A day after news broke about the impending divorce of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, we still don't know much for sure about this Hollywood mini-earthquake, but theories and rumors continue to shake the landscape.
What we do know, we've always known: Nobody can say what's going on in another person's marriage. Also: Divorce is bad for children and a celebrity divorce, with its attendant shouting headlines and conflicting leaks, could be worse unless the parties involved keep their heads.
Brangelina is officially buttoned up and saying nothing in public beyond initial statements, so there's a chance most of the divorce wrangling will take place behind closed doors instead of in open court.
Meanwhile, media coverage, speculation and commenting careened on.
What's the cause of the split?
The theories are increasingly implausible. Differing parenting styles, substance abuse and anger issues, an affair with a co-star all were offered as reasons on Day 1 (and discounted).
By Day 2, Us Weekly reported there was an unspecified family "incident" that precipitated Jolie's filing. The New York Post said Pitt was too close to Jolie's estranged father, Oscar-winning Hollywood conservative
"That’s the wackiest thing that’s come out," he says. "You never know! It could be true. She’s not that interested in Hollywood anymore. She’s not that interested in making movies anymore, and she sees her future doing political (and charity) work."
Right, it could be true, but it probably isn't. But that won't stop the gossip media's gleeful trading of rumors, especially since the parties themselves are not specifically denying them.
What effect could all this have on the six children?
Possible further trauma in an already fraught situation.
"It’s really kind of tragic, because there is no way they can be entirely protected (from headlines) — for them, it could be trauma over and over again," says Susan Buniva, a collaborative-law divorce coach in Richmond, Va., who helps divorcing couples and their children.
"What’s important is the degree to which their parents can protect them from the media and the rumors and also protect them from whatever conflict exists between the parents. The priority of parents has to be managing their co-parenting relationship in a way that doesn’t exacerbate the losses for the children."
It might be that the Jolie-Pitt kids are already accustomed to media coverage of their parents, to being raised in part by nannies, and to having one or both of their parents gone for long periods on movie sets. But a divorce can still be, well, an earthquake, says Vicki Panaccione, a child psychologist and founder of the Better Parenting Institute in Melbourne, Fla.
"The key factor in any divorce in helping the children get through it is that Mom and Dad stay amicable and the kids see that," Panaccione says. "No. 2 is that the children realize they had nothing to do with it, that this is a grownup decision and about the grownups. And No. 3 is the parents make it as easy as possible for the kids to know it's OK to love both parents."
Has the public been "betrayed" by Brangelina?
An update of an ongoing study by a professor at the University of Southern California suggests yes. Skepticism about the "golden couple" has been brewing for years, says Jeetendr Sehdev, professor of marketing and authority on celebrity branding, who has surveyed about Jolie and Pitt since November 2013.
He says his results show 77% of Americans believe the pair lied about the state of their relationship in order to preserve their public image and to keep the money rolling in.
"Fans feel fooled by the facade that Brangelina was projecting to the world," and this accounts for the negative sentiment towards them, Sehdev says. "Authenticity is a zero-sum game and audiences are demanding that celebrities be transparent. Brad and Angelina need to let their fans into their real lives if they want to remain relevant."
What effect could the divorce have on Brangelina's careers?
Probably nada, say Hollywood experts.
Erik Davis, managing editor of Movies.com and Fandango.com: "It depends on what stories come out of this. Did one of them do something that’s reprehensible and can turn fans off? ... (But generally), divorce shouldn’t affect careers. ... People in Hollywood get divorced every day. Their careers are fine and (Jolie and Pitt) will continue to be two of the biggest movie stars in the world that people are curious about, hence the reaction to this divorce announcement."
Bonnie Fuller, editor of HollywoodLife.com: "Overall I don’t think it’s going to hurt either of their careers. They’re both very well-established. Angelina has been doing directing and Brad does an awful lot of producing."
Shuter: “No, I don’t think so. It reminds us that (Jolie) is our generation’s Elizabeth Taylor. This is a strong, tough woman who her fans adore. … If she’s unhappy with a situation she changes it. This is on message for her. This is part of her brand. ... It’s tricky to say with Brad. Allegations of being a bad father is something audiences don’t like. If that turns out to be true, it’s really off-brand for him. It’s not the guy we think he is."
Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for comScore: "It always comes down to the movies themselves. ... If the movie is appealing, if the marketing works, if I want to see that movie, am I really going to go, ‘Oh, they got divorced? Not going to see that movie.’ It doesn’t work that way. Divorces are part and parcel of the Hollywood lifestyle."
Who knew what and when about the split?
As soon as the news hit, some tabloids and celebrity writers crowed that they suspected it would happen.
Celebrity biographer Ian Halperin says he predicted it in his 2009 book Brangelina: The Untold Story of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. "I said it on Howard Stern, that if they got married they'd be divorced within one year," Halperin says. (It was two years.)
Shuter says there have been "rumblings" about a possible split for two weeks.
"There were some signs out there and their camps certainly denied this and denied this … There have been some signs that they’ve been in trouble on and off for the last 10 years," Shuter says. "It hasn’t all been rainbows and sunshine."
Still, he has admiration for Jolie's PR team in timing the divorce news on a Tuesday, after the closing deadlines of People and Us Weekly. "I don’t believe anybody knew this more than others," he says. "(Jolie's team) were brilliant (announcing) it on a Tuesday because it means they’re going to be off the tabloids (covers) for a week.”
HollywoodLife.com has been running Brangelina-on-the-rocks stories since May, but Fuller says they didn't hear then that divorce was imminent.
"We have reported for a while that there were troubles in the marriage and that there were fights going on," she says. "And we keep hearing that they’ve been having issues and that they’ve been unhappy.
"But the thing is, there’s lots of real-life couples and celebrity couples that fight and have issues that don’t necessarily lead to divorce."
Contributing: Brian Truitt, Cara Kelly, Patrick Ryan