The last time I mentioned Taffy Brodesser-Akner it was in September, when she wrote about Christian Slater for GQ. Taffy is so good at her job she, along with Caity Weaver, is making GQ a much better magazine. This month Taffy profiled Billy Bob Thornton for GQ. And, once again, it’s a gorgeous piece of work that says just as much about her skill as it does about BBT.
Billy Bob’s Bad Santa 2 comes out at US Thanksgiving which is why he’s doing media. The quote that’s currently making headlines about this article though is, not surprisingly, what BBT has to say about Angelina Jolie: “I never felt good enough for her”. That’s not even the most interesting part of it. What’s most interesting, at least to me, is how he describes their life together. They were invited to parties, Hollywood parties. And the implication here is that he didn’t feel comfortable in those environments, hanging out with industry people, talking business, talking bullsh-t – which means, at the time, that that was who SHE was. She was in her early 20s. She was coming out of self-sabotage. She was clearly interested in growing out of that destructive part of her life and exploring her options. That curiosity clearly led her elsewhere, to other passions, and that’s where he felt inadequate, “not good enough for her”. He wanted her to stay the same, she became someone else. And in hindsight he’s reduced all of that back into himself. Which is the entire point of this profile.
Billy Bob Thornton is a misanthropic narcissist. He spends much of his time with Taffy sharing his contempt for just about everyone – his fans, who spent time and energy coming to see him perform, are too stupid to ask him stimulating questions; Hollywood producers are too stupid to see his genius, his art, so he’s never directing a movie ever again; critics are too stupid to understand the work that goes into what they’re criticising and they should only write good reviews, not bad ones. BBT sounds miserable. And it would have been easier, I imagine, for Taffy to write a piece that sh-ts on his self-indulgent, self-imposed melancholy but instead she compassionately tries to understand him – not in fairness to BBT, necessarily, but in fairness to the reader. So that our time is not wasted reading a piece simply about an asshole but rather a piece that tells us the story of what the world of an asshole looks like, how that world is formed, and somehow finds more humour (I lost myself every time she describes his “tiny pants”, seriously) and pathos in a person who might not deserve the consideration – but that’s my judgment, not hers. For example, Billy Bob Thornton watches My Little Pony. And uses it to teach his child about individuality. And yet, this is a man who is so defensive about his own individuality and how undervalued it is that he can’t see that he’s only allowed to be so individual because he’s enjoyed a certain amount of privilege afforded to him by the very construct he seeks to be individualised from. How many of us, after all, can afford to dictate to an entire team of people a schedule that conforms only to his timeline? (This is what it means to be in a band with BBT. Everyone revolves around him.) His individuality then is made possible by others compromising theirs. The justification is in his brilliance. But even then, the recognition of his brilliance is on his terms. Like when he’s singing for you, and you’re a fan, don’t you dare go up to him and ask him for an autograph while telling him how much you liked Sling Blade. You appreciating BBT must be on his terms too. Click here to read Taffy Brodesser-Akner’s profile on Billy Bob Thornton.
Attached - Billy Bob at a promotional event for Bad Santa 2 in October.