It seems that not too long ago, if Angelina Jolie was to be criticized for anything it was for being a wild child who covered herself with tattoos, carried her (ex) husband's blood in a vial worn around her neck and, speaking of necking, laid a pretty serious kiss on her brother James at the 2000 Academy Awards.
That was years ago, though, long before Jolie transformed herself into a humanitarian (serving as a U.N. Goodwill Ambassador, granting queenly interviews to Ann Curry from Namibia and writing opinion pieces for The Washington Post) and matriarch of a robust family (raising three children with partner Brad Pitt and hardly ever spotted without one of her brood in tow).
But news of the impending adoption of another child, this time a 3-and-a-half-year-old Vietnamese boy, has incited a firestorm of condemnation from Celebritology readers, who deem Jolie's family planning haphazard and question the star's seeming ease in fast-tracking the international adoption process.
Here's a small sampling of comments received in the last 24 hours:
"Did she pick up a model off the lot or order one custom made? How much is the tax/license/dealer prep?"
"If Jolie wants to make a difference in these children's lives, maybe she should work to make the adoption process easier for regular folk instead of picking her children like most people pick out a pair of shoes."
"...what about all the AMERICAN kids that need homes and end up being pushed around to foster homes until they're 18? Charity should start at home."
The same furor arose when Jolie adopted baby Zahara from Ethiopia in 2005 and last year when Malawian officials seemingly bent their own rules way out of shape to accommodate Madonna's desire to adopt little David Banda.
Madonna aside, questions surrounding Jolie's adoption process are valid, especially when a Vietnamese adoption official has been quoted saying that Jolie's high profile has made a difference in how her case is being handled and -- considering Jolie's predilection to humanitarian causes -- it does seem as if using her celebrity to reform or otherwise improve the adoption process would make sense.
But, as one who hopes to be a mother courtesy of international adoption myself, I have a hard time mustering much outrage for a woman who has both the means and the desire to open her heart and home to a child. Despite concerns that Jolie's actions may ultimately be throwing a wrench into the works of an already frustrating and complicated process, she's at least reminding a wide swath of mainstream America that international adoption is an option and that there is more than one way to build a family. There is also some anecdotal evidence that Jolie's adoption of Zahara may have doubled the number of Americans trying to adopt from Ethiopia.
A sampling of other folks in the midst of the adoption process (certainly if anyone has ample reason to criticize Jolie, it would be this group) echo that sentiment. Said one member of an online adoption community: "She is a great humanitarian and I applaud her willingness to add to her family via adoption."
One mother, contacted via an online adoption community, has adopted children from both Guatemala and Nepal and also praises Jolie:
"I think what she is doing is a wonderful and I really don't see it hurting other families if anything it is helping open the gates to new opportunities in the adoption world. If a country has problems it's due to the corruption in the country not because someone famous adopted from there."
Another poster, who has adopted two children from Vietnam, has this to say:
"With her other adoptions, Ms. Jolie has established humanitarian efforts in the countries from which she has adopted, and I expect she will do the same with Vietnam. That will be good for the country and good for the children of Vietnam. She also chose to adopt an "older" (3-4 years of age is what I have read) boy. Girls are three times more likely to be adopted than boys from Vietnam (and I think this trend hold true for other international adoption countries as well) so many boys wait for much longer to be adopted. Fewer and fewer people want to adopt "older" children, so I applaud her efforts to adopt an older, male child, as they are harder to place."
Perhaps, after we stop focusing on the easy target that is Angelina Jolie, we'll have enough concern left to turn our attention to reform of the adoption process itself. Of course, that's not a job for a Celebritologist.
Angelina Jolie on Refugees and Fame (Newsweek)