Monday, August 4, 2008

Angelina Jolie And The Perfect Family

image When we look at this picture we are meant to embrace this esthetically beautiful family.  But what are the hidden messages in this photo? As I discussed in an earlier post on Angelina, motherhood is only valued in this society when the mother is of a certain race and class.  Angelinas position as a white woman of privilege makes her maternity desirable and pure.  This message is reified in many ways in this photo.  Take note that every single person is dressed in white. 

Yes whiteness is good and works as a purifying agent.  In whiteness we embrace the "light" and become not only normal, but valuable. How would the emotions triggered by this photograph change if this image involved a black family, or the uniformity of the clothing were changed?  The choice of white is not at all accidental, we are meant to see Angelinas experience as an affirming one, and internalize the idea that under the most ideal conditions motherhood is to be celebrated.  She is elevated amongst women not only for her class privilege, but for her unacknowledged whiteness.

I would like to draw your attention to little Shiloh in the corner of the photograph.  Upon having a child many parents take a pictures just like this one. In fact  I have a multitude of pictures of my oldest child holding my youngest child.  They are just as staged as this photo.  What is problematic about this picture is  the child that was selected to hold the infant.  As many are aware over the last few years Brad and Angelina have adopted children from across the globe, yet it is Shiloh that is on the front page welcoming the latest addition to the family.  By choosing their white blonde child instead of one of their children of colour it helps to reaffirm that what makes this family valuable is the purity of its whiteness.  It is intact and perfect because the bodies of colour have not disturbed it.  They exist only in the peripheral imagination,  quite invisible much in the same way POC are made invisible in the face of hegemonic whiteness. To involve her children of colour is to diminish the value of Angelinas whiteness for then her body would become a spoiled identity, tainted by the very blood of her children.

Daily we are inundated with such innocuous images of normalcy and domesticity.  To embrace the white picket fence and the traditional family is to understand which bodies truly matter in this society.  This photo reaffirms the racial hierarchy under which we all live.  Though the labour of bodies of colour is necessary to support and maintain the system, they are continually erased, because to admit their presence is to embrace the social injustice that allows some to live in splendour and others in abject poverty and marginalization.  Yes this is the post racial, equal society  which we inhabit.  It is important to note that its supposed blindness is based upon its refusal to validate bodies of colour.


48 comments:

Ebony Intuition said...

"This photo reaffirms the racial hierarchy under which we all live. Though the labour of bodies of colour is necessary to support and maintain the system, they are continually erased"


This is why I don't understand why people of colour choose to continue the colour hierarchy by having children with people of a different race. My personal opinion mixing continues the colour hierarchy, In order to erase the same bodies that are not wanted but used in this system (that body has to be ethnically cleansed)or a better term genectic assimilation. This is exactly how the hierarchy was created, it was created by Euro's mixing into other races during colonization and dividing the group of people they mixed into by the colour of their skin and facial features. They did this by Euro's calling themselves "white", the children who came out mixed "mulatto" and the Africans who weren't mixed into "black". This has been done all over the world not just Africans, Indians, Flipinos, natives, everyone. In every country there is a group of "white" elites then the mulattos in the middle and then the blacks at the bottom.

Just like who have mentioned this photo only shows and proves that "Yes whiteness is good and works as a purifying agent." and "reaffirms the racial hierarchy under which we all live."

And on a daily basis I continue to see people fall for this brainwashing of white is right, white is pure, Its really getting out of control and I don't think people realize how damaging it is.

The Fabulous Kitty Glendower said...

I see the picture with Shiloh differently, even though what I see still leads back to racism. I see Shiloh holding the baby because she was the last child born to Jolie and Pitt, the youngest, but mostly because she is biologically theirs. The youngest and smallest child holding a newborn is always “cuter” than older children holding a newborn baby. However, I am afraid, there is major alienation that should have been considered (Did the Jolie-Pitt’s select this cover or is this the work of People magazine. Were all the children photographed individually with the baby and People went with Shiloh or did Jolie and Pitt only allowed Shiloh at the photo shoot?). It’s almost like the biological children are more important than the adoptive children. Which could easily be translated as the adoptive children are other than white, the biological children are white, white children are held in higher esteem. The focus on the biological children (the white children) certainly devalues the brouhaha and saving the world image of earlier times when the children of colour were adopted and Jolie and Pitt were held up in high esteem for doing so. Now it makes yesterday all seem like a poorly planned prop, a prop used for the moment without any thought of the future.

Renee said...

