[No actual celebrities were damaged during the writing of this story.]
ANGIE’S SHOCKING REVELATION!
Angelina sat in her dressing room, looking through an adoption agency catalogue on her iPad. She swiped her finger to the next image: a one-year-old from Bolivia with gorgeous, toasty dark skin. Angie bit her plump bottom lip. She didn’t have any Latin American children yet, and she’d been worrying lately about what message that might be sending.
She pinned the girl to her Pinterest Page labeled “Children I Want.”
There was a knock on the door. “Angelina? It’s me, Sasha.”
Thank god. The press conference was going to start any minute, and Angie wasn’t exactly sure what she was supposed to be saying. Hopefully she was speaking about her latest humanitarian effort, helping minimize conflict between humans and wild animals in Namibia. She knew it wasn’t about her double mastectomy or plans to remove her ovaries because she’d recently been told by her head publicist to “hush it up” about all of that.
“We still want to portray you as a sexy, nubile man-stealer,” Robert had explained. “Not some dried-up mammy-crammy type.”
“But I did it for my children,” she had argued. “And to empower other women to take charge of their health.”
Robert had given her a look. “Don’t push it, Angie. Just hush it up about all that.”
Now Sasha walked into the room and closed the door behind her. She was the newest member of the publicity team, and arguably the smartest. She had the unfortunate body of Lena Dunham — small breasts with a disproportionately hefty bottom — and a squashed-looking man-face similar to that of John C. Reilly. This was the reason she was so smart, Angelina often thought. She’d never had to miss school for modeling auditions. She’d never been distracted from her studies by obsessed boyfriends.
“I have your statement.” Sasha handed over the piece of paper. She seemed unusually sweaty today, and her eyes swept across the floor as if she were looking for a dropped earring. But Angelina was used to people being sweaty and strange around her. She’d been told more than once that she was so beautiful it was literally painful to look at her.
“Thank you so much, Sasha.” Angelina put the piece of paper down on her dressing table next to her bottle of Smart Water. She liked to be seen drinking the stuff so that people would know she had no hard feelings towards Jen Aniston.
“You might want to read it before you go out there.” Sasha’s eyes were squinting, and her mouth was puckered, as if she were about to distribute some Hollywood cheek kisses to people she actively despised.
“Oh, I’m sure it’s great. I trust you,” Angelina said. Sasha always wrote thoughtful, intelligent speeches that sounded like the sort of thing Angelina would have written herself if she wasn’t so busy being a mother of six and righting the injustices of the world.
“You… Um…” Sasha’s eyes were still on the floor. “Well, Robert said you should practice your sad face before you go out there.”
“My sad face? Well of course I’ll look sad when I’m talking about the Namibian children who have been mauled by angry rhinoceri outside of their village… Is rhionceri the plural of rhinoceros?” she wondered.
“Maybe you should practice out loud,” Sasha suggested.
“If you say so.” Angelina swept her hair away from her face. She picked up the paper and began to read. “It is with a heart full of sadness that I make this announcement: Brad Pitt and I have decided to separate.”
Angelina looked up from the paper, her hand starting to tremble slightly. “What the fuck is this, Sasha?”
“I, um… I thought you knew.”
“No. I don’t know. Is this a joke?”
“Um.” Sasha’s features squished together into the center of her face, and she had the pained look of someone trying to hold in a large amount of insistent flatulence. “Robert said you knew… sort of. And Brad’s team already approved it. He’s making his statement later today.”
“What?” Angelina flung the piece of paper from her hand and it fluttered to the floor. “He didn’t agree to this, did he?”
Sasha took a step backwards, her hands defensively in front of her chest. “Robert said to tell you to remember your contract.”
The stupid contract, of course. The one that said Angelina’s personal life was entirely under the direction of her publicity team. Back when she signed the fifty-page document, Angelina had been so desperate for fame. So desperate to prove herself. She would have agreed to just about anything. And at first, their “direction” hadn’t been all bad. They’d orchestrated the whole Brad Pitt thing, and why would she argue with that? The man was hot and did everything she told him to do. And then, when she had wanted to adopt, Robert hadn’t stopped her. “That’ll look good in the media,” he’d said. “People can’t resist a beautiful woman with a baby on her hip. Especially if it’s a foreign baby… Get a brown one.”
