian war with the sole aim of bringing attention to the conflict and its survivors. I could go on; just check out her wikipedia page, which itself doesn't even list everything she's been involved in. The woman is a humanitarian machine.

These things are incredibly important to me. But what I really, really love about Angelina is her openness and honesty. She doesn't employ an agent or publicist, which is probably why people are often so surprised by the things she says (as Penny Lane says, "isn't it funny how the truth just sounds different?"). When I was younger, I read about her history with drugs, and self-harming, and I felt like the ways I dealt with my own inner conflict that didn't seem "healthy" didn't make me a psycho, and didn't mean I wasn't going to turn out to be a capable and "healthy" adult, and it meant a lot to me to have someone speak so openly about those things, but without glamourising them. Once in a while, a picture of one of her ex-lovers would appear in a magazine, and they were all so different and interesting, and they made me excited to get older, and a little less afraid of not being right on the hetero end of the spectrum. I identify with her expression through tattoos (which, for me, is related to reasons for self-harming), and the way she expresses love (often with blood), and I appreciate that, while not exactly mainstream, these kind of expressions aren't so unusual anymore; people have a reference point, and that reference point is a person who gives much to the world. In spite of her other-worldly beauty, she is so human, and lets it show. She was openly distraught when her beloved mother Marcheline died, aged only 56, from ovarian cancer, and I couldn't help thinking that if her openness and sincerity helped me, a complete stranger, how much it must help her children, and how much they will get to know their mother, and how much she must really have known hers.

This ties in to the next bit of my revised philosophy, which I'll carry on another time. I meant to make this heroes thing regular after I wrote about Dorothy Parker, Nietzsche, and Joe Strummer, but then I forgot until I saw Angelina on the news last night and got that feeling you get when you are so invested in something that its/their triumphs and sorrows become yours. I actually felt proud of her, which may seem insane, but I guess that's how it is with heroes. Angelina Jolie. Hero.

1 comment:

  1. wow i didn't even know most of that about angelina jolie, she sounds really amazing. this was nice to read. :-)