Pitched battle: Jolie loses opening round
Angelina can't really have anticipated the pity there would be for Brad, says Sarah Caden, when she started the divorce war
Published 25/09/2016 | 02:30
The gloves were off once Chelsea Handler called Angelina Jolie a "f*****g lunatic", last Wednesday.
The gloves had been off in the attacks on Brad for a whole day at that stage and yet, no real damage had been done. The previous day, Tuesday, Angelina Jolie had filed for divorce from the actor and then the rumour mill, apparently fuelled by her 'side', began. She cited "irreconcilable differences" on the divorce papers, but one of her lawyers later said that her concern was the "health of the family".
Then there were the rumours concerning Brad - his alleged affair with Marion Cotillard on the set of their as yet unreleased film, Allied, along with talk of drinking and taking drugs and outbursts of rage with the six kids.
Oddly though, there wasn't exactly a rush to sympathy for Angelina.
And then Chelsea Handler, a friend of Brad's ex-wife, Jennifer Aniston, said it. She said it while previewing her Netflix chat show and that wasn't all she said.
"There are rumours that part of the problem was that Brad was allegedly drinking and smoking too much weed," Handler said. "I wonder why he needed to self-medicate. Maybe because he could have been spending the last 12 years at Lake Como hanging out with George Clooney and Matt Damon instead of being stuck in a house with 85 kids speaking 15 different languages."
Admit it, it's kind of funny. But only because it's about Angelina. Up to that point, there was no great sympathy for Angelina, but no slagging of her either, partly because it would be unsisterly in the face of what was being said about Brad's recent behaviour.
But once Handler said the words, that was it.
Even though Brad Pitt ended last week with a visit from the FBI, investigating the allegation of a potentially physical altercation with his eldest child Maddox, on a private plane, he still ended the week as the good guy. Or the guy presumed innocent until proven guilty.
But Angelina was found guilty and convicted in the court of public opinion more than a decade ago, when it decided she had 'stolen' Brad from Jennifer, whether she actually did or not.
Perhaps the fact that people seem to care still about how Brad's marriage to Jennifer ended says a lot about how people care about him in general. He's a very good-looking guy, but it's the sort of All-American, borderline hillbilly Oklahoma boy element that endears him. He's gorgeous, but oddly attainable. And the same could be said for Aniston, which meant that, as a couple, they were likeable more than enviable.
Angelina, however, has always been a different kettle of fish. And, has always positioned herself thus. She has always been a woman of extreme, almost scary beauty, and her incarnations have never been usual either. She has never made any secret of her troubled teens, dabbling in drugs, her self-abuse, her relationships with women.
She was married first to her English co-star in Hackers, Jonny Lee Miller, and, more famously, to her Pushing Tin co-star Billy Bob Thornton. Their relationship was characterised, mostly by Angelina, as something of an addiction. References to their sex life suggested almost animal passion and they wore phials of each other's blood around their necks.
Famously, Angelina and Brad - who eventually married only two years ago - were co-stars in Mr and Mrs Smith, on the set of which, they have categorically stated, that no affair began. Brad was still married to Jennifer at the time and once they split, no one really ever believed that Angelina was anything but the force behind that.
She is a force, though. That's her thing. When she was bad, she was really bad and now that she's good, she's super-good. Before she and Pitt went public with their relationship, they were photographed on holidays with her first adopted child, Cambodian-born Maddox, now 15, and soon after they became a couple, they adopted Ethiopian-born Zahara, now 11.
Pitt later went on to adopt Maddox and, as a couple they have one other adopted child, Vietnam-born Pax, now 12. They also have three biological children, Shiloh (11) and twins Vivienne and Knox (8) and each child is said to have their own nanny.
It has always been a bit odd how these six children has been a source of international amusement. The reason behind it, though, is that the assembling of her family and the way in which she raises them, apparently without any formal schooling and, it has been reported this week, without any discipline to speak of, suggests that this is just another of Angelina's extremes.
Once, she was an extreme bad girl and now her mother-earth role in life is taken as that, another role. The UN takes her extremely seriously as a special envoy, but the rest of the world takes her as simply playing another role. And all the while, even before this week, feels slightly sorry for poor old Brad. Sure why wouldn't he fancy a beer and a joint in the face of all that? Or so it goes. No matter what we hear that he may have done wrong, Brad, silently holed up in the house he shared with his wife and children until last week, until she allegedly blindsided him, is the good guy.
The rumours have been pretty bad, too. The alleged infidelity with Marion Cotillard we could all put down to typical Hollywood carry-on. Though it must have felt like more than that to Cotillard, who had to put out a public statement, telling the world that she is pregnant, with her long-standing partner's baby.
Then there was the drinking and taking drugs. Brad has never made a secret of his fondness for smoking a bit too much dope, but no one batted an eye at that.
As for the being too strict with the kids, well if the stories of them running wild were to be believed, he was doing them a favour. Every rumour, in fact, seemed to back up the idea that he's an ordinary Joe dealing with a "f******g lunatic". One thing that Angelina Jolie judged correctly last week is that it's a punitive world we live in. No transgression goes unpunished. For this reason, her firing of the first shot in the Brangelina wars was smart. And yet, she misjudged.
What she and those around her may have underestimated is how deeply the world is in love with the idea of punishing Angelina.
No one can know what really happened in their marriage, but everyone seems to know what side they're on in the divorce. And it's not Angelina's. It's like the world just cares that Angelina's getting her comeuppance.
Since Brad Pitt split up with Jennifer Aniston, all of 11 years ago, they have been waiting in the long grass for Angelina.
In fact, not even long grass, pretty short grass. Which seems incredible if Angelina didn't see it coming. If this divorce is a PR war, then, so far, she's losing it.