Why I Hope Angelina Jolie Considers Continuing To Do Nude Scenes Post Her Double Mastectomy
Why I Hope Angelina Jolie Considers Continuing To Do Nude Scenes Post Her Double Mastectomy
Given that there’s much more pressure on women to take their clothes off for roles in film, theater, and television than men, I wouldn’t normally go on the record rooting for a female actor to do nude scenes. But following Angelina Jolie’sannouncement today that, in response to learning that she has a BRCA1 gene mutation that increases her likelihood of developing breast and ovarian cancer, she had a preventative double mastectomy and breast reconstruction surgery, I’m hoping that Jolie won’t feel like she can’t do nude scenes in the future, if she feels drawn to roles that include nude or sex scenes.
Jolie is a strong dramatic actress, and is justly recognized for her international humanitarian and human rights work. But she also is also a strikingly good-looking woman whose film career has included a number of emotionally and physically naked sex scenes. And it’s because of that, as Amanda Hess wrote in Slate, that some observers are reacting to the news of her decision to take preventative health measures as if her career is over, or as if it’s a sign of some sort of desperation:
Commenters snarked that Jolie had received a “boob job.” Some suggested that her medical emergency was just a tabloid ruse to cover up elective breast implants. Others morbidly asked after the whereabouts of the breast tissue removed from her body. “RIP Angelina’s boobs” was a typical ignorant comment. Said one commenter on a Jezebel post about the op-ed, “How many guys stopped reading as soon as they realized Angelina Jolie has no breasts—she’s dead to me!”…perversely, some fans feel as if a part of Jolie has been stolen from them. One well-meaning but misguided commenter told me on Twitter yesterday: “Happy to hear she’s giving herself much better odds. As a guy, I will miss her lovely curves though.” (The reconstructive surgery she described presumably restored her curves.)
But as Hess pointed out, and Jolie herself clarified in her New York Times Op-Ed, her children “can see my small scars and that’s it. Everything else is just Mommy, the same as she always was.”
And I wonder if there might be some social value to mass audiences seeing those scars, too, and seeing that a woman who has them can still be sexual and sexy. It’s not as if pop culture never takes on the issues of women, breast cancer, and sexuality, but they often do so in a way that presents sex as a sign of recovery, or an act of tenderness before death. In Sex and the City, Samantha’s (Kim Cattrall) chemotherapy treatments diminished her famous libido, and when her boyfriend Smith returned from a movie shoot to visit her, they had rather comparatively tender sex to celebrate her recovery and their decision to commit to their relationship. Parenthood followed Kristina Braverman (Monica Potter) through her breast cancer treatments this season, and let her dress up in a hot pink wig for a date with her husband in a sign that her illness may have taken its toll, but it hadn’t robbed her of her of her femininity or her sexuality. And the 2005 romantic comedy The Family Stone included a sex scene between Diane Keaton, playing Sybil Stone, and Craig T. Nelson (who also stars inParenthood) as her husband Kelly that was one of the few mainstream depictions I can think of a woman with a double mastectomy—but without the kind of reconstructive surgery Jolie experienced—who was treated as sexual and desirable.
Now, if Jolie has decided that she’s done with nude scenes or with sex scenes, that’s entirely her decision, and all of us should respect that. But if she does accept such roles in the future, I hope that she, and the writers and directors she works with, see her scars as a feature of her body, rather that some sort of grotesquerie to be hidden by shot angles or erased in post-production. Mastectomy scars should be treated like a physical characteristic that could inflect characters Jolie plays in the future without requiring major plot alterations or commentary. And it would be good for audiences, particularly of the kind that snarked on Jolie today for her brave revelation, to see that they don’t make her any less stunningly gorgeous.
Angelina Jolie's Shocking Revelation:
I Had a Double Mastectomy
THE ACTRESS WRITES IN A NEW YORK TIMES OP-ED PIECE THAT SHE UNDERWENT THE PREVENTIVE SURGERY BECAUSE OF HER HIGH RISK OF BREAST CANCER.
Angelina Jolie is taking no chances with her health.
The actress revealed in an op-ed piecefor TheNew York Times, running in Tuesday's edition of the paper, that she recently underwent a preventive double mastectomy because of her high risk of breast cancer.
Doctors told Jolie -- whose mother,Marcheline Bertrand, died six years ago at age 56 after a 10-year battle with ovarian cancer -- that she carries a "faulty" gene, BRCA1. They estimated that she had an 87 percent risk of breast cancer and a 50 percent risk of ovarian cancer.
"Once I knew that this was my reality, I decided to be proactive and to minimize the risk as much I could," she wrote. "I made a decision to have a preventive double mastectomy. I started with the breasts, as my risk of breast cancer is higher than my risk of ovarian cancer, and the surgery is more complex."
Jolie underwent three months of medical procedures, which began Feb. 2 and were completed April 27. The procedures included reconstruction of both breasts with implants.
Jolie added that she was able to continue working during that time while keeping the procedures a secret.
