Fangirl Fridays : Angelina Jolie
Angelina Jolie : Fearless
I'll be honest, I hesitated before deciding to do a Fangirl Friday post on Angelina Jolie. For several reasons. She's been talked about a LOT. Too much. The good stuff, the bad, the ugly. Tabloids have long whipped the gullible public into an Angie frenzy (well.. at least those parts of the public susceptible to crap magazines publish, you'll notice it's never as bad in countries where there tabloid mags aren't that widely available) and it can be a bit much.
I wasn't ALWAYS a Jolie fan. In fact, I first watched Gone In 60 Seconds when I was a young teen, and wasn't impressed. I did, however, admire her ability to be so uniquely HER in the face of all the prying eyes and wagging tongues. It took me a while to really see beyond her glossy images on every magazine, every crazy rumor, every tattoo. So I'm going to try and tell you why I think she is an amazing woman, and one I admire.
The former wild child, the actress, the mom, the vixen, the rebel, the humanitarian, the activist. There's a ton of labels people love to use to describe her... some of the more negative ones I'm going to choose not to mention.
Love her or hate her, you can't deny she is a pretty amazing actress. The raw intensity she brought to her role in Girl, Interrupted stole the show. Tomb Raider wasn't exactly a masterpiece, but she was awesomely kick ass in a movie with way too much testosterone, all the while smirking sexily. The devastating realness with which she played Gia, a train wreck you just could not look away from. The heartbreaking tragedy of her roles in The Mighty Heart (as Daniel Pearl's wife) and The Changeling. Even the fierceness of her role in Kung Fu Panda (come on... that animated movie is pretty awesome). And lets not forget just how amazing she was as Maleficent. I mean, wow.
While I will agree that movies like The Tourist and Mr. & Mrs. Smith are kind of overrated, and not her best by a long shot, so many other roles of hers have moved me. To tears, to anger, to frustration, to love, to hate. They've always touched me. And that has everything to do with what she brings to those roles.
I have always admired her openness about herself (to a non-Kardashian degree, of course), she's never minced words about her bisexuality. And while people have always loved spreading vicious rumors about her because of that, she has continued to be open about it.
I have always been a fan of actors and actresses who have had those wild child phases or who actually STRUGGLED in life like us normal folk, where people were just shaking their heads and going "that person is NEVER going to be a stable human being", like Drew Barrymore, Robert Downey Jr, Russell Brand (on whom I wrote a previous Fangirl post here), and of course, Angelina Jolie. She lived life, she made a whole lot of mistakes (in other words, collected experience points in this thing called life), she married the wrong men, did the wrong drugs, struggled with depression and self harm (a lifelong struggle, really), had daddy issues, basically pretty much everything you could think of, she'd been there. And yet, look at her today.
I could go on about roles of hers I've loved particularly, or talk about the hundreds of magazine covers she's graced, or about how she has made her own, not one, but three orphans from less fortunate countries, but my absolute favorite thing about her is the reason I picked her for this week's Fangirl post. And that is her work as a Humanitarian and Activist.
Let me tell you, there is no shortage of celebs who lend their voices to certain causes, even those that give time to those causes. But there is something different about Jolie for me. Apart from the fact that she has done SO much wonderful work in countries my parents and friends call home. Places where celebs would rather not spend their time, places where you can't always have photo shoots with the starving orphans, places everyone assumes are populated by future suicide bombers... not children, and parents, and innocent people whose lives have been devastated by both natural disasters, and those same terrorists the world assumes they are. It is the fact that she spends a huge chunk of her life, her time, her resources, her effort, to helping these people. To bringing attention to their needs by telling the world not to let the actions of their corrupt governments speak for those people. She has given her voice to hundreds of thousands of voiceless people. A voice that the world just might listen to.
One of the first camps I went to had 400,000 people. It was a sea of human misery. In Sierra Leone, I saw tens of thousands with their arms and legs cut off [by rebels], orphaned children. I felt completely overwhelmed. I cried constantly. I felt guilty for everything that I had. Then I realized I wasn't doing these people any favors by crying. I kept getting angry at the injustices until I couldn't think straight. I took a deep breath and focused on how I could help. I discovered that I was useful as a person.
Jolie was one of those people who saw things happening to people around her and realized she had the means to actually DO something about it. Not many people in such privileged positions do that. They go back to their charmed lives, and that's okay. But she didn't. I can't possibly go through all the amazing work she has done, or the personal donations she herself makes, or the amount of time she spends flying across the globe trying to help refugees from war ridden places, but do yourself a favor and google it. It's humbling to actually read all the things she has done for people around the world. People who have absolutely no idea who she really is. Someone who actually gets that we're all in this together.
I also deeply admire her VERY important work against sexual violence in conflict. As we've seen, the world is quite content to sit back and let horrible things happen to the underprivileged, the war ravaged, the underdeveloped. So it's a small step in the right direction that someone brought this up at a Global Summit at the UN. The video below is her short speech at the Summit."That's the reason we kind of exist. It's like our Job. To give to each other. And learn from each other. To capture moments of people. So it's really strange to have somebody ignore the obvious human being right in front of them."
“There is nothing inevitable about it,” said Ms. Jolie, who is the Special Envoy for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. “It is a weapon of war, aimed at civilians. It has nothing to do with sex, and everything to do with power. It is done to torture and humiliate innocent people, often very young children.”
I have heard, firsthand, from people who have worked with her in refugee camps (a lot of people vaguely recognized her, a lot didn't.. Hollywood is a bit obscure in some villages in South Asia), people who said there were no cameras there (and yes, there have been cameras present on other visits, which I think is important to spread the word sometimes), no documentation of her sweating out there with the rest of the NGO workers, getting bitten by mosquitoes, no record of her sharing the same living quarters as the other volunteers, people who were inspired by her unflinching dedication to just helping her fellow human beings. This was not a celeb getting photographed with a starving African child (not judging, help comes in many forms, but sometimes, it's like people just want to show what nice people they are by showing pictures of "those poor, starving African children".. and it's a bit of a "show" rather than "do" thing). This was just another person who realized they could be important by doing something as minor as holding a crying woman's hand and bringing food to her children. (Video below is her acceptance speech at the Governor's awards for the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.)
She's beautiful, she's smart, talented, glamorous. But more than that, she's kind, she cares, she wants to make a difference. And to me, there's nothing more important. She's helped people become aware of a multitude of issues, from opening up about her double mastectomy because of the faulty BRCA1 gene which affects millions of women, to the plight of the uprooted masses around the world. Just as at ease at the Oscar's red carpet as she is with refugees from Palestine, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Iraq, Syria, Sierra Leone, Cambodia and many more places; Goddess, warrior, actress, mother, survivor, beautiful, sexy.. none of these labels apply to her more than human.
"You could die tomorrow and you've done a few movies, won some awards — that doesn't mean anything, but if you've built schools or raised a child or done something to make things better for other people, then it just feels better. Life is better.”