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Angelina Jolie and the era of helpful oversharing
May 16th 2013 / 0 comment
In the wake of Angelina Jolie's announcement that she's had a double mastectomy, Christa D'Souza empathises with the need to overshare
Angelina Jolie’s double prophylactic mastectomy. What? You’ve not heard about it? Of course you have. And if you haven’t you surely will. In the same way that it was front page news for several weeks after Princess Diana had the audacity to announce she suffered from Bulimia, this story, too, will run and run.
No one can predict these things, but can you not see a beautifully-styled sepia toned photoshoot, possibly shot by someone like Mario Testino to follow in its heels (with all proceeds to go to charity, of course). That Angelina, she sure knows how to get the world’s attention doesn’t she - and one can to a degree understand the jibes that have been directed her way since the article in the New York Times first appeared. You would say that if you were rich; another ploy to publicise another project; a way to disguise a boob job, and so on and so forth.
I do so hope that she’s not reading them, though. Because as a person who writes a lot of first person features I would think it very odd if she had kept the whole thing under wraps. When I first got told that the little grape seed-like cyst on my right bosom was in fact a malignant tumour, my immediate thought was: I need a notebook or a tape-recorder to get all of this down.
Just before I got knocked out to have my lymph nodes removed I remember thinking how am I going to word this? Oh, I know, the blue dye they had to inject into them beforehand to see if the disease had spread, that will make it live. I couldn’t have been happier when they said it hadn’t spread and that I only had to have radiotherapy, but in private knew it would have been a “better” story if I’d had to have chemo and lost all my hair. In a way I felt guilty I got off so lightly.
Sounds macabre? Exhibitionist? I suppose it is a bit. But then this is the era of the Overshare, is it not, where all human life is there for perusal on Twitter and Facebook etc. Look at the item on Radio Four yesterday morning about Kate Granger, the doctor with terminal cancer who plans to tweet her own death. Look at the rash of it-happened-to-me articles which came out of the woodwork the moment Jolie’s relatively sober piece appeared in The New York Times. Shit happens, you chronicle it, that’s the way it seems to go for everybody now, not just first person features writers like myself.
Yes, yes, it’s all about wanting to be famous, the celebrity culture we live in and all. How much more publicity does a person need? But in Jolie’s defence I’d like to think that part of the rationale for wanting to spill all is the very human desire to reach out to people out there who are going through the same thing that you are, but don’t necessarily have the voice to express to it, or the audience to listen. In other words, for those of us with voices, it is almost our moral duty to overshare.
Does that make me sound Pollyanna-ish? An apologist? Possibly. But I sometimes wonder what the point of celebrity is, other than to make us feel ‘Less Than” about ourselves. Angelina Jolie, just like Princess Diana (and Farrah Fawcett) has proved it can be put to much better use, and for that, how can we do anything but salute her? Still dying to see the pictures, of course.