What Our Obsession With Celebrity Divorce Says About Us
On Monday, Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale announced that they were getting a divorce, making their relationship the latest casualty of the Great Marriage Massacre of 2015.
The unforeseen plague has also claimed the seemingly perfect marriages of Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner, Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton and even the king and queen of old-school country, Reba McEntire and Narvel Blackstock, who recently announced that they were separating after a whopping 26 years together.
The Internet has been losing its shit accordingly.
You know what they say: celebrity casualties happen in threes.
The celebrity couples have released joint statements, which are all variations on the same statement: Don't worry about us, we're OK. "We remain partners in parenthood and are committed to jointly raising our three sons in a happy and healthy environment," Rossdale and Stefani wrote in a statement sent to Access Hollywood. "To that end, we respectfully request privacy from the media during this time."
Affleck and Garner expressed a similar sentiment to People last month, requesting that they be allowed to "go forward with love and friendship for one another and a commitment to co-parenting our children whose privacy we ask to be respected during this difficult time."
The statements have a few themes in common. They're all exactly one paragraph long, suggesting that the couples don't really want to get into the details of their breakup in front of millions of people. They all politely request "privacy" from the media. (Which they probably won't get, but eh, why not ask for it anyway?) And they all emphasize that even though divorce is pretty terrible for everyone involved, both parties are handling it just fine.
In other words, they're not freaking out. So why are we?
We project a lot of our own shit onto these celebrities. The main reason why we care so much about the demise of Gwenvin has little to do with our concern for their well-being. It mostly has to do with the fact that we've been living vicariously through their relationship.
"When we see a famous pair that appears authentic and in love, we root for them," licensed clinical psychologist Erika Martinez, previously told Yahoo Health. "We're all hard-wired for love, to recognize it and seek it."
More sinister than the tendency to "root" for celebrities is the tendency to simultaneously demand perfection and transparency from them, as some do with Beyoncé, whose marriage to Jay Z was rumored to be on the rocks last year. (For the record, they seem to be doing just fine.)
"[Our obsession with the possible divorce] has nothing to do with Beyoncé, and everything to do with what we feel she owes to us," Lauretta Charlton wrote for Complex last year. "No matter what happens, though, we still have no idea what the fuck is going on in Beyoncé's head."
It seems obvious to say this outright, but we don't actually know any of these celebrities, which means we also don't know anything about what went down in their marriages. Our current Summer of Divorce couldn't make this fact any more clear, as the four couples to call it quits were considered to be some of the strongest in Hollywood.
The rise of social media might make us feel like we're BFFs with all of these celebrities, which would suggest that we accept them as normal humans with human problems. But when evidence surfaces that suggests that celebrities struggle with the same problems as everyone else, it feels like a personal betrayal.
That's why we can all benefit from remembering what Lambert and Shelton wrote in their statement: "We are real people, with real lives, with real families, friends and colleagues." And just like real people who go through real divorces, in the end, they'll ultimately be just fine.