So, how are we all feeling today?
Because the last 24 hours have been rough. From the realization that our days of using the term Brangelina in its original incarnation are over to watching CNN blindside George Clooney with the news (during a human rights conference!), Angelina Jolie filing for divorce from Brad Pittplunged a dagger right into the heart of the vestiges of old-timey Hollywood romance.
Sort of like how Jolie plunged a dagger into the heart of another romantic ideal 11 years ago...hmmm?
While you could practically hear the collective gasp echo around the world when the split news broke, the narrative also immediately fractured into various pieces. Why now? Whose fault is it? Who did what, and to whom? What about the kids? What happens now?
And then there was the portion of the reaction that most reflected the nonsensical connection we have with celebrities and the lengths we will go to continue the fight on their behalf, even after they surrendered their swords years ago.
We mean the Jennifer Aniston portion, of course.
Twitter was within the hour awash in imaginary reactionary Aniston faces—"That, my friend, is what they call closure." All the Rachel Green "noooooo's" in the world. So much laughter. So many smirks.
And with that, not only was Aniston dragged back into the conversation—more than a year after you'd have thought her own marriage would have left a nice Jen-shaped hole in the increasingly stagnant topic—but it hearkened right back to the days when Angelina Jolie, the woman who's currently trying to hold the pieces together after making a life-altering decision (for her and their six kids), was the Other Woman who stole Brad away, forever splitting the world into #TeamJen and #TeamJolie before there were even such a thing as hashtags to go with it.
Isn't the love triangle party over by now?!
ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP/Getty Images
Well, apparently not, though here's hoping it's at the very least last call. You don't have to go home but you can't stay here.
Because if anything, we're reminded now more than ever that Jolie—no matter how much those who loved Aniston and Pitt as a couple back in the halcyon days of the I Hate Rachel Green club wanted to blame her—didn't act alone.
Love triangles tend to shake out one of two ways in pop culture. (Or three if you count them spontaneously combusting and everyone involved going their separate ways.) If it's a woman and two men, she's the deserving female trying to figure out which of two suitors is going to give her the best life down the road and really make the best choice. If it's a man and two women, obviously one of those women is the conniving vixen trying to wrest the fellow away from the other girl, who everyone identifies with because she's so nice. Or at least because she was first.
While Pitt and his missing "sensitivity chip" were indeed called out, it was Jolie and Aniston who got their own T-shirts. Because rather than somehow weave Pitt's actions into the mix, it infamously became Jen vs. Angie, the two women pitted against each other in an endless high noon face-off.
And that's just nasty business.
Because no matter which "side" you may have chosen 11 years ago, a couple who have been together for the last decade and who are the parents of six children together are splitting up. It may even get nasty, though hopefully the official statements are more indicative of how this will go than the most accusatory he-said, she-said that's also making the rounds.
If anything, what's never been more glaring is Jolie's status as a regular human being.
Even when she was generously and quite bravely opening up about her preventive double mastectomy and, two years later, her decision to have her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed, she took on an aura of otherworldly motherliness, an almost ethereal yet determined crusader trying to shed some light on a topic that rarely gets such mainstream attention. And the topic proved to be controversial. Jolie's candor prompted a heated debate, about cancer risks, preventative health care, a woman's choices and whether her decisions were even valid. She was both applauded and criticized for what celebrities who try to say something are usually criticized for: her temerity to say anything, when of course she doesn't actually represent all women.
Which she never claimed to be doing.
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Nor does she speak for all women now, but even more can identify with her now that her relationship with Pitt has met the most unglamorous, average of fates.
It would be much easier if we could just deposit everyone into "good guy" and "bad guy" folders and leave it at that, but rather, most people are just floating around in the "human" folder, with all the messiness that implies.
This isn't to say that Jolie made all "good" decisions or was in the right when she fell for a married man on the set of Mr. and Mrs. Smith in 2004. She could have forced herself to stay away. Nor is it to say that Pitt's actually the one to blame for all of it. More like, what happened on the set of that romantic, action-packed movie was ultimately just so disappointingly human, a confluence of circumstances.
Jolie's bad-girl reputation didn't help matters at the time either. Though by then she was a mom to son Maddox (as well as an Oscar and Golden Globe winner and a United Nations ambassador), her performance-art of a marriage to Billy Bob Thorntonand her tumultuous history with drugs and other demons—along with the fact that upper lips like hers rarely exist in nature—made her a picture-perfect villain in the scenario. Too sexy, too wild, too much not the star of Friends.
But all the while, wasn't she just probably excited that she had found a guy she connected with, one in who she saw the makings of a great dad and who got on board with her imminent plans to expand her family?
They just so happened to be two of the most famous people on the planet, their names representative of not just two Hollywood stars, but of an ideal. And their names smushed together? Forget about it.
Pitt's good name took the smallest of hits. Jolie is a humanitarian for the ages and some people still actively root for a fake team that was made up nearly 12 years ago in order to oppose her.
Meanwhile, we could be banging the drum for the woman Pitt scorned as hard as we could, but if you were Aniston, wouldn't you have wanted to have your say (as she did) and then been given the chance to move on? Every time the Internet feigned going to bat for Jen, it was just another instance of defining her by the terms of a love lost, a dream dismantled.
Continuing long after Aniston had coupled up with Justin Theroux, her earlier breakup was adopted and internalized by those who figured that, if they were in Jen's shoes (probably because they have been in her shoes, in some form or another), they'd either be eternally devastated or forever trying to equal Branglina, or "catch up" in some way to the picture of modern domestic bliss that the Jolie-Pitt family represented.
Now it's Jolie's dream that has been dismantled, and those who are projecting their karmic philosophies onto Aniston are implying that either Jolie or Pitt—or both—deserved unhappiness in the end.
And who in their right mind has spent the last 12 years wishing for that?