"But I am writing about it now because I hope that other women can benefit from my experience," she wrote. "Cancer is still a word that strikes fear into people’s hearts, producing a deep sense of powerlessness. But today it is possible to find out through a blood test whether you are highly susceptible to breast and ovarian cancer, and then take action."
She said it wasn't an easy decision for her to make, but her chances of developing breast cancer have dropped to less than five percent.
"I can tell my children that they don't need to fear they will lose me to breast cancer," she wrote. "It is reassuring that they see nothing that makes them uncomfortable. They can see my small scars and that’s it. Everything else is just Mommy, the same as she always was. And they know that I love them and will do anything to be with them as long as I can. On a personal note, I do not feel any less of a woman. I feel empowered that I made a strong choice that in no way diminishes my femininity."
Jolie was treated at the Pink Lotus Breast Center, which has four locations in the Los Angeles area and also has treated breast cancer survivor Sheryl Crow. Jolie wrote that her regimen will be posted on the center's website soon.
She also noted that Brad Pitt, her longtime partner with whom she has six children, has been "loving and supportive" throughout the entire process.
"For any woman reading this, I hope it helps you to know you have options," she wrote. "I want to encourage every woman, especially if you have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer, to seek out the information and medical experts who can help you through this aspect of your life, and to make your own informed choices."
In memoriam. Revealed Gloriously To The World: 1993. Sudden Demise: 2013.
My own mini tribute to one of the greatest boobies in showbiz history.
Thank You for all the mamaries.
Angelina Jolie – My first news, my first tears of the day
I woke up this morning at the usual time. I slept on the couch last night. Sometimes, when I’m very, very stressed, when life is getting to be to much and I’m in the midst of a maelstrom, I have to go sleep on the couch. It is smaller, cozy, and the feeling of having the strong vertical back of the couch that I can back up against gives me a feeling of security. Sleeping vulnerable on a flat mattress just doesn’t cut it sometimes. So I was asleep on the couch under a blanket that I crocheted, cozy and warm, and then the alarm on my phone went off for the first time. I heard my son up and about getting ready for school. My waking at this time is his safety net. Once in a while he’ll sleep through his alarm, so I sacrifice an hour of sleep to ensure he has woken up, and then to make sure he didn’t fall asleep on the couch waiting until it was time to walk out the door. Today he was fine and left at seven. I turned on the TV and checked out CNN. They covered the usual big news of the day, but the story that caught me, the one that affected me, was the story about Angelina Jolie. She’s an actress. I’ve seen several of her movies. She’s mashaAllah a beautiful woman, blessed with a loving partner and several children. She’s a philanthropist and this is the role I see her in most. She and her husband, Brad Pitt, really put their money where their mouths are. They have donated money for earthquake relief in Pakistan; they have spread their considerable wealth around and have raised their voices to bring attention to people in need all over the world. I have made du’a for them and had warm thoughts. Now, this morning, we learn that Angelina Jolie had a double mastectomy to help her avoid cancer. Turns out she has a particular gene which is a major marker for a high risk of a particular, aggressive strain of breast cancer, so she had the double mastectomy done in order to hopefully eliminate this risk. Her own mother died of ovarian cancer after a decade of struggle.
I’m sure it was a difficult decision for her. She has traded on her looks for years as part of the Hollywood scene. I think she’s a much deeper person than that and she’s not one of those empty women who have nothing to offer other than cleavage, but her beauty is part of her fame. Anyone who follows the movie world (I don’t, not so much, but even when you’re channel surfing you’ll come across the same stories of famous people again and again) has probably seen the now-iconic photo of her on the red carpet flashing a long long long length of leg. She has been proud of her looks, so I’m sure the idea of losing her breasts was a monumental one. And yet. Probably all she had to do was look at her kids to come to the decision that a live woman minus boobs was better than a dead woman with them. So she had the surgery and had reconstruction as well. She’s about four months post-op now and wrote an article giving the broad outlines of what she went through. I think, for a public figure who is so very private about some things, it was very generous of her to share this with us. She made a conscious decision to do that, to tell the world what she did so that other women would understand that they were not alone. And there are many women who need to hear this.
Part of what made the story so poignant was that on CNN, one of the reporters covering it was Zoraida Sambolin, who shared with the world that she also has cancer and will also be having a double mastectomy. The professional /personal nature of the story really hit me, and I found myself with tears streaming down my face. As real and as difficult as any challenge in the world, this one story about one person is as important as anything on the news. Imagine you are a news anchor reporting about murders, disasters, death singly and in large numbers, all the while faced with your own mortality in a very real way. Sometimes we can’t relate to a big disaster but we can relate to something that happens to someone we know, and we often feel we “know” movie stars or TV personalities since we see them every day.
So, that was how my morning started. I’m sad for Angelina Jolie and Zoraida Sambolin, but I am also very proud of them for doing what is necessary to preserve their lives, and for having the grace to share what is a very traumatic, private event with the world. I pray that Allah guides them to what is best in this world and the next, that they are cured of their illness, and that they are blessed with many more years to raise their families and do good works, Ameen.
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