The Angelina Jolie Phenomenon

So what are the drivers behind this phenomenon?

1. Jolie’s outrageous persona appeals to many women’s secret desire to rebel.

Jolie’s apparent fearlessness, her ability (and willingness) to say “fuck you” to the Establishment and succeed anyway, appeals to many women who have been raised to be polite and color inside the lines. Her roles in Gia and Tomb Raider only cemented this bad-girl image, as the larger-than-life characters she plays in these movies match the colorful personality she displays in real life.

In fact, most of the characters she has played onscreen–from early ones in movies like Hackers and Foxfire to later roles in films like Original Sin and Gone in 60 Seconds–are “outsiders” challenging convention. “I’ve always had this kind of feeling that the clock is ticking,” Jolie said in a Playboy Magazine interview. “Maybe that’s why I choose to live openly. I don’t have any fears about sort of throwing myself out there.”

Both onscreen and off, Jolie embodies the kind of woman many of us secretly want to be–at least sometimes.

In the earlier days of her career, Jolie’s comments were sometimes a little too on the starving-for-attention side (e.g. “You’re young, you’re drunk, you’re in bed, you have knives; shit happens”). But unlike other celebrities whose shock tactics brought them only their fifteen minutes of fame, Jolie was able to parlay hers into a more enduring fame by backing it up with genuine talent (Gia, Girl Interrupted) and box office success (Tomb Raider).

“She’s like a wild stallion…running,” O’Donnell writes about Jolie. “She’s the kind of person who jumps in the pool the night she wins her Academy Award.”

In a February, 2002 Maxim interview, Angel star Charisma Carpenter joined the list of heterosexual women who find Jolie appealing:

“If I was forced to go with a woman, it would have to be Madonna or Angelina Jolie. Probably Angelina. We were staying at the same hotel recently and I bumped into her in the lobby. She looked so beautiful and elegant that I wanted to tell her but I was too dumbstruck. There’s something deliciously mischievous about her. It’s something to do with that glint in her eye. I found myself just staring at her but secretly I was hoping she was checking me out.”

In April 2002, USA Today columnist Whitney Matheson did an informal poll of readers as to who was the “coolest person alive,” and Angelina Jolie came in third. In announcing the results, Matheson wrote “Love her or leave her, you’ve gotta admit she’s cool. From her enthusiasm for knives and leather pants to her two-year marriage to Billy Bob Thornton, Angelina is the woman of our dreams.”

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