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Posted at 10:42 AM ET, 06/09/2009

Why We All Want Angelina (Or Do We?)

Angelina Jolie is the prototypical feminist. That's why, says Naomi Wolf in an essay in the July issue of Harper's Bazaar, we all -- men and women alike -- want her:

Polls also show that if women — not just lesbian and bisexual women but straight women — had to choose a female lover, they would want to sleep with Angelina Jolie. In other words, women both identify with her and desire her.

Why? According to Wolf, Jolie is perhaps the first celebrated woman to embody the often contradictory images of a woman as good and nurturing and a sexual goddess. For some reason the term humanitarian dominatrix comes to mind.

Wolf attributes Jolie's power to the deft handling of her own image; especially for emerging from the brother-kissing, blood-in-a-vial-around-your-neck wild child to the coolly untouchable most powerful celebrity and writer of Time magazine Op-Eds who glides across red carpets unstopped by pesky mortals (Ryan Seacrest). She is, to paraphrase Wolf, a role model -- at once beautiful and beautifully concerned about the world around herself.

Not only that -- she is, says Wolf, an "übermom" who makes the average parent's complaint about a paltry one or two-kid family seem frivolous:

The clearly well-thought-out multiethnicity of her family is a delicious in-your-face countermove against conventions about who we are to one another and what "family" is expected to look like. She seems, without breaking stride, to care for half a football team of children while the rest of us tread water with our own biological offspring.

Wolf glosses over Jolie's romance with Brad Pitt -- a romance that began while Pitt was still married to Jennifer Aniston -- as Jolie's rightful conquest of the world's most-desired male. I suppose those who reacted with undisguised hatred and accusations of home-wrecking just don't realize yet how much they want (and want to be) Jolie.

With all deference to Naomi Wolf, her boiling down of our reaction to Jolie is simplistic and, dare I say, anti-feminist. Wolf's characterization of Jolie as a superwoman who scoffs at paternalistic conventions like marriage makes the rest of us, by default, flawed women who haven't yet evolved to Jolie's plane-flying, continent-jumping, mixing-pot making level of womanhood. And while am admittedly in the Angelina Jolie camp, I like to think I keep her in proper perspective. I admire her work for the U.N. and for refugees and applaud her unwavering pursuit of happiness -- married man or not, but I also recognize that Jolie -- like all humans -- is flawed.

She hasn't made a truly good movie in years, despite the millions earned by "Tomb Raider" and "Wanted." And that aloofness -- the ability to rise above the usual celebrity news cycle -- that makes her seem smart and in control? Maybe that's because she, or her publicist, realizes that a gabby Jolie wasn't necessarily doing much for her image.

I appreciate what Naomi Wolf sees in Jolie, but I'd argue one can find that nurture/sex goddess duality in women from Julia Roberts to Tina Fey to my friend Amy.

So, tell me, is Naomi Wolf on the mark or overstating the case for Angelina's universal attraction?

By Liz Kelly  |  10:42 AM ET, 06/09/2009

Categories:  Brangelina

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