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Stop Spreading Garbage Around On Facebook [A Response To The “Brangelina Letter”]

I saw this post once or twice a couple of weeks ago.  I liked the thumbnail image of a happy celebrity family, so I clicked on it.  What I read instantly made me want to vomit, so I closed the window and thought of it no more.

Then I started seeing it cropping up again, and more often.  People I love and admire were sharing this with each other on Facebook, saying things like, “wow this is so sweet.”  My mouth hung open and I carefully called the post out as bullshit, disgusting, and probably fake.

There’s little doubt in my mind that this is a fake – there’s no way Brad Pitt is this inarticulate.  It seems to me to be a disingenuous effort to make a shitty couples advice blog go viral.  Unfortunately it seems to have worked.  I think content like this is pretty dangerous and offensive, so I felt compelled to discuss it here.

My wife got sick.  She was constantly nervous because of problems at work, personal life, her failures and problems with children.

I ‘m constantly nervous about work, my personal life, my (perceived) failures and my relationships.  I don’t think this makes a person sick, I think it makes them a human being.  Balancing work, parenting, and fame has got to be extremely difficult for any celebrity parent.  I also really don’t agree with “problems with children” being solely her issue.  Aren’t they a parenting team?

She has lost 30 pounds and weighed about 90 pounds in her 35 years. She got very skinny, and was constantly crying. She was not a happy woman. She had suffered from continuing headaches, heart pain and jammed nerves in her back and ribs.

These are signs of pretty serious diseases.  To me it suggests at least struggles with anorexia and severe depression.  A woman who had the agency and regard for her health to get a preventive double mastectomy does not seem like the kind of woman who would let serious personal illness fester without medical attention.  I call bullshit.

She did not sleep well, falling asleep only in the morning and got tired very quickly during the day. Our relationship was on the verge of break up.  Her beauty was leaving her somewhere, she had bags under her eyes, she was poking her head, and stopped taking care of herself. She refused to shoot the films and rejected any role. 

The time period being referred to here is 2010-2011 (when Jolie was 35).  During this time she acted in 5 films, made her writing and directorial debut with In the Land of Blood and Honey, and made numerous professional and promotional appearances.  These claims are fallacious.  Also, what does “she was poking her head” even mean?  This is what I think of:

I digress.  Let’s continue:

I lost hope and thought that we’ll get divorced soon…But then I decided to act on it.  After all I’ve got the most beautiful woman on the earth.  She is the idol of more than half of men and women on earth, and I was the one allowed to fall asleep next to her and to hug her shoulders.

What the actual fuck?  This is some wholly objectifying bullshit here.  Her entire worth as a partner in this relationship appears to be predicated on her physical beauty.  That you have to be beautiful to be loved, and if you’re beautiful, you deserve love.  In our culture, we have a pretty narrow beauty standard, and we judge all women according to how they best can change themselves in order to fit the ideal.

A woman is worth more than her physical beauty.  Being the “most beautiful” is always completely subjective to the person judging, and is an inefficient (at best) means of evaluating a person.  By idolizing and glorifying those who look a certain way, we collectively reduce them to one tiny element of what makes them a person.  It takes their humanity away, and it turns them in to objects.  It gets worse:

I began to pamper her with flowers, kisses and compliments. I surprised her and pleased her every minute. I gave her lots of gifts and lived just for her. I spoke in public only about her. I incorporated all themes in her direction. I praised her in front of her own and our mutual friends.

Uh, what?  How trivializing.  “Oh guys, you remember how my wife was suffering from severe depression and had an eating disorder?  Well I solved everything!  I just gave her a lot of attention!”  Let’s get this correct.  Gifts, compliments, and smothering do not a loving relationship make, and they certainly aren’t a replacement for medical attention in the face of diseases like anorexia and major depressive disorder.  To imply otherwise is simply irresponsible.

Moreover, everyone (not just women) likes kisses and compliments.  This is not something you should “start doing” when your partner is unhappy.  It’s hard for me to imagine attaining a partner at all without some level of affectionate behavior.

