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Win-win for Brangelina, kids the biggest losers

Most celebrities today see no harm using their kids for image building, while appearing to shield them from constant attention. By Ritu Pandey

Brangelina

Brangelina/DESIGN KEES

The Brangelina parting after 12 years of togetherness and two years of marriage has split the world too — between karma intonations and agonizing sighs of devastated millions. The social media is alternating between reactions of “told you so” and “shocked.” There’s nothing in between.
Reports are that Angelina Jolie has asked for the sole physical custody of the couple’s six children with visitation rights for Brad Pitt because she doesn’t approve of her ex-husband’s “strict parenting.” Hushed reports, however, link it to his “substance abuse”, “excessive partying” and “anger issues.” But wasn’t Pitt the doting dad of their rainbow brood till the other day? The man she married amid much fanfare just two years ago. He wouldn’t have taken to substance abuse, partying and angry outbursts almost overnight. But Jolie was okay with all of it as long as rumours of his dalliances were just rumours because together they meant a humungous amount of business (they raked in $117.5 million since their 2014 marriage). And now suddenly the Pitt household is paradise lost.
Or was it ever the paradise it was made out to be? Afterall what began with infidelity has ended with infidelity. Perhaps it is what happened in between that deserves attention. Jolie and Pitt were an ideal celebrity couple who led perfect lives together raising a United Colours of Benetton sort of happy family devoted to great humanitarian causes and pursuits. A truckload of crap. Simply put, a superbly well crafted lie to purge them of their ‘sin’ of breaking the heart of “America’s sweetheart” and equally well managed for more than a decade. But basic instincts can sometimes get the better of artful.
The “family”, it turns out, is the simplest marketing trope in the image consultants diary nowadays. And celeb progeny its biggest tool. Bollywood star kids of yore such as Ranbir Kapoor, Tiger Shroff and Sonakshi Sinha would vouch for how well secured they were by their parents from prying cameras through their growing years. But today celebrity parents shielding their children from paparazzi is as much about promoting a protective parent persona as it is about guarding them from unwanted attention. And going for a baby through surrogacy at an age where your own children are hitting adulthood just like a few of our stars has more to do with image building than any genuine urge for fatherhood. Who doesn’t love a “family man/woman” after all? It’s an increasingly fetching concept amid the social media boom that in some ways also endangers the idea of “family.” Facebook albums of happy family vacations and outings, Instagrammed shots of fans fawning over your clan, tweets and open letters advising your kids, personal blogs on parenting experiences and fan accounts of how so-and-so star parivar is just-like-any-regular-household are all ploys of this trope. Even stars way past their prime such as Bachchan Sr can’t resist using these from time to time.
Fact is that most celebrities today see no harm using their children to this end, while appearing to shield them from constant attention. The more the merrier. Brangelina should know it very well having adopted Maddox, Pax, Zahara from Cambodia, Ethiopia and Namibia respectively despite having their biological daughter Shiloh and twins Knox and Vivienne. Reports now say the Pitts have spent most of last year separated between countries. A family that rarely meets _ not a great thing for six teenagers. And now that the couple goes their separate ways citing “irreconcilable differences” and  “health of the family” the spotlight has only been magnified on the kin. With the custody battle that is likely to ensue over them, the kids will continue to draw the same or perhaps even more media attention for their parents than they managed with their arrival in their lives. A win-win for power couple both ways. The biggest losers in the game, well, the children.
Giving a child a home is about giving him/her time and attention with both the parents contributing equally to it. Home doesn’t just mean a shower of luxuries. It’s different from pontificating as goodwill ambassadors, building homes in flood-ravaged countryside and playing perfect parents in blockbusters. Home is refuge, but not a refugee camp. And family is genuine love, not a photo-op. Celebrity parents and power couples must understand that.

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She is a New Delhi-based senior journalist who has worked with various print and online publications

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