Rosemary McLeod: What's behind our Brangelina obsession

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The Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie divorce has been dominating headlines this week. Photo/file.
The Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie divorce has been dominating headlines this week. Photo/file.

I've dwelt longer on the breakup of a celebrity marriage this past week than on the plight of the African elephants, the American presidential race, or the Syrian bloodbath, which doesn't make me feel terrific.

Drama on a domestic scale I can handle. It's normal. Tragedy on an epic scale is something else.

Celebrity gossip - the Brangelina breakup - is a guilty panacea for what you can't change, like the outright hell of the people stranded in Aleppo.

As a kid I was taught the James Elroy Flecker poem with the now ironic line, "I am the gay Aleppo gate: a dawn, a dawn and thou art there." Nothing gay about it now. Global politics doesn't do gay.

I huddle in the comfortable tabloid world of wacky Western values when bad news gets too much. It's a world where neurotic American mothers currently fret that squirrels bully their toddlers; where other mothers breast feed children almost old enough for school, and brag about it; and other mothers currently let kids wander about in stinking nappies long past the time when they couldn't help it, it's a new fad, while Syrian children are obliterated by bombs.

As for the six children of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, they are too precious to live in the common people's world of bills and quarrels, shielded from it by money. They have a nanny each, a tutor and a cook, and don't go to school with other children, while their mother travels the world looking at refugee camps and urging that something must be done, which is decent of her.

Oh, and Angelina took one of the kids to a refugee camp as a birthday present. What's wrong with Lego? The message, I guess, is you are very, very lucky to be the child of grotesquely rich and beautiful people, and ever so special.

It smacks of those vile Victorian tales of good little children handing pennies to starving beggars their own age who will soon die of malnutrition, poverty and neglect. It's about the good feeling of the donor, not the real alleviation of need. It's also about your seriously precious children never catching nits.

It's great to do good works, but the world's children don't need a nanny, a tutor and a cook. They need food and shelter and safety, to be able to grow up to deal with life's inevitable nastiness, and learn to live with the hell of other people. Lacking any friction in their lives young Brangelinas risk becoming as pointless as the children of super-rich celebrities so often turn out to be. Your family life needs to model the crap you'll have to deal with in actual world, surely, while nurturing you for as long as it can.

The Brangelina marriage is over, as far as we know, because Pitt shouted at the eldest of the brood and "lunged" at him. Pitt had reportedly been drinking. There is an allegation that he smokes dope. And these are the reasons we know so far why the children he has lived with and parented for years need protecting, and the FBI needs to get involved.

The 10 per cent who own the world's wealth truly are not like ordinary people, for whom this is not exceptional, but the stuff of everyday life. Just now it looks as if Jolie has forgotten what the children she cares about so deeply in refugee camps have to put up with. Unless there's something horrendous that we don't know about, she is being precious.

Celebrities, who we enjoy reading about, are the true opiate of the masses, crumbs thrown to us by the 90 per cent who control the world's everything. We watch their antics and excesses as children once watched chimpanzees' tea parties at the Wellington Zoo, and it's ultimately about as uplifting.

The Romans had wild beast fights in the Coliseum. We have paparazzi chasing infidelities, gender reassignments, botox disasters, nose jobs, depressions, drug addictions, bad hair days and stolen images of people wagging their private bits about. Meanwhile big events are shaping the world of the future in a way that leaves us powerless to object.

I don't blame myself for yielding to celebrity news. Russia, Isis and North Korea are not interested in what I have to say, and Donald Trump, if he's elected, will make the world a bigger cot case than it is already. If only he was playing it for laughs.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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