I was very nearly christened 'Angela' but my mother was put off by my father's insistence that he would call me 'Angie'. Mother hates diminuitives in names, for some reason. So I was named Susan instead (because clearly, Susan, can't be shortened to anything... er... Sue, Susie, Suze etc.?)
If you're the type who believes in nominal determinism, you might wonder how differently I might have turned out if my name was Angie...
From today's Irish Independent:
Would you trust your man with Angelina?
Susan Daly on Hollywood's number one femme fatale
Thursday March 11 2010
Who's afraid of Angelina Jolie? It's now apparently the turn of Johnny Depp's missus. Vanessa Paradis, his partner of 12 years, was reportedly unhappy to discover that Depp's latest film The Tourist requires him to film a long and steamy sex scene in the shower with La Jolie.
Either Ms Paradis has environmental concerns about water wastage or she is worried Jolie will try to take a bite out of Johnny. Perhaps the whole story is trumped-up publicity for the movie but it says something about the widespread belief in Angelina Jolie's magnetism. French songbird Paradis might have the second-sharpest pair of cheekbones in showbiz (after those of her paramour) but Jolie is, we are constantly reminded, a maneater. Ooh oh, here she comes, and she's coming for her co-star.
What is it about Angelina Jolie that -- six children later -- she is still considered Hollywood's top vamp? Clearly, the looks have something to do with it. Vanity Fair readers have crowned her the most beautiful woman on the planet. The perfect symmetry of her facial features has been used by scientists to illustrate the ideal of female beauty, and its proportions directly compared to those of the Egyptian queen Nefertiti.
Jolie has admitted that she looks a bit odd. "I sometimes think I look like a funny Muppet," she once said. Her beauty is so extreme, it is almost cartoonish. From the moment in 2001 when she was poured into rubber and Lycra to bring to life the pneumatic video game heroine Lara Croft, she has become fetishised. The poster for her 2004 film Taking Lives took for granted that she has one of the most scrutinised faces in the world -- it featured only a close-up of her instantly recognisable lips.
Jolie's other-worldly appearance tips over from being every man's fantasy into the realm of the merely fantastical. Jennifer Aniston, the woman she will forever be pitted against as long as she remains with Brad Pitt, is arguably the more conventionally desirable star. Women imagine that with the right personal trainer, dietician and stylists, they could come close to emulating Jennifer. Men imagine that in similar circumstances, they might be in with a chance.
The idea of being Angelina Jolie -- or being with her -- doesn't seem a possibility for mere mortals. No wonder we feel that should Jolie want something, or someone, not a person on earth is powerless to stop her. The alleged Paradis paranoia we have seen before: in 2004, pop star Kylie Minogue -- again a much-desired woman in her own right -- felt the need to fly to the set where her then-lover Olivier Martinez was filming with Jolie and hang out just off-camera.
What is surprising is that Jolie still has the power to make tongues wag six years later -- it was claimed recently that she once had an affair with Mick Jagger while he was married to Jerry Hall -- despite being in the most settled relationship of her life.
In recent years, especially since the trauma of her mother's death from cancer three years ago, Jolie's slim frame has grown terribly gaunt. Too rich? Not when you and your lover are passionate philanthropists; but too thin? Probably.
Also playing against the old 'homewrecker' perception is the fact that her personal likeability is supposed to be on the up. Her Q score -- a US index used to decipher how positively the public feels towards a celebrity -- has increased since her union with Brad Pitt, the creation of their family and her high-profile work for the UN. Jennifer Aniston or Laura Dern (who was dumped in favour of Jolie by her fiance Billy Bob Thornton) may not consider Jolie to be a friend to women but feminist writer Naomi Wolf has given the actress her influential stamp of approval.
Her paean to Jolie as the new embodiment of 'having it all' graced the cover of Harper's Bazaar last summer. "Polls show that her appeal and magnetism play at least as powerfully in the fantasy life of females," argued Wolf.
It is true that Jolie has thrown off some of the scent of crazy danger that she used to trail through her early to mid-20s. Back then, she spoke freely about bisexuality, her knife collection and self-harming. Her short marriage to Hackers co-star Jonny Lee Miller was notorious chiefly for her wedding outfit of skin-tight leather trousers and a white shirt with Jonny's name written on it in her own blood. The second marriage, to Pushing Tin co-star Billy Bob, was written in tattoos, vials of each other's blood worn around the neck and public displays of groping.
Her new role as matriarch of a family of eight seems Brady Bunch by comparison. Yet the frisson of distrust remains. The Pitt-Jolie relationship is still tarnished by the "uncool" (Jen's word) revelation by Jolie not too long ago that she and Pitt fell in love on the set of Mr and Mrs Smith, while he was still married. She might claim the pair didn't get "intimate" until after Aniston and Pitt separated, but the notion of her homing in on her alpha-male mate like a heat-seeking missile is hard to shake.
Jolie hasn't entirely lost her mystique by becoming a mother. When she was married all those years ago, she was far from a Stepford wife. In the same way, now that she is apparently 'settled', she is still subverting societal norms by not marrying Pitt.
Like her or loathe her -- and few have no opinion at all on Jolie -- she is undeniably a woman of power. That, even more than her pillowy lips, is most seductive of all.
THE EVOLUTION OF THE FEMME FATALE:
DELILAH: The emasculation of the male is a big hobby of the femme fatale -- Delilah managed it by giving her husband Samson a bad haircut.
She's just one of many Old Testament temptresses but the only one Tom Jones ever sang about.
THEDA BARA: The film industry loves its femme fatales and every star from Rita Hayworth as seductive cabaret singer Gilda to Linda Fiorentino in The Last Seduction has Theda Bara to thank for the blueprint.
Her predatory roles popularised the term 'vamp' (short for vampiress) in the silent cinema era.
AVA GARDNER: As sexually notorious off-screen as on was La Gardner. An excellent biography by Lee Server, Love is Nothing, detailed Gardner's insatiable carnal appetites.
She had countless lovers and a callous attitude towards those obsessed with her beauty -- including her third husband Frank Sinatra.
MATA HARI: The Dutch exotic dancer picked up her sexy moves while married to an army officer in Java, and exploited them when she moved to Paris in 1903.
She manipulated her rich lovers to pay for her luxurious lifestyle but in World War 1 she was tried for spying for the Germans and executed.