Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Angelina Jolie, Christine Quinn, and the Art of the <i>New York Times</i> Overshare

Posted By on Tue, May 14, 2013 at 1:16 PM

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Christine Quinn
  • Christine Quinn

Also in the Times today, is a profile of mayoral candidate Christine Quinn, who also shares personal information, in the stated service of public awareness and personal empowerment. In some ways, Quinn's story bears a strong resemblance to Jolie's. The profile begins: "The summer she turned 16, Christine C. Quinn’s world seemed to shatter. Her mother was dying of breast cancer that had spread to her bones. Almost every morning, the young Ms. Quinn woke her mother, bathed her, made her breakfast and gave her medication." The trauma of dealing with this at such a young age led Quinn into a decade-long struggle with bulimia (for which she eventually went to rehab), and later alcoholism. This article was written in conjunction with the fact that Quinn has a memoir coming out next month,“With Patience and Fortitude,” and, also, with the fact that Quinn is running for mayor.

Which, Quinn told the Times that she "believe[s] her disclosures would have no effect on the race for mayor," stating, “It feels like an oddly nonpolitical thing.” Quinn claims only to "hope that other people can follow her example of openness, and emphasized repeatedly that she does not want to be seen as a victim." On the surface, this is not so different from what Jolie's intentions were in her Op-Ed. And yet, when a public figure suddenly reveals so much about him or herself at a moment that can only be called opportune in terms of wanting media attention, it is hard not to be skeptical as to what the timing has to say about the reveal, and what is really hoped to be gained—awareness or publicity. Within the Times' profile, it is even posited that the reason Quinn is doing this media blitz is in an effort to “try to soften her often rough-edged political image,” which took a blow following several unflattering profiles that showcased her temper and combatitiveness. Whatever the reason, though, it is hard not to have sympathy for someone who went through the struggles that Quinn did over the course of her life. Sympathy, however, should not translate into votes, which I have to hope any New York City voter with half-a-brain should realize. (Vote Sal Albanese, you guys! As Henry Stewart says, ""he's right on all the issues, by which I mean he's left on all the issues.")

If Quinn's story resonates with anyone reading it, and encourages him or her to seek help, than it should be deemed a success. However, the generosity with which Jolie shared her decision, and the light it sheds on the fact that far too many women do not have access to the same medical options (one of the more troubling aspects of Jolie's piece was learning the fact that, of the 458,000 women breast cancer kills each year, most live "in low- and middle-income countries") are really something to be lauded. And while public figures are frequently derided for over-sharing aspects of their personal lives, I can't think of a better reason to allow the public a window into one of the most private, but important decisions a person can make—the decision to take control of your own health. Which is all to say, I'm really glad I put down the Elizabeth Taylor mask in order to read Jolie's story.

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