celebrity

Brad Pitt, Ben Affleck and Justin Bieber: The power of the celebrity redemption narrative.

This year, Hollywood’s awards season has taught us one invaluable lesson: Redemption is the most powerful weapon in Hollywood.

For men like Brad Pitt, Ben Affleck and even Justin Bieber, the past few months have been a time of complete reinvention. A time for the creation of a redemption narrative.

Amid his long road to Oscars glory, Brad Pitt’s meticulously engineered Oscars campaign did more than just secure the award for Best Supporting Actor at the Academy Awards.

From in-depth, intimate profiles about his struggles with alcohol to oddly hilarious, self-deprecating acceptance speeches, we truly saw a new side of Brad Pitt this award’s season.

Watch a clip from Brad Pitt’s speech at the Screen Actors Guild Awards below. Post continues after video.

We saw a side of Brad Pitt who wasn’t afraid to crack a joke – even if it was at the expense of himself. A Brad Pitt who proudly supported his ex-wife, Jennifer Aniston, 15 years on from their incredibly public divorce.

It was a very different Brad Pitt from the man who became the focus of the tabloid headlines in mid-2019. At the time, reports surfaced that Pitt had little to do with his six children from his marriage to Angelina Jolie. There was also a harrowing investigation into an alleged confrontation between Pitt and his eldest son, Maddox.

But during awards season, Pitt’s Oscars campaign garnered more than just a slew of awards.

In fact, after months of personal turmoil, a few small moments of public redemption seemingly altered the 56-year-old actor’s public image.

In mere months, amid his own personal redemption narrative, Brad Pitt completely reinvented himself as the ‘good guy’.

Brad Pitt is not the first to do some image rehab with the help of meticulously planned acceptance speeches and a perfectly-timed celebrity profile.

Listen to Mamamia’s daily entertainment podcast, The Spill, below. Post continues after podcast.

In a New York Times profile published just last week, Ben Affleck responded to just about everything: his struggle with alcohol addiction, his infamous marriage breakdown, and even that tattoo of a phoenix spanning most of his back.

In recent years, the 47-year-old’s career has been plagued by his divorce from America’s sweetheart, actress Jennifer Garner.

ADVERTISEMENT

From the outside at least, their relationship was a constant among the fickle, fragile unions of the Hollywood elite.

But years later, following their unexpected divorce, the public would see a drastically different image of the former couple.

In paparazzi photos taken in 2018, Garner was seen driving Affleck to a treatment facility in Malibu. His face could be seen in the back of the car – puffy, red and seemingly tear-stained.

Speaking to the New York Times last week, Affleck admitted that he still feels guilty about the breakdown of his marriage, which he largely attributes to his struggle with addiction.

“The biggest regret of my life is this divorce,” he said. “Shame is really toxic. There is no positive byproduct of shame. It’s just stewing in a toxic, hideous feeling of low self-worth and self-loathing.”

Much like Pitt, Affleck’s New York Times profile marked the beginning of his own redemption narrative. A chance to erase years of scrutiny and personal turmoil.

ben affleck jennifer garner
Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner. Image: Getty.

And just like that, the phoenix rose from the ashes. (And no, we're not just talking about that back tattoo).

At just 25 years old, Justin Bieber is another celebrity who is already embarking on his own redemption narrative.

Just like many child stars before him, Bieber struggled with his sudden rise to fame. Over the course of several years, the singer's life was plagued by a series of arrests, drug abuse, depression and even allegations of racism.

Now, with the release of new 10-episode YouTube docuseries, Justin Bieber: Seasons, Bieber is opening up about his marriage, mental health and struggle with drug abuse, proving that you're never too young for a well-timed comeback.

In the land of celebrity, the redemption narrative isn't going anywhere. From Robert Downey Jr. to Hugh Grant to LeBron James, it's a phenomenon we've seen time and time again.

After all, the public eye is the perfect place to triumph over personal demons. On the screen, on the stage or in the ever-popular celebrity profile, it's a way for celebrities like Pitt or Affleck to say: 'That was my past. Those were my demons. But this is me now.'

ADVERTISEMENT

It's an invaluable chance to change the public narrative.

And each and every time, we eat it up.

justin bieber and hailey baldwin wedding
Justin Bieber and his wife, Hailey Baldwin. Image: Instagram.

It's no wonder we, as humans, are drawn to a redemption narrative. We all make mistakes and we want to believe that – like Pitt, Affleck and Bieber –we can mess up and still make it through the other side.

It's a way to remember what makes us human – even behind the fame and the fortune.

But despite the lessons in the redemption narrative, there's an undeniable irony in the stories of the likes of Brad Pitt, Ben Affleck and Justin Bieber.

While Pitt, Affleck and Bieber have seemingly erased – or at least recovered from – the aspects of their past that they'd like us to forget, the women in their lives are still tarred with the same brush in the eyes of the tabloids. Even decades later.

Jennifer Aniston, Brad Pitt's first wife, is a sweetheart who was abandoned for another woman. She's referred to and perceived as 'Sad Jen'. A 'jilted' woman who can't seem to hold down a man.

Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt's second wife, is the bad girl who stole Pitt away from a seemingly perfect marriage. The face of a harsh custody battle.

Jennifer Garner, Ben Affleck's ex-wife, is the woman who was allegedly cheated on. She's the woman who drove a broken man to a treatment facility as the paparazzi flashed their cameras. The ashes to Affleck's phoenix.

And Selena Gomez, Justin Bieber's ex-girlfriend, is the girl who will never not be asked about her ex. The one that missed out on marrying her teenage sweetheart. The woman scorned.

brad pitt acceptance speech
Image: Getty.
ADVERTISEMENT

The court of public opinion has accepted the redemption stories of Brad Pitt, Ben Affleck and Justin Bieber. Their ability to accept their mistakes and be open about their most personal struggles has been celebrated.

But for the women in their lives – past and present – the harsh reality of the celebrity redemption narrative is that it simply doesn't apply to everyone.

Instead, the public sentiment around women like Jennifer Aniston appears so deeply ingrained, it's hard to imagine that anything could erase the enduring presence of 'Sad Jen' or any of the generalisations that have plagued these women for decades.

Feature Image: Getty.

For more on this topic:


Want more lols, cringeworthy moments and celebrity gossip news?

Sign up for our "Mamamia Celebrity" newsletter, for a smart take on everything entertainment.


00:00 / ???