The fairy tale has ended. The love between the king and queen of Hollywood has faded, and the two are going their separate ways, much to the dismay of fans.
Angelina Jolie has filed for divorce from Brad Pitt, stunning a world that has followed their love story for more than a decade—the story of two tumultuous artists who fell in love while practicing their craft.
In 2004, Brad and Angelina co-starred in the film, “Mr. and Mrs. Smith,” the story of a married couple who are surprised to learn that they are both assassins hired by competing agencies to kill each other. Over the course of the film, the two characters go from a troubled marriage, to trying to kill one another, to reconciling and teaming up to defeat their murderous employers. In the end, the two skilled assassins rekindle their flame as a glorious bonfire.
Sometimes, life imitates art, rather than the opposite. It was during all this, prop guns pressed against one another’s heads, that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie fell in love.
The resulting relationship was a rarity in Hollywood. The two actors became famous for their candid displays of affection toward one another. Their love was real, and millions of people all around the world took pleasure in seeing touching displays of very human love from two of Hollywood’s elite.
The two quickly established a family. Jolie brought a child of her own to the relationship—Maddox Chivan, whom she adopted at 7 months from an orphanage in Cambodia in 2002. She was married to Billy Bob Thorton at the time. In 2005, Jolie and Pitt, together, made the decision to adopt Zahara Marley from Ethiopia. In 2006, the couple had their first biological child, Shiloh, and adopted an orphan from Vietnam—Pax Thien—in 2007. Finally, Jolie gave birth to twins in 2008, Knox and Vivienne. By all accounts, both are very loving, very human parents.
Fast forward to 2014. After 9 years together, Jolie and Pitt finally married one another in a ceremony attended by just 20 friends and family members in France. The couple’s children tossed petals, bore the rings, and walked Jolie down the aisle. Pax even baked the cake! It was, reportedly, a relaxed and intimate ceremony, one full of laughter and family—not quite what you’d expect from Hollywood’s most powerful couple.
But it was precisely this quality that defined the pair—we could all see a bit of ourselves in them, in the way Angelina would gaze at Brad, or the way he would place a protective arm around her shoulders and guide her through a hectic gang of photographers. Despite their fame and fortune, they were like us. Viewers couldn’t help but fall in love with the couple.
Never was this more clear than when Jolie underwent a double mastectomy in 2013 due to a genetic predisposition to breast cancer. In an interview with People, Jolie says that, “I knew through the surgeries that he was on my side, and that this wasn’t something where I was going to feel less of a woman, because my husband wasn’t going to let that happen. Brad, for his part, called his wife “heroic,” for undergoing the surgeries, and stood by her through the entire process.
In 2015, the two starred in Jolie’s “By the Sea,” a film about a married couple whose relationship is nearing its end.
Sadly, once again, life imitated art.
In September of 2016 the beginning of the end crept up in the form of a statement from Jolie’s lawyer confirming that she had filed for divorce. The couple who had shot at one another onscreen, gazed lovingly at one another in life, and had given us an idealized love story for the past decade was over. Just like that.
We love to see humanity reflected in those we admire, but we want it to be something we can look up to, something we can aspire toward. When the broken nature of humanity asserts itself in those we esteem, it can be traumatic. That “real” quality we so loved suddenly takes on a much darker aspect.
It’s no shame to be troubled by Jolie’s divorce from Pitt. Many of us are, and for those who have followed their story from its fabled beginnings, there will be true sadness in seeing Pitt and Jolie going the way of, seemingly, every other Hollywood couple. With the passing of their relationship, it seems that love is truly dead in Hollywood.
But things aren’t so bad as that.
It’s easy to become enraptured in the singular story of Brad and Angelina, to be blinded by the light of their flame for a time. And now that this flame has been suddenly and unexpectedly extinguished, we have to allow time for our eyes to adjust, and for reality to become clear once again.
The two have done what is best for themselves. They’ll go on to live their lives, and, perhaps, find love again. Love isn’t gone. Two people have simply made their choices, and those choices don’t happen to line up with what fans want.
There is a place, though, where we find that story continuing, where we can find that kind of love. It's within ourselves. We all want our fairy tales to be true—we want the kind of love we see in the movies and on television and in celebrity pictures. But what we forget is that for every perfect moment that a photographer carefully frames and captures, there are ten that are unscripted, human, and downright ugly. That’s how life works. With celebrities, we see only the best, and then we compare their best with our everyday, soon finding ourselves wanting.
Love begins with you. If you want the kind of love that we once saw represented in Angelina and Brad, then create it. Go for it. Take your spouse out on a surprise date—touch their face, hold their hand, read to them and ask them who they really are. Do this even after a bad day, after a fight or an argument. Because that’s the essence of the fairy tale—choosing to love, and to keep loving, even in the face of our own flawed humanity.
We often look to celebrity couples for hope. They represent the ideal life. But realize that you already possess the threads of that kind of life, and need only to do the work to weave them together.
The parting of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt is sad, indeed, but love will live on past the end of their story. Now is the time to look back on their tale with a wistful sigh, and turn your heart and mind to creating your own beautiful love story.