Angelina Jolie graces the cover of July's Harper's Bazaar.
But the actress, who turned 34 last Thursday, isn't interviewed for the piece. Instead, feminist author Naomi Wolf examines Jolie's appeal, concluding that "women both identify with her and desire her."
It's "more than simply a physical response," Wolf says. For the first time in modern culture, Jolie "brings together almost every aspect of female empowerment and liberation," Wolf declares. Above all, she says Jolie has proved that women can be viewed as a symbol of goodness, and also be seen as sexual.
She looks at the way Jolie has transformed from a wild child to a woman with it all. Jolie initially made headlines for her "eccentric" behavior, which included "slightly icky" smooch sessions with Billy Bob Thornton (she famously wore a vial of his blood around her neck) and kissing her brother on the lips at the 2000 Oscars.
"At that point, Jolie seemed to be simply an attention-seeking, slightly Goth upstart," Wolf writes.
But after she adopted Maddox in 2002 and became a goodwill ambassador for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, "she seemed more mature, more beautiful, and more serious," says Wolf. At the time, "Jolie revealed a new, and fairly radical, vision of single motherhood…" Wolf says.
Even when scandal broke in her life — Brad Pitt split from Jennifer Aniston in 2005 after getting close to Jolie on the Mr. and Mrs. Smith set — "she managed the almost unheard-of task of turning the home-wrecker label into a wholesome, family-friendly triumph," says Wolf. "There was little Maddox, who was growing up and clearly enjoying tossing footballs with his mother's new boyfriend," she explains. "Jolie had managed to head off the scarlet letter by giving a boy an ideal masculine counterpoint."
Jolie also broke barriers by learning to fly. "Flying a private plane is the classic metaphor for choosing your own direction; usually, that is a guy thing to do, yet there was Jolie, with her aviator glasses on, taking flying lessons so she could blow the mind of her four-year-old son," writes Wolf.
As for the multiethnicity of her family, Wolf notes it's "a delicious in-your-face countermove against conventions about who we are to one another and what 'family' is expected to look like." Says Wolf, "She seems, without breaking stride, to care for half a football team of children while the rest of us tread water with our own biological offspring."
So what's next for Jolie? "No way to tell," Wolf says, "but I am certain, given the knack she has shown for tapping into this female collective unconscious, that we will watch with more than ordinary interest."
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