Last Tuesday, Angelina Jolie revealed in a NY Times op-ed that after testing positive for the BRCA1 gene, she had undergone a preventative double mastectomy. As a woman whose career is based on the commodification of her body, Jolie has done more for the stigmatization surrounding breast cancer, gene testing, and reconstructive surgery with just one statement:
“On a personal note, I do not feel any less of a woman. I feel empowered that I made a strong choice that in no way diminishes my femininity.”
As someone who lives off of celebrity news, I didn’t know about Jolie’s mastectomy until Wednesday afternoon. A full 24 hours had passed by the time I got around to reading the op-ed and the discussions about the impact of Jolie’s revelation. The People and Time magazine covers (pictured below) were already in place for the next week.
I did something unusual after seeing these two magazines in the drugstore. I purchased them. There is something monumentally impactful and fascinating about these magazines. Side-by-side, the differences between how these two publications address this story are astounding. It is soft news vs. hard news; feminized media vs. de-feminized media. Moreover, we see the remarkable nature of Angelina Jolie’s star image. She easily toes the line between all types of media.
She is constantly at the center of the nearly decade long tabloid obsession with Brangelina and Jennifer Aniston’s empty womb.
Her family attracts enormous public attention garnering an endless number of People Magazine covers.
Her personal life transcends the tabloids and can also be seen in the pages of fashion magazines.
She is a sex symbol who appears on the covers of men’s magazines.
She is a respected actress and director who appears on the covers of women’s magazines.
She is an activist whose frank discussion of her medical choice leads to a profoundly powerful Time Magazine cover.
So what happens next?
In the week since Jolie’s op-ed appeared in the New York Times, the narrative surrounding Jolie has shifted from the significance of her announcement back to her family. The tabloids will tackle this story from every possible angle. Last week, People featured Brad Pitt’s mother’s reaction. This week’s People magazine focuses solely on Brad Pitt as Angelina’s supportive partner.
Her family and motherhood is key to Jolie’s image. It helps her maintain the one essential asset for any actress: likability. Now more than ever, the public likes, respects, and admires Angelina Jolie for everything that she offers as a humanitarian, actress, partner, and mother. Her announcement, which was framed as an honest discussion by a woman doing what was necessary to protect her family, has cemented that from this point forward, Angelina Jolie has an incalculable amount of influence.