@Ebony as the mother of two biracial sons my aim was not to continue the racial hierarchy. As we all know one drop black bloods constitutes a black person. Just as whites may privilege lighter colored bodies blacks are equally guilty of hueism. The answer is not to stop creating bodies the answer is to make bigotry and racism unacceptable.

frau sally benz said...

Excellent post as usual. I sort of agree with Fabulous Kitty in that Shiloh is probably shown in the picture b/c she's biologically theirs, but this is just an extension of the ridiculous obsession with Jolie & Pitt.

And, goodness, NINETEEN PAGES?! That's ridiculous! That's a whole lot of space!

Renee said...

Shiohloh is not only obviously theirs she is invisibly white like her parents....Let us not forget the staging of this photo everyone including the children is dressed in white, this is what is being reaffirmed here.

Octogalore said...

Do you think class, celebrity and appearance are part of it too? I mean, the pic of the Obamas on the recent People mag seemed to be presenting them as the perfect family, too. Like the Jolie-Pitts, all are attractive and fit-appearing. I think there is racism and biological-kid-preference here, but I think in large part most average- (or below-)looking, non-rich, non-famous families wouldn't be presented as the ideal in mass media.

Renee said...

@Octogalore The media also present famillies that are part of the quiverfull movement as idealized even though they don't have the same class advantage as Bradjoleina...the key to me is whiteness as good. While I recognize that the Obamas are also presented that way they are anomaly to what we consider the "good family" to be.

skatea4life323 said...

i'm sorry but WHAT? it's a picture of parents holding their babies. everything else is all speculation put together by you based on assumptions and other crazy over the top opinions.

to be honest, you're making EVERYTHING WORSE. you just keep pointing out the exact opposite of what you're trying to show. how does this support your cause? by giving this picture your own personal portrayal you're saying the exact opposite of what you want.

oh white is bad dont look at this happy white people there should be more black/other colored ones.

oh america only likes mothers if they're white.

what the hell is wrong with you? stop picking out the fact that anybody is a COLOR in the first place.

saying there should be more color, means that you accept color as a defining category of somebody.

god this is so pathetic

lee said...

I clearly think that you miss the point in the picture. I believe that the cover of People portrays a negative image of adoption because it focuses on the biological children. One must blame Jolie and Pitt because this cover could lead to the adopted children feeling alienated. If People magazine had used any other child, it would promote an inclusive family instead of a family that highlights hierarchy of the biological children.

Ebony Intuition said...

"As we all know one drop black bloods constitutes a black person. "

This was created to keep more people in slavery and so that black people would have to be responsible for more children other than there own. I don't look at children who are mixed as black. They are mulatto not black. I am black therefore I can not be placed in the same category as someone who has 2 parents of different races . And also people who are mixed with black are treated better than people who are black which again continues to push black people to the bottom.

Renee said...

@ ebony I don't look at children who are mixed as black.
You may not but the world treats them as black. Remember that Obama is technically a mulatto but he is referred to as a black man by both the white and black community.

skatea4life323 said...

"portrays a negative image of adoption because it focuses on the biological children"

"One must blame Jolie and Pitt because this cover could lead to the adopted children feeling alienated"

aka you're a complete wuss who makes things way worse than they really are? being highly over-sensitive to things is the REAL reason why you're upset.

Renee said...

@Skate there is no such thing as being "oversensitive" to racism

Melissa McEwan said...

@Skate there is no such thing as being "oversensitive" to racism

Seconded. Perhaps, Skate, you ought to consider that it's not that Renee is oversensitive; it's that you're not sensitive enough.

Great post, as always, Renee.

Arum said...

I don't see dual heritage children as a dilution, but I do see them as having their own particual problems. (Can I just say I hate the British term 'dual heritage'. I'm dual heritage - my mum is Scottish, my dad is Irish, so my skin is a sort of bluey-grey, my hair is sort of gingery-blonde. I'm about as far from black as it's possible to get!)

As I see it, it's okay as long as the black parent stays around. Unfortunately, many black men choose not to. I know a number of black women who have children by white partners, and those men are generally still there. The kids have parents who are able to introduce them to both parts of their heritage. Unfortunately, I know far more white women who have children with black men, and those men have moved on. In the UK, almost 25% of our under-10s are dual heritage, but many of them are being brought up in white single parent households. This brings all sorts of problems. Even simple things, like skin and hair care, are different for black children. At my kid's school, the black mums ended up doing a kind of outreach to white mums with black kids. They were sick of seeing black kids with flaking skin and bad hair.

