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Fame and celebrity

How Hollywood shipped - and ridiculed - Brangelina over the years

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 September, 2016, 5:45pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 September, 2016, 10:01pm

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie may be over, but the couple’s pop culture legacy will live on. And on.

Over the course of their decade-plus relationship, in television shows and music lyrics, Brangelina became shorthand for a very specific type of Hollywood A-list couple: beautiful, rich, worldly, philanthropic and deeply in love.

Pitt and Jolie have six children, and even before the pair married in 2014, the family was collectively known as the Jolie-Pitts. Much of the public perception around the couple has focused on their large family – particularly their three adopted children, who were born in Cambodia, Ethiopia and Vietnam.

Divorce will unspool complex life Jolie and Pitt created, with six children, a charitable foundation and a fortune at stake

The couple’s decision to adopt internationally, an ongoing source of debate, has inspired some ill-advised humour. A 2009 Saturday Night Live skit saw Jolie (Abby Elliott) facing off with Madonna (Kristen Wiig) over who could adopt the most “exotic” babies from “freaky-deaky” places.

That paled in comparison to the nasty joke Ricky Gervais lobbed while hosting this year’s Golden Globes ceremony. “When Brad and Angelina see our next two adorable presenters, they’re going to want to adopt them,” Gervais said gleefully before introducing actor-comedians Kevin Hart and Ken Jeong.

When Brad and Angelina see our next two adorable presenters, they’re going to want to adopt them
Ricky Gervais at the Golden Globes ceremony

The late Disney Channel sitcom Jessie yielded comparisons to the Jolie-Pitts when it premiered in 2011. The show revolved around a young woman working as a nanny for a celebrity couple and their four children, three of whom were adopted (though it was criticised for ethnic stereotyping).

Earlier this month, the premiere episode of MTV’s stoner comedy Mary + Jane found the show’s self-styled “ganja-preneurs” making a drop at a Hollywood mansion, where they were greeted by six children of various ethnicities. The parents turned out to be a ridiculous parody of a fictionalised celebrity couple that was never named, and reviewers picked up on the Brangelina reference.

Brangelina’s perception as a power couple – spurred both by their success in the film industry and their charitable work – also translated to the small screen. During one of Chuck and Blair’s many breakups on the CW drama Gossip Girl, Chuck referenced the couple while trying to convince Blair that she didn’t need to choose her career over love.

Blair: “I followed my heart all last year and it led me nowhere. Now I need to follow my head.”

Brangelina, as Billboard noted on Tuesday, has also been name-dropped in a number of rap lyrics – some have evoked the controversial start of their relationship or their ensuing commitment to each other (the Hollywood version of ride-or-die). “It’s just me and my bad b---. So you can say I’m on my Brad Pitt,” Kanye West rapped on the remix of Rihanna’s 2012 song Diamonds.

Travie McCoy’s 2010 single Billionaire serves as yet another reference to the couple’s adopted children: “I’d probably pull an Angelina and Brad Pitt and adopt a bunch of babies that ain’t never had sh--.” The couple’s impending divorce adds another layer that will certainly be referenced in film, television and music for years to come: If Brangelina can’t make it work, who can?