We theorize why…and how best to handle it.
It was a hot summer day in the middle of my publishing internship in New York. Walking out of the office, I glanced up at the large electronic newsreel wrapped around the building in front of me. KATIE HOLMES FILES FOR DIVORCE FROM TOM CRUISE. Must’ve read it wrong, I thought to myself. But I stopped anyway, and waited for the headlines to loop back around, just so I could reconfirm. And there it was, in cold, unforgiving electronic print. Stunned, I dialed my best friend at her VIP bank job. Because it was unlike me (we never called each other in the middle of a work day), she picked up, and hearing the news, exclaimed: “Don’t lie to me! What about Suri??” Exactly! I screamed back.
Now, admittedly, my interest in celebrity culture is above average—US Weekly and Just Jared are the top two hits in my Internet history, and I devour the daily comings and goings of A-listers as voraciously as I do TheSkimm. Still, the fact that this news literally stopped me in my tracks, and that four years later, I can recount it moment by moment is food for thought.
The act of watching the lives of others play out in real time on all mediums – it used to be just paper tabloids, but now we have bloggers, gossip sites, social media feeds, etc. – is as cynical as it is material.What business do we have sitting around commenting on the current (arguably volatile) status of Gigi Hadid and Zayn Malik, just two young adults trying to figure out the next stage in their relationship? While a portion of this interest stems from the fact that society can be hypocritical – we take pleasure in others’ ups and downs because it makes us feel inherently secure – I think the majority of the interest lies in what millennials call #lifegoals.
Celebrities, like girl bosses, give us something towards which we can aspire. They fly to whatever corner of the world their partner might be; they go for casual strolls around hip cities like Los Angeles, London and Sydney; they share multiple properties, horses, vineyards, you name it; and while you and your BF argue about what movie to watch after Sunday lunch, Beyoncé and Jay Z landed in another city. So you stop fighting about your movie, and start talking instead about where you’d go on your next holiday. Iceland, maybe? Laos?
Celebrity couples have the ability to pull us out of whatever mundane, run-of-the- mill routine we define for ourselves and actually give us #lifegoals. Because if Ashton Kutcher can stay home and change baby Wyatt’s nappies while Mila Kunis takes a nap (or enjoys a glass of wine), boo can jolly well do it too. If David and Victoria Beckham can get through rough patches in their marriage with four children and simultaneously hectic careers, there should be no reason we can’t work through our tired, after-work spats.
So when celebrities break up, it feels like our role models cease to exist and that the prescribed notions of what it takes for a romance to work – jet set trips to Rome (lookin’ at you, Hiddleswift), buying an apartment together (Diane Kruger & Josh Jackson), having a child (TomKat) – just don’t. So if Brad Pitt can fall out of love with someone as gosh-darn perfect as Jennifer Aniston – let’s not even talk about Kate Hudson and Muse frontman Matt Bellamy – then what hope do the rest of us plebs have? And so we pine and mourn, a little bit of us broken, just like our idols. How will we ever be alright again?
This article was originally published as ‘Why Do Celebrity Breakups Affect Us So Much?!?’ in the October 2016 issue of Cosmopolitan Sri Lanka. To read the whole article, subscribe now and get a free October issue!
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