I agree with Renee, dual heritage children are seen as black by the rest of the world. One of the worst impacts of the mass immigration that the UK has seen in recent years has been the sudden rise in racism. Many young black and dual heritage kids have been brought up in a world where overt racism was frowned upon. Unlike their parents, they didn't have to put up with being referred to as 'the blackie'. Suddenly, these kids are being told to "bugger off back to Somalia". It's bad enough for kids with two black parents. How can one white parent cope effectively with this?

I also disagree with white parents adopting black children. Social Services in Britain are often criticised for not allowing such adoptions. There are so many black kids looking for a home, why won't we let white parents provide one for them? The reason is the research evidence. In the 1970s, there were many black kids placed with white families. This was in the spirit of 'colour blindness' - we should all ignore colour. Unfortunately, the world doesn't ignore colour. Although there were children who had a really positive experience of inter-racial adoption, the vast majority of kids ended up with serious mental health problems. Even when factors like child abuse were taken into account, when compared to white children with similar life experience, they were much more likely to suffer from mental ill health. This is not just in the UK - look at any culture when it was thought 'better' to remove kids from their own ethnic group and place them with white people. It was almost always a complete disaster.

I think that when Banjelina discover their 7 year old standing in front of the bathroom mirror with talcum powder all over her face, they will realise there is a problem. Unfortunately, by that time it will be too late.

Renee said...

@Arum I believe that it is essential that the parent that is of color take an active role in the childs life. There are many incidents that occur that only fellow people color are able to clearly understand and children need a guide through that. They also benefit from having a POC as a close role model to help negate some of the negative images that the media and other agents of socialization do.
I understand that there are many black children waiting for adoption but unless there are good established support services for them and the white families that adopt them it could be extremely problematic for the child. If everything around them is white they will experience a feeling of otherness in their own home and that is to feel in what should be a safe space.

Roxie said...

...did you get linked to some where Renee? Cause these comments are WOW.

I agree with your point about how rich white motherhood is seen as good and right..But what this picture communicates to me is about biological motherhood more than anything else.

Maria said...

white biological motherhood.

Cleva said...

Love the post.

It goes even deeper. A black woman, "shacking" with a man, having children would be looked down upon.

Color Complex issues need to be addressed as well. Lighter the better. Whiter the better.

Sad.

Jananole said...

Arum,

I disagree with your comment about preventing white people from adopting black kids. This absolves people from having to confront their privilege. Why don't white people volunteer to adopt black kids and understand that they will have to be forced to acknowledge their own white privilege, and learn a thing or two about another culture? I don't think that it's impossible.

Faith said...

Well as far as Ebony's first comment, as a Black woman who chooses to date and wishes to marry and have biological children if I limit my choice to an eligible Black man I'd have less than a 2% chance of achieving that goal. I'd be happy for a satisfying relationship and would be extremely lucky to have a healthy child period I could care less if my child would be a cultural or ethnic blend. I do agree with the post about the exaltation of whiteness and class privilege because how else did they get $14M!!! for those pictures. That's INSANE. [Erykah Badu was totally castigated for having another child out of wedlock by the way.] Not to mention the fact from an anthropological standpoint there was not one uniform phenotype in Africa. There was a mix of skin tone, hair texture and body types. And there are so many Black children languishing in orphanages and in the foster care system they should be able to be cared for by anyone who will love and provide for them - esp since the ones that gave birth to them did not. Cultural training for a different adoptive parent is a good idea, but so is financial responsibility - which seems to be lacking for many children no matter who's caring for them.

TLW said...

Actually bi-racials are not treated the same as a Black person. For one, they directly benefit from white privledge because one of their parents is a white person and they recieve the spoils of white privledge as a result. Black people don't benefit from that privledge since they don't have a parent who is white. This is just one aspect of it.

Also in regards to Obama, I am not going to deny that he has been put through some things during this election because white people don't see him as white, but I would venture to say that he has been able to get as far as he has because even though he is not white, he has a common background with them since he was raised by his white family and many of them see this as a good sign that he does not "carry the baggage" that other Black people do, being raised by his white family and all. There are many other things I could point out but I am short on time.

Also regarding Faith's 2% chance of finding an eligible Black man, where did she pull that stat from? It would appear that you have a better chance getting hit by lightning or winning the lottery if that were true and surely you are not saying that right?

so-treu said...

Wow.

If you're not a white person, or if your body does not read read as "white," then you do not have white privilege. Period.

