always play women I would date"--Angelina Jolie,
Talk Magazine (June 2000)
January of 2002, Angelina Jolie tied with Britney Spears for
second place on Hollywood.com's poll
of the Sexiest Stars 2002, and in the same month claimed the
third spot on E! Online's list of the "25 Sexiest Women
June of 2001, Harlequin readers voted Jolie the "2nd
hottest female celebrity;" this May, 53% of the readers
of Parents Magazine voted Angelina Jolie the celebrity mom
they'd mostly like to hang out with (Jolie and Billy Bob Thornton
have adopted one child and are in the process of adopting
the July 2002 issue of Cosmo Magazine, Buffy
star Sarah Michelle Gellar listed Angelina Jolie when asked
whom she thought was the "hottest actress," explaining
"she is very sexy. It sounds like an obvious answer,
but there is something about her. She's hot, I'm sorry. And
she's an incredible actress."
asked in the August 2003 issue of Premiere Magazine for whom
she'd "switch teams," Alyson Hannigan of Buffy
also listed Angelina Jolie (and Jodie Foster).
Jackson also cited Angelina Jolie as the sexiest woman alive
in a July, 2001 interview. "I think Angelina Jolie is
another who's got something about her. I don't know if it's
her attitude or her ass, but for me that's the most beautiful
part of the body."
Rosie O'Donnell jumped on the Jolie bandwagon in her book,
"Find Me," writing
"there's something [Angelina Jolie] represents to me.
She represents some sort of truth and beauty."
Men. Straight Women. Bisexual Women and Lesbians. Moms
and Dads. Seems everyone but gay men
are swooning for Angelina. That straight men are drawn to
her is no big surprise--but that so many women (lesbian, bi
and straight) are attracted to Jolie is not as predictable.
In fact, it is a development quite unlike anything we've seen
in American culture before. Not because so many women are
attracted to Jolie, but because so many of them have expressed
this attraction publicly.
people would agree that Angelina Jolie is attractive. But
there are many beautiful women in Hollywood, and few generate
the same kind of overwhelming interest across genders and
sexual orientations that she does; clearly something else
is going on here.
what are the drivers behind this phenomenon?
Jolie's outrageous persona appeals to many women's secret
desire to rebel.
apparent fearlessness, her ability (and willingness) to say
"fuck you" to the Establishment and succeed anyway,
appeals to many women who have been raised to be polite and
color inside the lines. Her roles in Gia
and Tomb Raider only cemented this bad-girl image,
as the larger-than-life characters she plays in these movies
match the colorful personality she displays in real life.
fact, most of the characters she has played onscreen--from
early ones in movies like Hackers and Foxfire
to later roles in films like Original Sin and
Gone in 60 Seconds--are "outsiders" challenging
always had this kind of feeling that the clock is ticking,"
Jolie said in a Playboy Magazine interview. "Maybe that's
why I choose to live openly. I don't have any fears about
sort of throwing myself out there."
onscreen and off, Jolie embodies the kind of woman many of
us secretly want to be--at least sometimes.
the earlier days of her career, Jolie's comments were sometimes
a little too on the starving-for-attention side (e.g.
"You're young, you're drunk, you're in bed, you have
knives; shit happens"). But unlike other celebrities
whose shock tactics brought them only their fifteen minutes
of fame, Jolie was able to parlay hers into a more enduring
fame by backing it up with genuine talent (Gia, Girl
Interrupted) and box office success (Tomb Raider).
like a wild stallion...running," O'Donnell writes about
Jolie. "She's the kind of person who jumps in the pool
the night she wins her Academy Award."
a February, 2002 Maxim interview, Angel star Charisma
Carpenter joined the list of heterosexual women who find Jolie
I was forced to go with a woman, it would have to be Madonna
or Angelina Jolie. Probably Angelina. We were staying at
the same hotel recently and I bumped into her in the lobby.
