Much is made over the material girl's multitudes of metamorphosis. For those of you too young to remember, I speak of Madonna. And, yes, the Divine Ms. M most definitely goes down in the halls of fame in terms of best reinventions in the category of human/female/performer. However, for me, the ultimate reinvention has come from Angelina Jolie. And not the one you are thinking of. And, yes, while her reinvention from wild party girl with a vial of blood around her neck and Billy Bob Thornton on her arm, into the well-coiffed and self-possessed Unicef ambassador, uber-mommy and the better half of the ubiquitous couple on the cover of Us Weekly is quite impressive, that is not the transformation of which I speak. Instead, it is her transformation from human being into the realm of archetypal goddess.
I hadn't seen Angelina in a film for a long time. I think the last full movie I saw of hers in a theater that I paid to see was Girl, Interrupted. In that, she was incredible and well-deserving of her Oscar win for her portrayal of Lisa Rowe, a borderline personality that touches on Jolie's own painful adolescence (an all too human time for Angelina marked by family crisis, alienation, depression, and self-mutilation). I had, truth be told, never been a huge Angelina fan. It's not that I didn't like her, it's just that I rarely saw movies that she was in. I hadn't seen enough of her to have much of a consciously formed opinion of her (and, yes, I do live in a cave).
That was until the other night, when my boyfriend was watching Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. As I watched her on the 41-inch screen (as Lara Croft, the ultimate video game heroine come to life, who was kicking butt and attempting to save the life of poor Daniel Craig), I could see the appeal of why men found her so alluring. This was not a mere mortal; this was Athena, the ultimate warrior virgin goddess born out of her father's head there on my screen in my bedroom, and it was awesome. I think I'd known it for a while, but as I watched it the unconscious thought came to consciousness, "Angelina Jolie is a goddess."
In the Jennifer vs. Angelina debate, I've always sided with Jennifer. I'd never stopped to ask myself for a fully formed argument of why I chose Jennifer over Angelina. And now that I am asking myself why, I am discovering that Jennifer, being a human and all, was more relatable. Angelina is always on, always perfect, and always eternally beautiful. She, at least in my mind, never sits on the couch eating Ben & Jerry's and having a bad hair day (while I could easily imagine that happening to Jen). I could imagine having lunch with Jennifer. I related to her; I knew the pain of being dumped, having a difficult relationship with my mother, and of having a baby. Jen and I could talk. It would be easy-breezy-lemon-squeezy. But lunch with Angelina? Are you kidding me? What on earth would I talk to her about? What do you talk to goddesses about? They don't talk about the things we mortals do. Angelina doesn't talk about losing weight, keeping a relationship alive, or the challenges of split ends or undereye puffiness. And, I feel sure that goddesses don't eat food. Right? If they do, they likely eat some kind of special ambrosia (not the kind with marshmallows, shredded coconut, and maraschino cherries) and drink the much-talked-about nectar of the gods.
It is my assertion that Angelina Jolie hasn't been solely human for a very long time. I think it started a while back, in the days when we didn't even know what a Brangelina was. But even without Brad, it was clear that she was not one of us. Angelina was clearly a Venusian in the mythical sense of the word, and not in the "Men are from Mars" variety. You see, Venus (the Roman goddess of love, beauty, sex, fertility and prosperity... check, check, check, check, and check) was loved and adored and she could take men or leave them -- but they couldn't get enough of her. Angelina, it's clear, was one part human and also at least one part Venusian. While we are on the subject of "Olympus' Most Beautiful People," Aphrodite is at the top of the list. Angelina, not surprisingly, shares much in common with the Greek the goddess of love, desire, and beauty. In addition to her aforementioned qualities, Aphrodite also has a magical girdle that compels anyone she wishes to desire her. While I am sure that Angelina doesn't wear a girdle or even own one, her magical mouth has the same power of attraction.
Angelina's goddess powers are not limited to the realm of beauty, oh no. Her goddess-like qualities extend to her being Demeter-like. For those who slept through their high school AP mythology course, Demeter was the goddess of the grain, or who we might today call "Mother Earth," and was the ultimate in Olympian mothering. Demeter controlled the fertility of the earth as the goddess of agriculture. While you wouldn't expect Angelina to be associated with the goddess of agriculture (it's rare to see her in overalls, composting with a rototiller in tow), you certainly wouldn't be surprised to have her associated with a goddess of fertility and mothering. When Octomom chose IVF and to birth eight children, it was Angelina's Demeter incarnation that inspired her. Angelina's mothering instinct is almost unparalleled in Hollywood history, except by maybe Mia Farrow (it turns out Mia wins: Mia has 15 children. Angelina has only six. But give her time, she may eventually beat Mia's count...).
However, it was on Tuesday when I learned of her double mastectomy that Angelina left the half-human/half-goddess pantheon and transformed herself, in my mind, into a full-blooded Amazonian, who would be more at home hanging out with Persephone, Hecate and Demeter on the white carpets of Mt. Olympus than she is on the red-carpet with mere mortals like Halle Berry or Nicole Kidman. And this is where I am serious: this action, I think, was an almost archetypal instinct. C.G. Jung, the father of archetypal psychology, wouldn't be laughing if he was alive to read this either. You see, Jung believed that archetypes are, as James Hall explains, "collective universal patterns or motifs which come from the collective unconscious and are the basic content of religions, mythologies, legends, and fairytales." The archetypes emerge in individual behavior. We all have moments when we are, so to speak, channeling the gods. Even I have my moments when I am less myself and more Artemis. In my work as a therapist, I am often Demeter. When I get home from work and lay on the couch and watch House Hunters, all goddess/archetype channeling are off (as I don't think there is a god or goddess associated with mindless TV watching).
Tuesday morning, I read about Angelina's choice to undergo a preventive double mastectomy in order to give her children a greater chance of having a mother who would be there for them. Reading this, yes, how could I not think of the Amazons. Let me give you some background about the Amazonians. The Amazons were a matriarchal culture who were known to be fierce warriors (Lara Croft, Wonder Woman and Xena the Warrior Princess are all modern-ish day Amazons). The amazons were so called because they were known as the "a-mazos" which means "without breast." This name came from the belief that the Amazons had their right breast cut off, so they would be able to better shoot an arrow or throw a javelin. Homer describes them as "those who fight like men." Supposedly the only time that the Amazons left their all-female island was when they went to an island to procreate in order to have children. These women warriors traveled to get their kids (remember Angelina's trip to Cambodia?).
Like the Amazons, Jolie bravely and fiercely fights, choosing to cut off what might harm her and what could take her from what she loves most. In that single image, Jolie was no longer a goddess; now, to me, she was a mother. A mother who so loved her children that she couldn't allow illness or death to separate her from them. Forevermore, no matter how perfect or mysterious or mythical her pout may seem, I have seen through the veil of mystery that she creates, and I see what is most real and beautiful about Angelina. In doing so, I see her humanity, and see that it is so much more lovely than any goddess could be.