In fact, over time, Angelina had sort of forgotten about the contract. When she ran a life decision past Robert — another baby, some humanitarian work — he always approved it. She’d started to think that her life was her own after all.
“Where is Robert?” Angelina asked the cowering Sasha. “I can’t believe he sent you in here to tell me I’m supposed to divorce my husband.”
“I won’t do it. He can’t make me do it.” Angelina stepped into her four-inch heels so that she now towered a good ten inches over poor Sasha. “Tell Robert to get in here. I want to talk to him.”
Sasha nodded slightly then scurried out of the room.
A minute later, Robert entered. He was in his sixties now, but with the smooth, shiny look of a highly-polished wooden banister. He swiped his hand over his dark, slicked-back hair. “Angie, darling.” He moved towards her and attempted an air kiss by her right cheek. She took a step backwards.
“I’m not making that announcement. I love Brad. And people love Brangelina. There’s no reason for us to separate.”
Robert shook his head. “People are bored of Brangelina. Brad’s going gray, and you’re chopping off your boobs. You’re turning into old fuddy-duddy parents with nothing interesting going on.”
“What about the movie I just directed?” Angelina put a hand to her hip.
“What about my newest political initiative? And you know that I’m working with that new charity called-”
“Double yawn,” Robert interrupted. “Americans could give two shits about your humanitarian work. And your movie? A war drama? No. We’re trying to distract the American public from thinking about war, from thinking about poverty and inequality and places where children are starving.”
“And getting mauled by rhinoceri,” Angelina added.
“I thought you understood, Angie.” Robert looked down at his manicured hand as if the conversation was boring him. “Every major celebrity in the U.S. signs the same sort of contract as you. Your purpose is to entertain. Your purpose is to keep Americans from thinking about distressing political events. Your purpose is to keep people uninformed about the issues. That’s the deal Hollywood made with the U.S. government a long time ago. You know that more Americans can give the names of your six children than can name the vice president of the United States. That’s what we want.”
“Then I guess I’m doing my job, aren’t I?” Angelina muttered.
“Except that you’re not anymore. We let you do your little humanitarian stuff and political activism for a while because it made you more likeable after you stole a married man and creepily adopted a bunch of foreign babies.”
“And besides.” Robert smirked. “We knew Americans would care more about Jen’s reaction to your dress at the Oscars than your work with Human Rights Watch. So it didn’t matter. But now that Jen’s dropped her grudge against you, we need news. We’ve got a Brangelina-shaped hole in the media that we need to fill, pronto, before people get bored with the lack of celebrity gossip and actually start educating themselves.”
“So you’re making me divorce Brad for a news story?”
“Think about the headlines! Brad and Angie split — but who will get the kids? “We’ve already planned out the whole messy custody battle. It’s going to provide us with a year’s worth of news, at least. Plus all the speculation about why you two split.” Robert gave a smile that was more like a wild animal barring its teeth.
“I won’t do it. I love Brad, and he loves me. I’ll break my contract with you if I have to, but I’m not going to divorce my husband.”
“Well, you might be willing to break your contract and lose your money and fame and all the things you’ve worked so hard for… But Brad wasn’t.” Robert took a step closer to Angelina and ran his hand again over his gelled hair. His teeth were unnaturally white against his taut, tanned skin.
“What do you mean Brad wasn’t?” Angelina narrowed her eyes.
“We said jump, and Brad asked how high. We said dump Angelina, and he asked who he would get to have an affair with next. We’re thinking maybe he and Gwyneth will get back together for a while. Just think of the photo ops: Apple and Moses Paltrow go on playdates with Pax and Shiloh. Or whichever of the kids Brad ends up getting custody of.”
“Brad won’t get custody of any of them!” Angelina shouted. She pressed a hand to her stomach, feeling as if she might puke up her stomach full of Smart Water.
