The Angelina Jolie Gap

I came across an interesting phenomenon sometime last year. It actually was a bit of a surprise, but the more I talked to people about it, the more I discovered there’s this interesting gap when it comes to Angelina Jolie.

Angelina Jolie Jane January 2000 01

If you’re old enough to have been in your teens or twenties in the 90s you probably like her at the very least and might even love her. But you were first introduced to her in Hackers or Gia or unlikely but possibly Girl, Interrupted. You know she’s a serious actress and an edgy human being who has evolved into a badass and humanitarian. You might have a certain point of view on her recent choices (whether it’s bouncing between high-profile action films and odd indie roles or her choices as a mother or her weight or the incessant paparazzi attention or her and Brad Pitt, the media gives you a lot to have an opinion on). But there’s probably some level of respect there.

If you’re young enough to have been introduced to Angelina Jolie when she and Brad Pitt fell in love you probably don’t like her that much. You possibly think she only does empty action roles and there’s no significance to her as an actor, because her indie films are generally so indie no one who is under 40 is watching them (i.e. The Good Shepherd or Changling). You probably don’t have any respect for her because you think she stole Brad Pitt from Jennifer Aniston. You may not even be impressed with her humanitarian work because she takes herself too seriously.

Angelina Jolie 02

For the record, I’m in the former camp. I’ve liked Jolie ever since Hackers. I’ve enjoyed watching her evolution as a human being from her wild youth to an admirable, focused present where she does something worthwhile with the fame and celebrity and money she has. I also like her action movies.

And, ok, maybe for a moment I’m going to counter some of the perceptions from the other side of the gap. Not because we all need to like or dislike the same people. But if you’re going to not like someone, it should be for good reasons.

  • She really is a fascinating, engaging, truly powerful actress. Even if you’re not going to watch all her early films (and not be fair, not all of them are worth watching) at least watch Girl, Interrupted. That Oscar of hers wasn’t a fluke.
  • She builds millennial villages! And not tiny ones, life size villages that people live in. The thing about this I respect most is that she doesn’t just throw money at a problem or talk about what would help – she does something and people have cleaner water and they have roads and schools and better lives. So many of the people in Hollywood who have so much money and clout use it to make more movies and buy 150 cars and somehow think making movies is what makes their life worthwhile and the public acts like they’re right.
  • And the thing with Jennifer Aniston, I know it’s lame to end on your weakest argument but you should read Vanity Fair’s interview with Brad in 2004.

    We don’t cage each other with this pressure of happily ever after. You figure it out as you go along. We feel it out, rather than setting policies and rules. Jen and I always made a pact, that we’ll see where this thing is going. I’m not sure it really is in our nature to be with someone for the rest of our lives, just because you made this pact. You keep going as long as you keep growing. When that dies, we do.

    The only thing Jennifer Aniston was a victim of was a lot of free publicity and public goodwill.

But this isn’t really about whether or not I like her. It’s about this fascinating divide between those who do and those who don’t.

I think the first thing I found interesting was how clearly it is delineated by age. You may not be surprised by it, because I’ve just outlined why above, but when I first came across it I was admittedly stunned. You ask a woman in her 30s or 40s if she likes Angelina Jolie and the answer is always “yes” or “yeah, she’s ok.” If you ask a woman in her 20s it’s unequivocally, “no.” I had to ask a lot of women why in order to understand enough to articulate those first two paragraphs.

The second part I found interesting is how universal the perceptions of Angelina Jolie are. Almost every woman in her 20s that I asked had the same attitude toward her for the same reasons; mostly fed to them by the media. Even though we’re all exposed to the endless news cycle that Jolie and Brad Pitt generate, older women formed their initial impression of her from her work, even with the occasional odd news story, and bring that history to the current conversation. But younger women base very little of their opinion on her work. It all seems to be generated from the media stories with her films providing an accent to that, and generally not a positive one (even those who like her for being tough or doing action roles don’t necessarily feel it’s enough to justify all the attention she receives).

I don’t know that I’ve seen a celebrity with such polarity but really clean divisible lines between the two sides, which maybe is the thing I find most interesting.

Which side of the Angelina Jolie gap are you on?

