An Insightful Analysis of the Divorce of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie

Brad PittGiven the audience for this blog and my status as a maven of pop culture, it should come as a complete surprise that I’m writing about the divorce of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. After all, Jolie only filed for divorce on Monday. That’s 19 September 2016. Normally, I wouldn’t get around to the subject until early 2019 at best. Indeed, it is only a complete fluke that I found out about it. Because here’s the thing: I don’t care. That, I’m sure, will come as no surprise.

But I am interested in why it is that Hollywood couples so often divorce. Of course, it isn’t just them. “Power” couples tend not to last. And this, I believe, is due to a fundamental flaw in human social psychology and capitalism itself. Personally, I think that Brad Pitt is a very attractive man. I assume that’s widely accepted. Angelina Jolie looks very odd to me. But most men I know think she is attractive. And both members of this power couple are certainly professional-level screen actors.

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie Are Not That Amazing

But neither Brad Pitt nor Angelina Jolie are so distinguished in any way that they would be considered more than near the top of a collection of people. Yet because of their success, they are held in ridiculously high esteem. This is where the social psychology and capitalism come in. It is because of the capitalist system that they are far more successful than their talents warrant. Success creates success in a capitalist system — especially one so very aggressive in enforcing property rights. It’s not surprising that people look up to icons like this, even though it isn’t justified. A little hierarchy isn’t a bad thing. Sadly, there is no such thing as “a little hierarchy” in a capitalist system.

Angelina JolieBut I’m more interested in how it destroys the icons themselves. Why do Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie suffer from “irreconcilable differences”? You know what most hurts couples: financial difficulties. This couple did not have that problem. Their combined net worth is estimated to be almost a half billion dollars. What could be so bad in their lives that they absolutely can’t work it out? Infidelity? Drug addiction? Domestic abuse? People with much less manage to work through these problems — and worse.

Don’t Need to Work

I think it comes down to this: they don’t need to work through their differences. All their wealth and celebrity have turned them into adult versions of spoiled brats. And just as I don’t blame spoiled children for their behavior, I don’t blame Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie for theirs. The blame goes to all of us: the people that accept an economic system that allows people to have that kind of money. They are, after all, actors. They should live in a system that requires them to act for a living until they are in their mid-60s.

Before someone mentions it: I know about their humanitarian work. I don’t care. All it shows is that they are at least vaguely aware of their privilege. Did I meantion they have a combined net worth of almost a half billion dollars? These are people who could be stripped of every penny they have and would still manage to be millionaires by this time next year. They will not suffer. They cannot suffer in an economic sense.

Save the Rich!

The reason we need economic reform is primarily for the billions who suffer in a direct economic sense. But we also need it for people like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. Because we’ve allowed them lose at least part of their souls. Because that’s what great privilege does to people. It doesn’t make them bad people. I think Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have managed remarkably well. As far as I know they haven’t murdered anyone. But for their sake — For the sake of their children! — we must stop the madness. We must save the souls of the rich by making them like the rest of us.


Note that one reason conservative give for paying the rich excessive sums of money is that if we don’t they will work less. But this has never held water. If you increase my salary by 10%, I’ll probably work more. I don’t make that much money, so it works as an incentive. But for people like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie? Don’t you think they would act in a lot more films if they actually had to do it for a living? If it was something more than a habit or a hobby?

12 thoughts on “An Insightful Analysis of the Divorce of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie

  1. You forgot the other reason that they may have split up: bad sex. It is often the second reason people split up. It is also possible they just don’t like each other and want to split before it becomes hatred.

    We don’t know and it is kind of unfair to make two people stay together simply because they are rich. Instead, let’s tax them at 70%!

    • I certainly don’t want them to stay together if they are unhappy. I was just trying to make a broader point about the way that great wealth harms people.

      I would like to see the top margin income tax rate raised to 70%. I’d also like to see a wealth tax — but clearly that would need to be international. A 65% estate tax would be a good start, though.

  2. I used to have a huge girl-crush on Angelina Jolie, but when she got weird and super-skinny and started having/adopting all of those kids, I lost interest. Nonetheless, I do think she is the more talented of the two, and that she has a certain energy and passion that Brad lacks. I have pretty much zero interest in celebrity culture, but for some reason, this divorce does make me a bit sad. I’m not sure why. I guess I believed that two smart, rich, hip, aware people could work it out somehow. They both strike me as intelligent and committed people. But no one knows what goes on behind closed doors. Intelligence isn’t a necessarily a salve against a bad marriage.

    • That’s for sure! I felt bad publishing the article. It didn’t sit well, but I hate wasting anything, so there you are. But it did give me a chance to talk about what I do care about: the way that great inequality hurts everyone. The article (starting with the title, which I wrote first) was not meant all that seriously. But I am serious that even the most successful actor should have to work their whole lives. No one should be so rich that they can coast. It’s bad for their souls.

