The effect of the Jolie Effect

Social media lit up with the news – Angelina Jolie had written her story about having a double mastectomy.
Journalists clambered to find a local source with the same story, to air a piece on the evening news that was a little more relevant than just retelling Hollywood news. They were quick to label ‘the Jolie Effect’ – where thousands of women will now consider this procedure if they find that they too carry a defective gene because they are now aware that it’s a viable option.

And, just as quickly – enter the haters. Or maybe that’s too strong a word. Enter the commentators. Because that’s what the internet gives us – a public forum to air our thoughts on social media, news website comments and blogs. The scale ranges from ‘good on her for going public’ to ‘big deal, where is the real news?’.

Celebrity status comes with air time. A right move, a bad move or an announcement is catapulted to the top of our consciousness because it contains a recognisable name. If I’d contacted the local newspaper and told them the same story, they may run it as a human interest piece. You may flick straight past it in the newspaper or online or maybe read it if you have an interest in women’s health or a connection somehow to breast cancer. I can guarantee you that it would not light up your twitter feed like it did with Angelina’s name.

But that doesn’t make it wrong. It doesn’t make her story any less heroic or any less important because she is a celebrity. She’s not saying she’s better than anyone else. She’s sharing her story because she knows the impact that her name has. And that in this case it might bring hope to someone else who has to make the same decision. In an industry where her looks and her body unfortunately do form a part of her screen appeal (and therefore her employability) she has admitted to having surgery.

I understand that the world if full of complicated, important issues. I understand that Angelina has gone through what many, many other women in the world have gone through, and that many other women and men and children in this world have gone through worse.

So for just a minute, can we stop comparing? Can we put down the judgement and just say ‘here is a human being who has done a brave thing’? Can we agree to support her the same as we should support anyone who has been through that, not any more because she’s famous or any less because she’s famous? Can we bite our tongues instead of spewing that women will talk with their doctor and find out about this procedure anyway, without Angelina getting into the spotlight with it?

When will we get the concept that we are important – all of us? Housewives AND celebrities. And I know you want to launch into a rant about ‘how stupid this concept of fame & celebrity is, when people are paid truckloads & marched across our TV screens for a talent that doesn’t compare to our teachers, our police, our ambulance officers.’ But right now, this story isn’t about her lastest movie. It’s about her personal experience. And that’s no less valid and no less brave because you know her name.


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