She looked so beautiful and elegant that I wanted to tell
her but I was too dumbstruck. There's something deliciously
mischievous about her. It's something to do with that glint
in her eye. I found myself just staring at her but secretly
I was hoping she was checking me out."
April 2002, USA Today columnist Whitney Matheson did an informal
poll of readers as to who was the "coolest person alive,"
and Angelina Jolie came in third. In announcing the results,
Matheson wrote "Love her or leave her, you've gotta admit
she's cool. From her enthusiasm for knives and leather pants
to her two-year marriage to Billy Bob Thornton, Angelina is
the woman of our dreams."
Jolie's open bisexuality contrasts sharply with the absence
of openly bisexual actresses or characters on television and
in the movies.
frank, matter-of-fact acknowledgment of her own bisexuality
(she was in a relationship with model and Foxfire
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
Magazine's Entertainment Editor has 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."
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:
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
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
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 Im walking down the street."
kind of outspoken honesty is highly seductive in a culture
that generally encourages women to keep these kinds of feelings
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.
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.
films written and directed by lesbians are not much better,
for they rarely include bisexual characters.
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?"
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.
As a celebrity, she's a "safe" outlet for many women's
having a crush on the woman at work or living two doors down,
straight women who are secretly attracted to Angelina Jolie
don't have to fear that they will ever be in a situation which
might cause them to act on that attraction. As a celebrity,
Jolie lives clearly in the realm of fantasy, and thus attraction
to her doesn't really count against a woman's heterosexuality.
Jolie's aggressive personality appeals to some women's desire
to be dominated--and to dominate.
writer Scott Huver put it best in his explanation of Jolie's
place in the Sexiest Star poll results. "How
could you resist her?" Huver wrote. "If you tried,
we have a feeling she'd kick in the door and hold you down
on the floor with her boot until you submitted."
is exactly what many women (straight, lesbian, and bisexual)
secretly desire--even Jolie herself. "I need someone
physically stronger than me," Jolie said in a June 2000
interview with Elle Magazine. "I am always on top. It's
really unfortunate. I am begging for the man that can put
me on the bottom. Or the woman. Anybody that can take me down."
decade earlier, Madonna generated a similar buzz, but didn't
create the same kind of phenomenon
because only one of these factors really applied
to her (the rebelliousness). Maybe one and a half, if you
count her occasional dalliances with women. But although she
flirted with bisexuality, Madonna always appeared to be doing
it more as a marketing ploy to deliver maximum shock value
than out of genuine interest. Her sexual friendship with Sandra
Bernhard aside, Madonna is the kind of woman you could see
hook up with a woman, but not actually be in a relationship
the other hand, one could quite easily see Jolie in a relationship
with another woman now that she isn't married. Not that she
necessarily would look for this, since it's not Jolie's style
to seek out one gender over the other, but at least with Jolie
you believe it's possible.
the coexistence of all three of these factors at the same
time within the same woman that is responsible
for the universal attraction to Jolie. If she were
just bisexual but not outspoken about it, or exhibited outrageous
behavior but was not bisexual, or was just another beautiful
married actress, Jolie would still have many fans. But she
would probably not have the massive and diverse following
of straight, lesbian, and bi women that she has today without
the convergence of all three of these factors.
long as the taboo on bisexuality and the pressure on women
to be ladylike remain strong forces in our culture, Angelina
Jolie will continue to serve as a sort-of litmus test for
bisexuality in women who otherwise define themselves as heterosexual.
Meanwhile, Jolie's position as the Bisexual Poster Girl will
actually weaken the very social conditions that put her there.
contributing significantly to the national dialogue on bisexuality,
she is making it less likely that she will be such a rarity
in the future--circumstances in which even Angelina Jolie
wouldn't mind blending into the background.
In Jolie's interview with Barbara Walters on July
11th's edition of 20/20 (ABC), she talked about her
bisexuality and the fact that she is still open to a relationship
with a woman, saying "I consider myself a very sexual
person who loves who she loves, whatever sex they may be."