Here’s a fun game! Try to imagine Angelina Jolie in the “Sex and the City” movie. You know, hanging with Carrie and the girls. Shoe shopping, giggling, brunching. Kind of makes your head hurt, doesn’t it?
Now picture her playing Tony Stark’s dutiful assistant (played by Gwenyth Paltrow) in “Iron Man.” Or Bruce Banner’s long-suffering love interest in “The Incredible Hulk.” Not much easier, right?
I don’t know if you are aware of this fact but Jolie is in a category all her own – and she’s nobody’s best girlfriend. Just in the nick of time, this real-life superhero is here to rescue us from a summer movie season monopolized by testosterone and handbags. In Timur Bekmambetov’s Matrixy thriller “Wanted,” out this Friday, Jolie is in top form: lean, scowling, firing big guns at bad guys – and not exactly taking it easy on the good guy, either. After watching the film’s sneak peek, you get the feeling that Jolie intimidated every male actor around her, and she probably did.
It’s a curious thing yah know, because the Cult of Angelina (OK, Brangelina, if you want, but let’s be honest – Brad is kind of an afterthought) has never been stronger. The fever-pitch of speculation about when and where she’ll give birth to her twin girls has spawned new levels of paparazzi insanity.
But, despite her burgeoning brood, Jolie always plays as hard as the guys when she gets on the set. “She seems to be this frail, slender, delicate creature when she’s strolling down the red carpet,” says O’Neil, “and then becomes the ultimate symbol of female empowerment in these films.“
And cinematic female empowerment – blame it on “Thelma and Louise” – often equals firepower.
Is it so bad, though, to have one actress out there who believes she’s an invincible action hero? The only other female hero character in the genre this summer, Selma Blair’s character in “Hellboy 2” reportedly spends most of her time knocked up – and if there’s one thing we’ve had plenty of in the past year of movies, it’s pregnant women.
No, I strongly prefer Jolie, who kicks butt onscreen and plays mama off-screen. As with everything else in her life, she’s insisted on doing it to the extreme – six kids? really? – but so far, motherhood doesn’t seem to be slowing her down. Jolie still works tirelessly as a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador. Last week, she appeared for World Refugee Day, and her page on the UN’s site currently lists more than 20 field missions since her appointment in 2001, including trips to Sierra Leone, Kosovo, Sri Lanka and Pakistan.
And, OK, it might seem like she’s mixing her messages a little – stumping for the rights of refugees from war-torn countries one week, wielding enormous semiautomatic weapons on the big screen the next. But I say: Woman’s got a right to be contradictory. We need her gunslinging bravado in the movies. After all, nongirly girls need role models, too.