When the news broke this morning that Angelina Jolie had filed for divorce from Brad Pitt after 12 years together (and two years of marriage), our office exploded in a flurry of shock, gossip, and speculation. The first time I heard the news, it was because someone had shrieked over their laptop: "Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt broke up because of ...MARION COTILLARD!" Jolie's lawyer confirms that she filed "for the health of the family," and TMZ has reported that substance abuse and anger issues could also be to blame. The most shocking news, however, came from a source that told Page Six the split actually happened because a private investigator discovered that Pitt cheated on Jolie with his Allied co-star Marion Cotillard. Let's just say that this cheating story is true (which we have no confirmation of yet). The facts would be that Brad Pitt — the man who is married to Angelina Jolie — is the one who cheated on his wife. And yet, we gossip lovers have already zeroed in on The Other Woman, tweeting, texting, and speculating about how Marion Cotillard could've possibly broken up American's golden couple. (Sidenote: For the sake of focusing on Brangelina's relationship, I'm putting aside the fact that Cotillard also has a longtime partner, french actor-director Guillaume Canet.) This focus on The Other Woman narrative is all too familiar: When Beyoncé released Lemonade, despite its breathtaking visuals and the incredible messages about love and forgiveness that she shared, all anyone could focus on was the identity of Becky; Jay Z's wrongdoings were cast aside. When Jude Law and Ben Affleck cheated on their significant others with nannies, the same thing happened. The world wanted to know everything about these women, digging up dirt about their past and critiquing their photos instead of holding Law and Affleck accountable for their actions.
The problem with this Other Woman tunnel vision, however, is that we're reinforcing the idea that even if a person is committed (with many children, in Brangelina's case) it's possible and even likely that they'll leave the person they're committed to if someone "prettier" or "sexier" comes along. Not to mention we lack any empathy for the woman who was wronged: Jolie is a mother of six whose husband may have cheated on her with another woman. Yet we're too busy ripping Cotillard to shreds to give Jolie any compassion. Some of the real conversations I've overheard (and, I will admit, have participated in) today have even gone as far as comparing Jolie and Cotillard, as if they were objects for sale. Who's prettier? Who's sexier? Do men prefer overt, sexual American beauty, or understated French beauty? It's a classic example of our society's Madonna-Whore complex, pitting two women against each other to figure out who's the good one and the bad one. But if Pitt did do it, Jolie and Cotillard's looks, or sexuality, or acting skills have nothing to do with the dissolution of Brangelina's marriage.
If it did happen, Pitt is the one who broke his vows — period. There are real emotions, six children, and many years of history involved. So while The Other Woman — allegedly, Cotillard, here — is of course never innocent of wrongdoing, as the saying goes, no one person can break up a happy home. I think it's time we stop blaming the Marion Cotillards of the world and start holding people accountable for their own actions in relationships. Wrong is wrong and cheating is cheating — no matter who it happened with.