I’m here to talk about ovaries.
More accurately, a certain lack thereof. And I’ll eventually get to some notions of celebrity. But most pressingly first, if you’re reading this, it’s too late—for Angelina Jolie’s ovaries, that is.
This past Tuesday, The New York Times published “Angelina Jolie Pitt: Diary of a Surgery.” In her second NYT Op-Ed on the status of her most intimate body parts, Jolie informed her fans (Unbroken was conveniently released on DVD the same day) and general reading public of America that due to her family health history (specifically a mutation in the BRCA1 gene which increases one’s chances of getting breast and ovarian cancer, of which Jolie’s grandmother, mother, and aunt died), Jolie decided to have her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed in a laparoscopic bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy. I promise that paragraph was more uncomfortable for me than it was for you. But I think she wants me to talk about her ovaries, or else she wouldn’t have penned the Op-Ed.
The Op-Ed itself isn’t an exciting piece of writing. It’s providing new information, sure. It’s about an important topic—health. It’s not much more than public service announcement. It reads, and I’m paraphrasing, “Well, you know I wrote about my mastectomy a couple years ago, and I promised I would follow up, so here’s me following up. I went to the doctors and given my family history they decided it would be best to have another surgery to further limit my chances of getting cancer.” This was published along with a quick variation of what you’d hear at the end of a Cialis ad, “This isn’t right for everyone, so talk to your doctor.”
The NYT later came out with an article that featured a bunch of experts saying the decision to remove her ovaries was the right one, because we definitely needed to consult several doctors on a procedure that’s already been done.
Forgive my tone, Angelina. This topic is as hard for me to talk about—seriously—as it was for you.
Jolie losing her ovaries is a big deal. She’s a celebrity. And celebrities mean something. Their lives are entwined with the lives of us regular folk. They help us mark time—I remember seeing Jolie in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider when I was a 13-year-old boy. Celebrities serve as analogs, parables, imaginary friends. Just as Brad Pitt is some everchanging piece of American cultural masculinity from Legends of the Fall (I’m young, and pretty!) to Fight Club (I’m dangerous, and cut!) and through the slick dealings of his Oceans 11-13, Moneyball character to Brad Pitt as war hero (Troy, Inglorious Bastards, Fury). Jolie is much of the same—except instead of masculinity, it’s (obviously) femininity. She was the daughter (of Jon Voight), the vixen (of Lara Croft), the home wrecker (of Brad and Jen), the mother (of adoptive children), the envoy (for the U.N.), the queen (of Snow White), the director (of the recent Unbroken), and now the patient. Stars have presence—on screen and in our lives.
It’s a fact that celebrity culture is a fabric of everyday. So when I saw Jolie on the front page, I clicked (instantly) because there was that recognizable sensation of “I need to know this right now” followed by the expected sensation of “Why do I need to know about Angelina Jolie’s ovaries?”
When I flip to my New York Times tab, I don’t want to read about Angelina Jolie’s ovaries. I want to begrudgingly skim my way through something about ISIS before getting to the Arts and Culture section.
Originally, I was set to write something snarky about how it’s not our beeswax to know anything about Angelina Jolie’s ovaries. I even had a bit about dingos and babies that never really left the ground. I was going to include something of the sort—“In this digital age of hyper sharing and rapid communication, sometimes sharing every intimate detail in your life is thoroughly unnecessary.”
I don’t think that’s the case anymore. Because Angelina Jolie’s ovaries aren’t just her ovaries. Because of the way we idolize not only public figures but even more so figures we blast onto a giant screen and study every twitch and glimmer, those ovaries reflect some part in each of us that’s deficient. Sometimes, ovaries aren’t just ovaries.
Featured Image Courtesy of the Academy Awards