      Maybe it’s a guy thing, but I think very highly of Brad Pitt as an actor. Or at least as a comedic actor. The first time I noticed him was in Thelma and Louise, and I thought he was brilliant. And he hasn’t left me down since then. Not that I seek out his films. The first time I saw Jolie was in Hackers — not a great film, but not bad. I’ll stand by my assessment that they are both professional-quality actors. I do think Jolie has been in more dreck, but that’s probably due to the sexism of the film industry — there just aren’t as many good parts for women.

      • Pitt’s hilarious in “inglorious Basterds.” Probably the major flaw in Tarantino’s writing is he imagines these complex backstories to characters which makes them fascinating to him, yet the weight of their background rarely makes those characters’ current actions more complex; if anything, it serves to justify their simplicity. They’re usually motivated by revenge or cruelty. (The exception being “Jackie Brown,” because QT didn’t create the characters.)

        The best performers in QT films are the ones who can suggest a deeper history than what’s shared onscreen. Or, simply, the funny ones. Pitt is funny in that film.

        • Yeah, QT needs to understand the kind of films he’s making. They ain’t deep. But they’re fun (at their best, anyway).

          • He should be writing novels because they are great characters. I really want to know more about Bill for instance from Kill Bill.

            • Bill is terrific; his goldfish speech is the best part of Vol. 2. Just like Lucy Liu’s anime backstory is the best part of Vol. 1. Well, that, and the fabulous music cues.

            • I haven’t seen those movies. But I tend to disagree. He’s very good at stealing from others and combining things together in interesting ways. But I see very little depth in his writing.

  3. It really has nothing to do with capitalism, economics, or anything tangible. The real problem is that we have created a culture in the western part of the USA that really lives in a separate universe, governed by their own rules, and quite apart from anything else. In countries such as England, or Germany, theatre is still practiced as an art, and culturally significant- hence the authenticity of for instance British actors and actresses. unfortunately, in this country,our art has become inhabited by a group of essentially narcisistic juveniles having the aggregate talent of a group of fourth graders in a Christmas pageant. This group is bolstered by their so-called “activist ” political status and comforted by their ritualistic appearances on late night tv, greeted by the same wild applause by their claques, and an occasional turn spinning around some red carpet, and receiving empty awards once held in high esteem. Any mischief that they might do is certainly no surprise let alone a shock to anyone past the age five.

    • I think it’s a little column A, a little column B. Actresses/actors in the UK and Ireland do seem to have a more serious approach to the craft than most American “stars.” Some of that probably has to do with training and culture. Some has to do with the economics of moviemaking. Studios aren’t interested in good stories or fascinating characters, they want films that sell the most tickets. That’s certainly capitalism at work. So they’ll pay stars whose presence makes audiences interested in the movie ungodly sums.

      The performers in America are not untalented. The supporting players, especially, tend to be people with a ton of theater background, and they can bring a lot of life to badly underwritten roles. “Stars” are usually chosen for their appearance and “screen presence,” not their acting chops. Yet a few of them have real skill. George Clooney, for example, who uses his star power to get projects financed by writers and directors he wants to work with. And some of our great comic performers who come from improv, like Amy Poehler or Key & Peele.

      As far as activism goes, I think the more you hear about it, the more bogus it is. I’ve read accounts from people on the ground in distressed areas that Sean Penn is very serious and helpful, you rarely hear anything about his work. Probably there are others we don’t know about.

      Makes me think of something Steve Earle once said. He’s a country singer, not a big star, who knows big country stars. He was talking about giant concert benefit-a-thons. He said the overhead on those is so huge, a lot of the donations get sucked into paying off the staging costs. What he’d do is get one of his famous country friends (Emmylou Harris, say) to join him for a private acoustic show at some rich person’s house. Guitars only, no setup costs. Charge $1000 bucks a head. And, mid-set, mix with the crowd and convince them to write out bigger checks.

      That’s how you use celebrity to help charity! I’ll bet there are Hollywood people doing the same, it’s just we don’t hear about the non-self-promoting ones.

      • I thought the comment was just a string of stereotypes. There certainly is a cultural aspect to it. But I know the UK film industry. I know the German film industry. I know the French film industry. That’s to say nothing of the Indian film industry. And it’s all the same. And it isn’t just film. Look at the top people in any industry that makes a lot of money. The only thing that is different is that in Hollywood, you actually see top people marry.

        As for good works and so on, at least people in Hollywood understand that they are lucky. Compare that to the Ayn Rand, Greed Is Good crowd in other industries. I’m sure the CEO of Wells Fargo thinks he actually earns $20 million a year. Another thing: when I hear someone like Sean Penn or Mark Ruffalo, I’m impressed with how much they understand of the issues they discuss. Compare this to the CEOs who constantly weigh in on macroeconomic policy who don’t have a clue.

        I’m glad you brought up supporting actors, because guess what: they don’t make much money. Hollywood is probably even more economically unequal than our society as a whole. Even actors most people could name have to work for a living.

        I’m getting old and cranky. But when I hear a string of stereotypes like that, I don’t react well. You are a nicer man than I am.

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