You won’t believe it, but she blossomed. She became even better than before. She gained weight, was no longer nervous and she loved me even more than ever. I had no clue that she CAN love that much.

I think I just threw up in my mouth a little.  The argument here is that, if your partner is faced with debilitating disease, just give them flowers and compliments?  Are you fucking serious?  This idea is not only ludicrous, it’s incredibly dangerous to be spreading this kind of trash.

Depression is a mental illness that affects millions of Americans (about 14.8 million as of 2011).  1 in 5 American women will struggle with an eating disorder at some point in their lives.  Can you imagine if these people went to the doctor and they told the partner to just spoil her a little bit more?  How reckless.  How offensive to those whose real struggles have become a ploy for a shitty website to get more traffic.

What troubles me the most, however, is this last part:

And then I realized one thing: The woman is the reflection of her man. If you love her to the point of madness, she will become it.  

A woman is a reflection of her man?  No.   A woman is a woman.  A woman is a fully-realized person.  A woman is a partner to a man or woman of her choosing.  This article is completely archaic.  How are highly intelligent women, women I love and respect, buying into these ideas?  To place a woman as dependent upon her man and defined by him?  Where is the identity here?

My guess is that this idea is appealing because women are relating to a sense of deep love and dependency that come from being in a great relationship.  My problem with it is that the love and dependency are supposed to go both ways.  A partnership is comprised of equals, and if it’s not, someone is losing out.

This is (almost) 2014, ladies.  We have to stop devaluing ourselves and shrinking to fit what we think men want.  Men are only buying into these ideas because we’re acquiescing to being sold that way.  Women are varied, multifaceted and complex individuals.  There is not one formula to make us happy.  Instead of buying into the story that all we want is flowers and candy and kisses, let’s stand up as real people and examine our individuality.

Facebook makes it really easy to share content, and sometimes an attractive or interesting thumbnail is all it takes to press the share button.  I challenge us all to stop and take a moment to read and really understand the messages we are sending to each other.  This article contains dangerous messages that trivialize mental illness and objectify and patronize women.  Is that really what you want your friends to see?  Is that really the message you want to send out into our collective culture?

Don’t co-sign misogyny.  You might have to look hard, you might get defensive when you first see it, but it’s there.  I think the saddest part of sexism in American culture is that it’s perpetuated by women as much as by men.  We’ve really got to have a dialogue here.  I’m tired of regressing.  I want to move forward.

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15 thoughts on “Stop Spreading Garbage Around On Facebook [A Response To The “Brangelina Letter”]

  1. I had this exact argument with people who posted this article when it popped up earlier in the year. I actually didn’t even identify those symptoms as serious illnesses just that – a MAN cannot fix a WOMAN simply by being a REFLECTION of her. How offensive, and how dismissive of women. ugh.

  2. Hear hear!! I knew I couldn’t be the only one who did not think this letter was sweet and charming, though it was impossible to tell from my facebook newsfeed. This letter is dangerous and spreads completely ridiculous messages to to young girls and society as a whole. Thank you for writing this important article.

  3. Geez Louise. I want to jump off of a ledge every time I see one of these obviously-fabricated “news” articles circulated on Facebook by people with no common sense. Title of article reeking of BS notwithstanding, if the “article” isn’t from a reputable source (e.g. CNN, NY Times, Lemon Party), it is 99.9999999 and three-quarters percent likely to be fake.

    But *we* know that.

  4. Thank you for taking the time to put into words, what I felt after reading that post. I felt disheartened that so many negative comments seemed to be accepted and encouraged not only by my friends, but by society as a whole. Thank you again.

Want to join the discussion? Luna Luna encourages well-reasoned, thoughtful, useful, civil, constructive, respectful and intellectual dialogue. That said, we're not into name-calling or bullying or character attacks. Violating comments will be deleted. Please read the post thoroughly and try not to make assumptions about the writer's perspective. Let's start talking!

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