The Angelina Jolie Phenomenon

 
 

2. Jolie’s open bisexuality contrasts sharply with the absence of openly bisexual actresses or characters on television and in the movies.

Jolie’s frank, matter-of-fact acknowledgment of her own bisexuality (she was in a relationship with model and Foxfire co-star Jenny Shimizu in 1996, before her marriage to Thornton) and bisexuality in general belies the secrecy and denial with which bisexuality is normally treated by the media and in entertainment. When told that many of Jane magazine’s female readers had nominated her as “The Female Actor Who Makes Your Knees Weak,” Jolie responded, “They’re right to think that about me, because I’m the person most likely to sleep with my female fans. I genuinely love other women. And I think they know that.”

Curve Magazine’s Entertainment Editor mentioned that in an interview with Jolie a few years ago, the actress “kept saying things like how she was in love with Jenny Shimizu and how her marriage might not work out.”

The fact that Jolie actually played a lesbian in Gia makes it that much easier to blur her onscreen and off-screen personas, especially in conjunction with her public comments in support of lesbianism and bisexuality, such as this comment about Lara Croft (her character in Tomb Raider) in a June 2001 interview with the German magazine Amica:

“I could really imagine Lara not having a lot of time for men. Can you imagine that, Lara Croft as a lesbian? That would be a shock for the boys playing with their joysticks in their bedrooms around the world. At the end of the day I really like women. I’d love it if the girls in the cinema watching Lara Croft find me just as hot as their boyfriends do.”

In a world with so few bisexual celebrities actually willing to come out and almost no bisexual film or television characters, Jolie’s willingness to embrace bisexuality on and off-screen has made her the de facto poster girl for bisexual women.

Women who primarily identify themselves as heterosexual in everyday life despite finding the occasional woman attractive are drawn to Jolie precisely because of her unwillingness to hide her attraction to women. “Honestly, I like everything,” Jolie said in the 2000 Elle interview. “Boyish girls, girlish boys, the heavy and the skinny. Which is a problem when I’m walking down the street.”

This kind of outspoken honesty is highly seductive in a culture that generally encourages women to keep these kinds of feelings under wraps.

Jolie’s openness on this topic is further amplified by the fact that there is a general absence of bisexual characters in film and television. Although the number of lesbian characters in mainstream movies and television has increased, bisexual women are still largely left out of the mix or made out to be murderess villains, as in Diabolique, Basic Instinct, or Poison Ivy.

The few mainstream films that have featured bisexual women, such as Chasing Amy or Kissing Jessica Stein have refused to name it as bisexuality, instead portraying the women as trying to choose between being straight or lesbian. As if there was no other alternative.

Even films written and directed by lesbians are not much better, for they rarely include bisexual characters.

In Jolie, bisexual women suddenly see themselves reflected in a positive way, and the mix of relief, admiration, and desire creates a powerful response. It’s easier to identify with someone like Angelina Jolie than someone like Sharon Stone’s character in Basic Instinct, so in the absence of positive bisexual film and television characters, Jolie has in effect become a “character,” and even a litmus test of sorts: hosting a benefit in February 2002, newly out lesbian Rosie O’Donnell jokes, “They’re saying I’m not gay enough. They say I lied because I said I love Tom Cruise. I do love Tom Cruise. What do I have to do, have sex with Angelina Jolie on TV?”

Pop star Christina Aguilera suggested in a March, 2003 interview that Britney Spears should consider dating Angelina Jolie because “I think Angelina Jolie would be worth it, she is really beautiful. She’s tough, yet sexy at the same time, which not a lot of people can do.

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