As far as I have always been concerned, Beyoncé and Jay-Z might be the queen and king of pop culture, but Angelina and Brad have held the ultimate title of Hera and Zeus. It was only by their eternal benevolence that we all have been able to conduct our lives day in and day out. You can therefore imagine my devastation when I heard that Angelina Jolie had filed for divorce from Brad Pitt late last week. I am in equal disbelief that the campus administration has not done the honorable thing and granted students a period of grief by canceling classes for the day.
I was in the fifth grade when “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” came out (soon to be followed by Brangelina), and I spent most of my afternoons either watching “Days of Our Lives” or sitting in the computer room of my childhood home reading about every development in the Jolie-Aniston feud. It is still undecided which of these activities was more melodramatic.
Brad, Jen and Angelina represented one of the internet’s first huge 24/7 news-cycle scandals, and that’s why their split hurts so much more than another Kardashian or some bench-riding basketball player. Even though paparazzi have always been willing to scale a building to get a picture of Katie Holmes’ side salad, the early 2000s gave everyday people access to the lives of celebrities in an unprecedented way. I saw nearly every part of these people’s lives play out in real time just as they did. Every day we were bombarded with pictures of Jennifer Aniston taking out the trash in sweatpants, and for some reason we all cared. I even look back on those memories fondly.
Today’s Hollywood could never recreate a Brangelina-level relationship. Over a decade later, the situation would seem trite in the grand scheme of celebrity gossip. But in my impressionable and bratty preteen mind, it was fascinating. Brad and Angelina were some of the first mass-media superstars and thus feel almost like a piece of my adolescence. Just like orange VCRs and iPods, only ‘90s kids will actually remember a time before celebrity personas were in every crevice of our lives.
Brangelina were larger than life because they were the first example of society building up celebrity couples through the internet. Before we could see what Chrissy Teigen made for brunch by tapping on Snapchat, our only knowledge of celebrities’ lives came from interviews and press releases. So as Brad and Angelina finally call it quits, I want to thank them both for paving the way into the world of mass media. Without their initial roles, I might not be able to retweet Kanye West’s opinion on Persian rugs. Their iconic status will never be paralleled, and their legend never forgotten.
Rachel Yelverton studies public administration and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.