The Pitts and the media pendulum

Posted on April 21, 2012


It isn’t often that the media is presented with news that’s truly worth covering, and now that it’s upon us, we can only hope we can live up to the gargantuan challenge.

For a while, now, it appeared that every dire warning issued by those stentorian opponents of social media had come true. The world – and our preoccupations with its happenings – had indeed become too frivolous. Public discourse had begun to circle around Rick Santorum stepping down from his Presidential campaign in the most influential nation in the First World, and elsewhere we were discussing the tsunami that didn’t hit our shores when yet another giant quake rocked the foundations of Indonesia. But the cosmic balance has prevailed. Finally, we get news about people more powerful than Presidents, whose merest movements can precipitate realignments in our topography. I refer, of course, to the announcement that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are engaged to be married. If that isn’t news with a capital N, what is?

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Finally, we journalists can begin to grapple with the real issues, beginning with speculations about the date. Will it be a summery May wedding? Or will they opt to marry in December, expiring movie-ready mists of cold air while intoning vows? Of course, globe-trotting celebrities do not worry about the weather like us plebes. A cursory snap of the finger will ensure that a battalion of nannies has readied their children to migrate to the southern hemisphere, whose Decembers bloom forth with spectacular suns that David Lean would gladly rise from his grave to capture. Will the event be a planned celebration, in a church (in which case, will they able to locate a minister who can stop gawping long enough to usher them through the formalities?), or will the couple borrow a leaf from a rejected romantic-comedy script and elope? In that case, will they be able to evade our much-maligned brethren, the paparazzi, perched on the turrets and bell towers of every house of worship in every Christian nation, and even a few Hindu ones? (Let’s not forget that Jolie and Pitt are no strangers to India, having blessed us with their presence while filming A Mighty Heart, which, when you think of it, makes a great title for the inevitable History Channel documentary that will preserve these nuptials for posterity.)

But enough about the wedding. Just as Presidential campaigns cannot be covered by simply focusing on snaking lines beside ballot boxes, the Pitt-Jolie union cannot be fully comprehended without investigating its influence on our world today. We will need to install news panels to discuss, among other things, the morality of it all. Will future generations enter into wedlock only after extricating themselves from existing marriages, living with one another in unrepentant sin, all the while amassing children from dirt-poor Third World countries? What, then, does this mean for race relations, when one day in the not-too-distant future, the entire population of Burundi will reside in Beverly Hills? Isn’t there a feminist issue lurking in here as well, when a woman so powerful and famous decides to supplicate before such a patently patriarchal institution? Even Cleopatra, after an understandably short-lived marriage to a sibling, chose to string along Caesar as political arm candy. Hasn’t the life of Elizabeth Taylor taught anyone anything?

Morning shows, meanwhile, after scrutinising the engagement ring with jewelers and fashion experts (who will also weigh in on the kind of dress Jolie will wear, and the consequence it will carry on Jennifer Aniston’s gown, if and when the poor thing chooses to marry again), will rope in child experts and discuss what the Pitt-Jolie brood will go through, now that their parents are going to have joint checking accounts. How will these ecumenical tykes adapt from pagan holidays in exotic shooting locations to Thanksgiving with daddy’s deaf uncle Harry? Can these younglings, raised on mountain spring water and soy nuggets, take to the sight of turkey, a word that they, so far, have been exposed to only in the context of their mother’s film, The Tourist? These are vital issues with far-reaching implications, and they will no doubt spawn thousands of journalism-school theses.

The international desks of news agencies, naturally, will devote their energies to the international ramifications. Which country gets to claim this wedding (and deploy its armies to protect the superstars from being felled by the solar brilliance of millions of camera flashes)? The country of the couple’s birth? The country where they currently reside? Will Wall-Street occupiers and beleaguered European taxpayers take kindly to contributing to a private party of multi-millionaires they’re not even invited to? And what will this wedding mean to Saif and Kareena, who have kept this great nation’s media institutions guessing about their own upcoming union, Brand Saifeena being but a blip on the radar when compared to the all-enveloping tractor beam of Brand Brangelina? At least, they can take comfort that they aren’t Will and Kate, whose carefully planned fairy-tale wedding of the century has just been trumped by the flash of an engagement ring.

An edited version of this piece can be found here.

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