April 12, 2012 | Commentary , | this post contains affiliate links

10 responses to “The Angelina Jolie Gap

  1. Jill

    I have followed Angelina Jolie since the film Gia, which I believe was 1998. She always had a certain charisma about her and for that, I became fascinated by her acting abilities. I thought she was a perfect ‘badass’ as Lara Croft and gave woman the idea and confidence that you can be a beautiful and strong woman at the same time. She was one of my favorite actresses. I think over the past 5 years or so my interest in Angelina has diminished quite a bit. Though I commend her for her generous contributions and humanitarian ways, the publicity she receives has portrayed her as a homewrecker, a drama queen and a woman in need of many late evening milkshakes but I believe she is more than that, and maybe it’s because I admired her for her acting abilities for so many years. I think and agree that if you are not going to like someone, you should research that facts before making such a harsh decision on choosing not to like someone. Angelina will always be one of my favorite actresses but I have to admit that I have become a victim to media stereotyping.

  2. N.Snow

    The only thing worth while she has ever done is Girl, Interruped. I admire her for using her money and popularity to help people rather than simply giving them hand outs while the paparazzi takes pictures so she gets her nice Hollywood pat on the back. Above and beyond that I will not comment as I am trying a new policy of no judging….we’ll see how that goes.

    • aj

      That’s only because you don’t like action movies.

      You let me know how that no judging policy goes 😉

  3. N.Snow

    I do like action movies, just good ones where the leading lady has the I’m cooler, sexier, smarter, stronger….yes I know you want me and want to be me look on her face the entire movie. Get over yourself Angie…it’s all smoke and mirrors…

    Well that didn’t last long….

  4. kel

    i think, at the end of the day, whether you like someone or not, it’s important to know why you do or don’t. i do have a huge respect for the charity work angelina does, and that she takes it upon herself to commit to doing something about what she sees that needs to be righted in the world. as far as her acting is concerned, i first saw her in tomb raider, and in many of the action movies since. and she did a great job as a badass, but seemed like only an action star, and therefore wasn’t overly impressed with her lack of range. i still haven’t seen girl, interrupted. and for that, i’m guessing my opinion would change. but i can only formulate an opinion based off of what i have observed, and can’t be blamed for that, as long as i recognize the limitations of my experience and am open to further expanding that and possibly having my opinion shift.

    also have to note, there is a large and extremely important difference in judging someone as a human being (based off of humanitarian work and/or the media hype) and judging their acting abilities/career (based off of their work you have personally seen). there are plenty of talented actors that i have been underwhelmed by when watching their off-screen interactions or reading interviews. respecting someone as an individual and respecting their acting ability/role choices, while ideally mutually complementary, aren’t always.

    • aj

      true and true.

      It is fair that you can only form an opinion on what you’ve been exposed to. Especially with your very enlightened awareness that seeing something else might change that opinion, but you haven’t seen it so it hasn’t changed.

      And yes – that should be a whole other blog, the distinction between someone as a person and as an actor or character. I’ve seen plenty of terrible actors that ended up being really nice people and I felt bad for not liking their work or their public persona at all. And then, of course, there’s the people who do great work or happen to portray a really engaging character and are just lousy human beings.

  5. Lori

    I too first saw her in Gia. Why haven’t more people seen that movie? Is it because it’s terrible except for her performance?

    I’ll never forget watching her “Inside the Actor’s Studio”. She said if she would cry when she cut her knee as a child, her mother would ask her to catalog the pain and analyze her emotions. How Strasberg. Horrific parenting. I marvel that she’s not a psycopath. Presumably.

    • aj

      I think more people didn’t see it because it wasn’t actually a movie – it was a made for HBO tv movie.

      I remember that part in “Inside the Actor’s Studio”! I actually thought it was interesting. very Strasberg and not a child-rearing philosophy I’d recommend. But on the other hand, having nephews I think helping children be able to identify their emotions and give them context and articulate them helps them learn that they are in control rather than being a victim to whatever emotion happens to be upon them in the moment.

      I remember liking her “Inside the Actor’s Studio” because you could see the change in her that her relationship with Brad had created. She seemed much more at ease in her own skin which was refreshing and really interesting after having seen how she carried herself before.