Where were you when you heard that Brangelina was no more in September last year? Wherever it was, we’re guessing you greeted the news almost immediately with speculation about what could have broken up Hollywood’s golden couple, who had been married for two years and raised six children together.
Although initial reports suggested Brad was at fault – he was investigated by child services after reports he ‘lunged’ at his son Maddox during an argument with Angelina on a plane – the rumour mill quickly turned its attention to Angelina. She seems controlling. She’s icy. She’s unstable. She’s obsessed with being skinny. She’s done some really weird stuff.
Poor sandy-haired, puppy-faced, boy-next-door Brad! How could anyone tolerate that level of crazy? Amiable Brad has never done pashed his own brother or drunk vials of his own blood. Surely he’s a victim of a vixen, ejected from the bosom of his family by the monstrous Angelina.
Yet Brad’s recent GQ interview – you’ve read it, the one where he describes finding solace in clay and cavorts in a national park like a grotesque David Attenborough documentary – makes it very clear that he has what most spouses would see as intolerable and unworkable faults. “I can't remember a day since I got out of college when I wasn't boozing or had a spliff,” he confesses. “This last year… I was boozing too much,” he adds. “It's just become a problem.”
This isn’t a man admitting that he sometimes leaves the toilet seat up. Alcohol and drug addiction aren’t something that most marriages can just brush under the carpet. They’re apocalyptic horsemen, devouring those who are in their clutches and everyone around them. It’s explicitly clear, now, that these factors must have been enormous in the couple’s marriage breakdown.
It’s a similar story with Johnny Depp and Amber Heard. Johnny always seemed like a quirky guy, but overall a lovable, harmless rogue. Surely Heard was the gold-digging femme fatale who made false allegations of domestic violence for her own bloodless, acquisitive reasons, and then dragged him through the mud when he’d fulfilled his purpose? And yet in the wash up of their ugly breakup, the couple released a joint statement where they agreed there had been no "intent" of physical or emotional harm - and nor did either party make false accusations against the other for financial gain.
It’s difficult to ascertain where our impulse to blame the vixen comes from. Is it because Brad and Johnny are skilled actors, and adept at presenting a blameless image to the world, or enmeshing their public personalities with the loveable characters they play? Or is it that deep down we believe any woman as overtly sexual and beautiful as Angelina and Amber must be using those traits to manipulate?
Hollywood actors entertain us both on and off the screen. It’s unlikely a day will ever come where we don’t speculate about the minutia of their private lives. It comes with the territory. But when these romances, that we’ve invested in from the start go bad, it reflects badly on all of us that our reflex is to condemn the woman and coddle the man.