“Ooh, that’s good! Where’s Sasha? Let’s have her write that into your speech somewhere.”
Angelina took a breath. She was letting Robert get to her. She was Angelina Fucking Jolie, and she did what she wanted. There was no way she was going to divorce Brad. There was no way they were going to get embroiled in some long custody battle. They loved each other… didn’t they? She tried to think of the last time she’d seen him. Had it been last weekend? No, she’d been visiting Syrian refugees, and he’d been in New Orleans, at the house they’d bought down there together, which she hadn’t been to in over a year. Well, anyway, she’d talked to him last week on the phone, and everything had seemed great between them. She wouldn’t believe that he was going to go along with whatever his publicity team told him to do.
But then Angelina had a chilling thought. Brad always went along with everything she told him to do. In fact, this quality was what made him such a good actor: he was extremely good at taking direction.
Angelina’s blood ran cold.
There was a knock on the door. “Five minutes!”
“Thank you, five,” Angelina called back. Her voice wavered.
She stared at Robert, at his shiny face and capped teeth, which were on display at the moment in an unnervingly large smile. “I won’t do it,” she whispered. “I love Brad and I love my children.”
“I know you love your children,” Robert said. “That’s why I think you’ll go along with our direction.”
“What do you mean?”
“You actors never read the fine print. “Robert shook his head slowly, looking smug. “We control everything about you, Angie. Your image. Your career. Your entire life. We orchestrated your relationship with Brad, and we have the power to end it. We approved your adoptions and your pregnancies, and we retain complete control over their products.”
“Their products? As in my children?”
“Yes. It’s all there in the contract. If you fail to meet your obligations, we can legally claim custody of your children. So it’s your choice, Angie. Cooperate with us and we’ll let you get custody of at least three of them. Maybe more, depending on public opinion. But if you fight us on this, if you don’t fulfill your part of the bargain, we’ll take your children away from you — all of them — and you’ll never see them again.”
Angelina sank into her chair. “Why are you doing this to me?”
Robert’s smile widened into the corners of his face. “Because it makes for great gossip, Angie, darling. And the American public is hungry for some good celebrity gossip. We’ve got to fill their little brains with fluff, don’t we? So they don’t start sniffing around at more important pieces of news.”
“Maybe they should be reading more important pieces of news,” Angelina shouted. She’d sort of thought that they were. She’d sort of thought that Americans cared about all the efforts she was making to improve the world. That, like her, they were slowly becoming more informed about injustices and international politics. But who was she kidding? Whenever she went on a talk show, she wasn’t asked about her charities or her work as a UN Ambassador. She was asked about Jennifer Aniston, or what Brad was like in bed.
“It’s your choice, Angie,” Robert said. He picked up Sasha’s speech from the floor and handed it to her. “If I were you, I’d practice this once or twice before you go out there. See if you can work up a tear or two.”
He walked briskly out of the room, shutting the door behind him.
Angelina turned to the mirror and stared into her own dark eyes. She’d thought she was doing work to help the world, but all this time she’d been contributing to the ignorance of the people in her own country. She should do something about it! She should tell Americans to get informed about real news instead of wasting their time clicking through “Angelina’s Oscar Outfits through the Years.”
Angie’s eyes filled with tears — real ones. But what was she supposed to do? Go out there and tell the world about the dirty secret agreement between Hollywood and the government? She’d not only lose her kids if she did that; she’d be risking her life. Just look at what had happened to Heath Ledger when he’d started getting rebellious. And what difference would it make anyway? If she didn’t cooperate, there were plenty of reality TV stars who would. They would get married and divorced a million times if they had to; they would have kids and nervous breakdowns and plastic surgery. With or without Brangelina, there would always be enough celebrity gossip to keep the American public woefully ignorant.
Angelina looked down at the statement Sasha had written for her. “It is with a heart full of sadness that I make this announcement: Brad Pitt and I have decided to separate.”
Let the people have their gossip. At least she would have her children.