When I heard chatter around the English department about a book being released called “Deconstructing Brad Pitt,” my first thought was, ‘Well that makes sense.’ When was the last time you went one year without watching, even accidently, a movie that involved Pitt? That would be one hard task considering all of his film work, including his behind-the-scenes work as a director, writer and producer. He is best known for his versatility, able to play roles of every kind — both on and off screen. People forget that he is also a parent and husband, setting an example with his rare family dynamics, consisting of adopted and biological children. He is an ambassador of various charities, a winemaker (he and his wife Angelina Jolie own a vineyard in Italy because of course they do) and a humanitarian aid worker. Brad Pitt is a rainbow cake with uncountable layers which is what editors Robert Bennett and Christopher Schaberg wanted to explore.
Bennett, a professor at MSU, said, “I don’t even like Brad Pitt all that much, but you can’t ignore what a societal force he is.” Schaberg is a former student of Bennett’s and their conversations over the years is what sprung the idea for the book. “It is cool to have a former student as a colleague,” Bennett said. He went on to say, “We started this book because it made sense to continue on from papers of the American West to an actor that helped develop it. Over the last ten years he has come a long way from playing a two-bit cowboy part in Thelma and Louise; he has transformed into a global icon. There is always so much going on with Brad Pitt, so there was plenty to write about.”
The book contains 13 essays on Pitt, peeling away his different layers and exposing his cultural impact in various fields. There are all kinds of essays featured from an “Abyss of Stimulation” to “Gay for Brad.” Bennett contributed a chapter titled “Suburban Rage,” which explores the twisted presence that suburbia plays in our movies today.
Are you wondering what Brad Pitt has to do with you? Ben Leubner, another professor in the English department of MSU, contributed a chapter called “Making Montana” which shows the connection between Pitts’ two famous Montana movies and our economy. “It was really fascinating to explore [how] a person who essentially has nothing to do with Montana can make such an important impact on it,” Leubner said. The chapter explains how “Legends of the Fall” and “A River Runs Through it” romanticised Montana, drawing more people in than ever before.
Since the films were released, Montana has become a popular getaway spot for many celebrities. John Mayer, Oprah, Aaron Eckhart, Ashton Kutcher and many more are often seen in Big Sky and in various places around Montana. Basically you can thank Brad Pitt for the extra traffic and development in Montana. Both Bennett and Leubner contributed really fun reads to this fascinating and unique book.
“This is the first academic book on Brad Pitt that we know of, which is really exciting,” Bennett said. This book does not read like an academic book though — I found myself digging into each chapter with curiosity and wonder about what might be exposed next. I would definitely recommend checking out Bennett’s postscript essay titled, “Madness” — I read it two days ago and I am still thinking about it.
The book is a wide release, available in stores across the country and as an e-book. Bennett and Leubner will have a book reading and signing on Thursday, Nov. 13 at the Country Book Shelf on Main Street. Be sure not to miss this book: it is a fascinating read filled with clever insight, humor and imaginative commentary fit for any major.