Saturday, July 28, 2012

Why We Care About Celebrity Break-Ups

The big news in the celebrity world this week was the Kristen Stewart cheating scandal. This particular celebrity affair caused a huge uproar for a variety of reasons:

- There was photographic evidence (Kristen making out with her director, Rupert Saunders)
- The couple in question, Kristen and her boyfriend, Robert Pattinson, are both extremely famous
- Kristen and Rob play soulmates in an iconic and hugely popular movie series: Twilight
- Kristen released an unprecedented mea culpa to Robert Pattinson

Take out any one of these factors, and it would have been less of a story. Add in that the third party, Rupert Sanders, is married with children, and it's not quite Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, but nipping on the heels of Brad and Angelina.

What's interesting for me is that when you click into any one of these stories about Kristen and Rob, you will see a whole lot of commentary along the lines of:

"WHO CARES???!!!!"

And then there's:

"They are celebrities and we don't know them. Who cares?"
"It is none of our business. Who cares?"
"Worry about your own relationships, not that of people you don't know. Who cares?"

The truth is, we care very deeply -- including those people who read about an affair only to proclaim they don't care about it. We don't "care" in the same way that we care if our parents divorce, or if our spouse wants a divorce, but we care about it because we are constantly looking outwardly at other relationships in order to a) take stock of our own, b) figure out if we should enter one.

Celebrities have taken over where fairytales have left off. Cinderella, Snow White, The Frog Prince -- these are just a few of the slew of propaganda used to convince all of us to enter into domestic arrangements, procreate, and then hold on for dear life until we exhale our last breath on this planet.

With the advent of movies and TV, we now look to celebrity couples -- the real people, not just the characters they play -- to provide our fairytale for us. We see these glorious couples in quick snippets only: Dolled up on the red carpet, holding hands, showing off adorable, fashionable tykes, and gushing about each other in the press. We never see the argument right before they hit the red carpet, and celebrities rarely say something to the effect of, "Sometimes I hate my husband," in a magazine interview. Reality shows do provide some measure of the real life "nitty-gritty" of relationships -- but even those battling couples seem to solve all of their problems within the show's allotted time frame.

For those of us who may never have experienced anything but the seedy underbelly of relationships in real life -- parents who chronically didn't get along or got divorced; relationships of our own that went awry or fell far short of expectations -- celeb couples give us some promise that entering into the highly-risky "nuclear family" arrangement might be a good idea. Those of us who would never DREAM of putting all of our retirement money into one stock are told we must put our entire lives into the hands of one other individual. On the face of it, we know this is a terrible idea-- the risks are far too high. But because of biological, anthropological, historical, and societal pressures that have evolved over centuries, this is where we find ourselves at.

Enter the celebrity couple. Look at Heidi and Seal! Look at Katie and Tom! Look at Robsten! And Jen and Brad! And Brangelina! And ... etc etc.

And then their fairytales fall apart, we're back to questioning the whole nuclear arrangement. Is it worth it? Does this ever work out? Will this work out? This is scary. THIS IS REALLY SCARY!! But we're ashamed of our fear, and so we say, "WHO CARES???"

The truth is, we do. Very much.


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