Great post Renee. Given all off the hullaballo that has been made about Angelina and Brad's adoption of black and brown babies (and the numerous pics taken and published), it is VERY interesting that this cover completely erases all trace of color (interesting too weak of a word, but you get my drift). If it wasn't about reinforcing a certain idea about (white) motherhood = teh perfect family, why not have a group photo where all the children are looking at the baby? I understand that the Jolie-Pitts may (or may not) have limited power over what an editor puts in their magazine, but from where I'm sitting they seem to be complicit in the erasure of the part of the family that does not look like them, and that's chilling.

Danny said...

Actually bi-racials are not treated the same as a Black person. For one, they directly benefit from white privledge because one of their parents is a white person and they recieve the spoils of white privledge as a result. Black people don't benefit from that privledge since they don't have a parent who is white. This is just one aspect of it.

Actually from what I understand (and the little of I've seen) bi-racial people tend to get the worst of both worlds. They get treated by both races of as "not enough" of one race or they are tainted by the other race.

Kinda like the silly assumption that bisexuals have it easy because they can "pick from either side."

Renee said...

@Danny...exactly I could not agree more

TLW said...

Well Danny that should be all the more reason they should establish their own identity seperate from either and they wouldn't feel like this.

Danny said...

Well Danny that should be all the more reason they should establish their own identity seperate from either and they wouldn't feel like this.

But why should bi-racial people have to go form their own identity just becauase people of the two races they come from won't accept them? Its fine if a bi-racial person decides to do that but they should not be forced to. I know if I were bi-racial I would claim both races and would be damned if I'd let anyone make me feel like I'm not "_______ enough" or "tainted by my ______ heritage".

nia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
skatea4life323 said...

you're all dumb. you only perceive these things happening. that doesn't mean they actually cause anything to happen.

don't buy the magazine.

don't advertise the magazine (bad press or good press) on your website.

stop pretending that calling people out for being racist will ever make anything change. fighting wrong with "pointing out the wrong" will only enrage more people, will only make people more prone to actually picking out differences.

and to the people who tried to refute my "oversensitive" point with saying I'm "not sensitive enough".

i understand there are real issues, i CLEARLY understand and know that there ARE racist things being done even in subtle ways, even in big publications such as people magazine. but to say something as stupid as "they don't show the adopted kids because they're not white"

IS F***ING STUIPD.

who are you to decide what should and shouldn't be shown on THEIR magazine?

who are you to say they can't put a picture of SOME of their children. freaking brad and Joline have HUNDREDS maybe THOUSANDS of pictures in magazines, TV, ect... of all their kids, and everything they do with them.

you're all a bunch of whiners. i appreciate you trying to help and I've never read anything else on this site. but this is just a stupid article in MY opinion.

Renee said...

skatea for first time visitor you sure are quick to earn my troll award.

skatea4life323 said...

troll? good one. i'm not trying to do anything but express my opinion. and prove a point, you're too sensitive.

so thanks =D

Renee said...

@Skate ...there you go ahead and prove my point. No one is too sensitive when it comes to racism but if you weren't a troll you would no that. Express your disagreement but you need to rethink the language you use.

skatea4life323 said...

okay, since i've been branded might as well take on the roll.

let me clarify something for you.

i agree, racism is something that should be handled with the UTMOST care, and every effort should be taken to pay attention to all details of all sides.

but are you trying to say that telling people magazine to include more "colored" kids.. isn't the exact same thing as them including too many white kids?

i believe you are causing more trouble than you are fixing. which is what drew my "too sensitive" remark. i believe that you're looking too deep into something without stepping back to look at the big picture.

the reality is this.. shilo is her biological sister. people magazine decided to show her with her biological sister, because they share a unique bond via blood.

the rest of the kids are highly documented, photographed, and shown to the public. hell they practically force feed us this tabloid crap.

too call this out as promoting something negative or wrong, is only your personal opinion. that is how you see it.

there are only intentions being drawn by you, nothing real, nothing factual, nothing that speaks loudly as "hey colored kids are not good enough to be on this."

i think you're creating a big deal by posting this on a PUBLIC FORUM (aka the internet). and also on Reddit, a HUGE website with lots of exposure.

Renee said...

but are you trying to say that telling people magazine to include more "colored" kids.. isn't the exact same thing as them including too many white kids?
Look they specifically do not include her children of color and that is not accidental especially when you realize that the entire family is dressed in white They symbolism is obvious. You may disagree if you wish but this is my blog and here I post my opinion. Clearly there are those that agree with my position and therefore I cannot be that far off the mark. If expect the freedom to express yourself, I will take the same freedom to express myself.

skatea4life323 said...

right lady.

so you can call out this magazine for something as stupid as everybody wearing white and not putting in the children you wanna see...

but you can snap at me and call me a "troll" when i call you out on the SAME EXACT THING.

