Antiquity had the crucifixion. The French Republic had the Guillotine. For us the arena for bringing down the high and mighty is the tabloid mud pit. Lucky for our modern Dauphins reputational execution is not as lasting as actual decapitation and a second chance is always on the table.
In his tell-all interview with GQ Brad Pitt strung himself and spilled out his guts like a good mediaeval martyr. As if it wasn’t enough to speak frankly about a lifelong alcohol problem Pitt dons a dewy-eyed sad dad pose and midlife crisis rags. If public displays of remorse won awards Pitt would be a line for the Razziest of Razzies. Yet it is exactly what needed to be done to get his career back on track. To channel Morrissey the more you ignore the press the closer they get. Mel Gibson, following his alcohol-fuelled racist outbursts, was cast out by Hollywood. He opted to make guarded concessions of remorse via third parties that did little to convince. It took ten years and a prophet-like beard for even the possibility of a comeback to be entertained. (He is now back on the scene following the success of Hacksaw Ridge, a film about a much maligned conscientious objector-turned-hero that ends with folk queuing up to apologise and tell him how wrong they were about him…what are you trying to tell us, Mel?!)
Pitt’s interview shows that he can’t afford to wait that long. His very public display of self-flagellation stops the wildest rumours in their tracks. Interestingly he doesn’t –unlike many reformed alcoholics (c.f. Mad Mel)- write off his problems as ‘overcoming demons’. Rather, he fesses up to the fact that addiction has been a part of his lifestyle and identity for as long as he can remember. There’s no going back to the days of razzle where a mythos was created around the boozy antics of Oliver Reed and Richard Harris. But the moralistic language of battling demons has become such a cliché of the celeb confessional that the public can smell a rat. Pitt’s frankness, while at times a bit cringe, is going a step further than most would stray and deserves credit for honesty. The stakes are now higher for Angelina who could run the risk of a backlash. We could be in for a lot more mudslinging.