Angelina Jolie has been getting major humanitarian points these days, serving as a Goodwill Ambassador for the UN and donating to various charities. It seems that the combined force of Brangelina, aside from being called the “most beautiful couple in the world” may even be overtaking Bono for the title “Celebrity Most Visibly Trying to Save the World.” But the halo doesn’t keep A.J. from indulging another great Hollywood pastime- addiction. The difference is, of course, that Angelina is addicted to babies, more specifically adopting foreign babies. And there’s nothing the press (and the TV-watching, magazine-“reading” public) likes more than to comment on the assortment of children she’s amassing.
Since Madonna jumped on the bandwagon, foreign adoption seems to be the next trend among celebrities. Comedians and critics have been quick to jump on the trend for its consumerist undertones- alleging adoption for aesthetic or superficial reasons rather than a genuine care for the children. On the Showbiz Show with David Spade this week, for instance, Spade jokingly reported that Angelina had adopted another African baby to “balance out the races in the house.” Not long ago the Daily Show ran a report from Samantha Bee about the popularity of foreign adoption in Hollywood, in which she interviews an adoption expert and asks for advice about picking a child to match her “color and season” and David Musto appears to contribute that “Africa is the new Prada store.” (see the video here)
However, Brangelina aren’t the first celebs to adopt in large numbers. This article from TMZ.com compares the pair to Josephine Baker, the provocative and popular star of the 30s and 40s, who adopted 12 children of different countries and called them her “Rainbow Tribe.” The article is quite praising of both Baker and Brangelina, saying that “Brad and Angie appear to have their hearts with the people of the world.”
However, I was caught this week by the cover of Us Weekly, which features Angelina and proclaims “Her Twisted Double Life” (read the online article here). The cover ponders “Saint or Sinner,” but with subtitles like “Her broken promise to be a stay-at-home mom” and “How she uses her kids to manipulate the media,” the judgment seems fairly clear. Basically, the magazine criticizes her for saying that she was planning to stay home with new adoptee Pax Thien while taking on other projects, including upcoming films. As much as I may be critical of Angelina and her adoption fetish, I think it’s unfair to levy this sort of criticism against her and conveniently not indict Brad as part of it. This article criticizes her for not “being a proper mother,” but does not make any statement against Brad, who is the legal father of all their children except newly-adopted Pax Thien and has been doing at least as many (if not more) movies since they became a couple. This is especially hypocritical when you take into account that when talking favorably about Angelina, Brad is inevitably added to the picture, whether it’s in a main or supporting role. It seems that Brangelina together is a powerhouse acting humanitarian couple, while Angelina alone is just a bad mother.
As for the criticism of Angelina’s manipulation of the media- it seems extremely problematic to make the claim that selling the photos of her children is manipulative and/or bad when Us Weekly surely made a bid to buy those very photos. Not to mention that the money went to charity, not to Angelina’s bank account. It seems to me that Brangelina are quite aware of their own status and know that their children will be chased and photographed anyway. Instead of let that happen, they have decided to make the photos on their own terms. And if it all goes to help people who need it, I have a hard time raising too strong an objection. And as much as it seems that Angelina could be collecting a child like a souvenir from every place she visits, I have to admit that she’s very careful to play by the rules (the same could not be said about every celebrity *cough cough Madonna* who makes a foreign adoption). In any case, her attention to global humanitarian issues makes the people who pay attention to her think more about those issues, too. In the end, that could be good enough.