A+ work.

skatea4life323 said...

i'm sorry you really seem like nice people but this article makes me mad.

you need to understand you're being a hypocrite by doing something like this

Renee said...

Look you over privileged troll I don't need to understand anything... I stated my position and I stand my it. If you don't like it too fucking bad.

Gershom said...

What is also telling is how the "adopted" "less than" "bastardized" children AREN'T shown. Adoptees are considered second class in america, they were bought and paid for for angelinas dreams, not for their own benefit.
Adoption in itself is a "white" industry, where white people with the most money have created an entitlement to lower class usually "non white" poverty stricken children. Only willing to "help the children" if they can pay for one and bring them home to call their own.

I totally agree with your post.

Gershom said...

one more thing...

don't forget that "white" babies are the most expensive. Mixed races are middle priced and black babies are among the cheapest.

Whoever says Adoption isn't racist is full of shit.

I was labeled as special needs because I was only 1/2 white. That classified me as hard to place.

lauren said...

@Ebony,

"This is why I don't understand why people of colour choose to continue the colour hierarchy by having children with people of a different race. My personal opinion mixing continues the colour hierarchy, In order to erase the same bodies that are not wanted but used in this system (that body has to be ethnically cleansed)or a better term genectic assimilation."

So you would rather punish people of colour today for injustices that were inflicted on them centuries ago? We WOC's are sooo kind to each other arent we?? I am well versed with the idea of genetic assimilation, and it is a reality well worth probing into, however, its not the year 1450 , 1890, and its not 1964 so at this stage of the game, growing up around diverse groups of people, ranging in all different colors, is very normal for many people, so falling in love with someone who is asian or white, while you are black, is not something to freak out about, THANK God, because that should not matter if you love that person. What hole have you been living in? Of course, there may be obstacles or problems that come up in that type of relationship, where it may not if two people share the same ethnic background, but I dont think black people should have to walk around telling themselves "no i can not be with you or have your child because, eventhough I love you, your ancestors may have been responsible for the the death and rape of my ancestors"..Havent you ever seen West Side Story, Jesus Christ!! There is so much more to life than operating that way, yes controlling peoples bodies, forcing genocide on groups of people has to be stopped, and should not be forgotten, period. But lady, I dont think you should be in charge of any coalition for change....

lauren said...

Also, I think the issue here, and I believe that skata4life did not get, is that the cover photo is constructed by a team of probably most if not all white people, trying to sell the magazine, and trying to sell a lifestyle to people. They take their "Privilege" for granted when they produce images like that, because images are powerful, they communicate many ideas at once, and I see the symbolism in that photo, and Renee hits the nail on the head when she addresses the issue of what we cant see in that picture...They know what they are doing and what they are not doing..

Renee said...

@Lauren thank you for taking the time to calmly explain to skat I personally have run out of patience for those that refuse to acknowledge privilege.

lauren said...

Thank you Renee for a very thought provoking post, and sorry you have to deal with some people who do not care to think deeply. Also, sorry about the comment before that, I just got a little carried away, but it had to come out because it comes from the heart...I care very much about these issues that affect us to this day, and I know that through dialogues , we can keep the changes for the better days coming...

Renee said...

@lauren you did not get carried away at all..I get frustrated with people sometimes but it is part of blogging.

Renee said...

@TLW people have a right to identify any which way they choose. Society needs to be more inclusive in its definitions

skatea4life323 said...

i just think it's funny how deep you're looking into this. and then how you connect it to all these other issues.

i never once stated that this kind of thing doesn't happen. but i'm pretty damn fucking sure that regardless of if it is or isn't happening, this is probably the stupidest way you could possibly address it.

you throw assumptions all over the place, you connect wild and crazy ideas that have no truth or fact to them what so ever.

these things could all be there, but at the same time they could be not there AT ALL.

but apparently i'm over privileged, and apparently you knew that some how? why is that exactly? because you read into my words and my thoughts? because you ASSUMED you know things about me? or is it that you just assume everybody who isn't in a "minority" or isn't in a "power struggle" doesn't understand or is just wrong.

you're a hypocrite, end of story.

Renee said...

@skate assume everybody who isn't in a "minority" or isn't in a "power struggle" doesn't understand or is just wrong.

I don't assume anything. Everyone that is white lives with white privilege, it is a fact. Until you learn to own yours, you will forever be disconnected from people of color. Try reading Unpacking the invisible knapsack, by Peggy McIntosh.

Renee said...

@skate one last think look up the definition of the word hypocrite you used it incorrectly.