First of all, the culture's thralldom to celebrity did not remain the same at all; it intensified into a kind of collective lunacy.
Second, the celebrities themselves changed: While the culture kept getting worse, its most famous denizens kept getting better and better, until virtue itself began to seem like one of fame's perquisites — a fashionable trapping and also, for some, an obligation.
In other words, instead of the things many predicted for America in the terrifying yet hopeful days after the attack — a moral resurgence, say, or the death of irony — we got a war against a country that had nothing to do with 9/11, and we got Angelina Jolie.
I was very unhappy, very unhealthy, and when I sat down for an interview, I didn't know why. ' I got out of myself pretty quickly, being in the middle of a civil war.
I mean, you look around, there are arms and legs."What happened next was not related in any way to 9/11, but it's the representative story of the post-9/11 years.
Her waist was very small — diminished, even — and so the raincoat was drastically tufted over her bare legs, like the white dress that Marilyn wore over the subway grating.
Indeed, there were all sorts of cinematic meanings to ascribe to the raincoat — it made her look like a spy, the very essence of glamour, the kind of girl who says goodbye in the rain — but that's the last thing she wants.
The two arguments would seem hopelessly disconnected — the first being an objective assessment, or at least amenable to fact; the second being subjective and sentimental — but in truth they have become inextricable.
In post-9/11 America, Angelina Jolie is the best woman in the world except herself, which is one of the reasons she's the most famous woman in the world. She walked in wearing a very short beige raincoat cinched at the waist with a black belt and palomino-colored high heels.
She called the United Nations and became a goodwill ambassador for the UN's High Commissioner for Refugees.
She visited something like thirty refugee camps in the world's most remote and forbidding and, yes, war-torn places, and in so doing became what she calls "a citizen of the world." At the same time, of course, she became a mother: first to Maddox, from Cambodia; then to Zahara, from Ethiopia; then to Shiloh, from Brad Pitt; then, most recently, to Pax, from Vietnam.
Without it, there would be no story; there would be only private virtue and public works and the occasional movie, and she would more or less disappear.
With it, however, she becomes one of the four or five Americans who have a chance of turning up on four or five magazine covers each week; with it, she is still a permissible fantasy figure; with it, we Americans can still use her for our own purposes, and our own purposes are very specific.
She does not want the meaning of her life to rest on the meaning of her life as an a word she, like most celebrities, pronounces hardly at all.