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The Huntington News

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The Huntington News



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Column: The real reason people continue to care about these celebrity breakups

Emma Liu

With the recent news of musician Joe Jonas filing for divorce from his wife of four years, actress Sophie Turner, social media users have entered a state of complete disarray. With every major entertainment news outlet sharing the news and fans circulating their own theories — ranging from the bizarre to the grounded — behind the split, it is a feat to avoid celebrity breakup content.

Though social media makes it easier for fans to share opinions, this is a phenomenon that has occurred for decades in the entertainment industry, predating social media. When Princess Diana and Prince Charles split in 1992, people showed up outside of Buckingham Palace with signs supporting Diana amidst the cheating scandal. 

Similarly, when Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie called it quits in 2016, TMZ was the first to report on it, causing a social media frenzy. Facebook feeds were flooded with images and videos of people mourning “Brangelina,” and Instagram users filled comment sections with broken heart emojis and messages of sorrow. 

As technology has made way for more connectivity between celebrities and fans, social media has, for better or worse, given the world an inside look into the relationships of the Hollywood elite. Fans are now able to see pictures of a celebrity couple’s engagement, honeymoon, family trip and so much more just by opening an app. This blurs the line between an actor on a hit TV show and a close friend. Because of this access, many fans form parasocial relationships that create an illusory feeling of closeness to complete strangers. Clinical psychologist and breakup coach Dr. Andrea Liner says that the pandemic and subsequent growth of influencer culture have contributed largely to this infatuation with celebrity lives.

This accessibility, though personal, is highly edited and curated to create an image that a given celebrity and their PR team agree upon. So, when a couple such as Sofia Vergara and Joe Manganiello announce that they are ending a seven-year marriage, people are devastated — especially when both parties spent years posting messages of adoration to the other on anniversaries, birthdays or simply just because. 

Liner also states that the public cares about these breakups so much because they provide both comfort and despair. It is a reassurance to know that those with infinite resources and riches have problems that everyday people do, but in that same vein, it is also terrifying.

If 12-time Grammy winner Taylor Swift — who also had a breakup this year with her boyfriend of six years, Joe Alwyn — cannot find lasting love, what does that say for everyone else? 

It means that celebrities are people, too. Underneath all the glamor, money and scandal, they are real people with real feelings. So, of course Swift’s record-breaking “Eras Tour” would cause substantial distance in her relationship. And it is not far-fetched to assume that Ariana Grande’s demanding life and celebrity image was hard for her real estate agent, soon-to-be ex-husband, Dalton Gomez, to deal with. 

At the end of the day, celebrity breakups are endlessly fascinating for so much more than mere gossip and speculation. People care about Jonas and Turner’s unexpected divorce because there is a degree of love and care for the pair, even though it is one-sided. 

Or, it could be like the divorce of comedian John Mulaney and artist Anna Marie Tendler, where social media users offered exorbitant amounts of love and support to the latter amidst alleged cheating and the former’s relapse. This shocking end to a 12-year relationship garnered lots of attention and media scrutiny as it seemed out of character for Mulaney, who frequently referenced his admiration for his wife in his uprorious standup routines. 

No matter the degree of a celebrity split, the general public will always pay attention. As psychology professor Shira Gabriel says, parasocial relationships are typically healthy and beneficial. These relationships allow for more expansive social networks to form, and in turn, offer an opportunity to express compassion. In an era of rumor mills and enhanced connectivity with strangers, the fascination with celebrity breakups is certainly here to stay.

About the Contributor
Emma Liu
Emma Liu, Deputy Design Editor
Emma Liu is a second-year behavioral neuroscience and design major. She is currently working as the deputy design editor for The News. Originally from Philadelphia, Emma loves to collect sonny angels, volunteer at local orgs and find good food in her free time.
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