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The Anatomy of Celebrity Divorces

“OMG if these two break up I will stop believing in love”, said every Twitter user about XYZ couple, and like a jinx the seemingly perfect pair part ways. Always. Except for a few exceptions (for now).

Celebrity IT couples are viewed as the beacon of relationships. Their every move and action publicized and scrutinized; us ordinary people are overzealous over the developments of celebrity marriages. Their first meeting? Straight out of a 90s rom-com. The way they describe each other? Soulmates. The proposal? Perfection. The wedding? A Disney fairy-tale. And the divorce? Just as dramatically messy.

The Anatomy of Celebrity Divorces. Image features Joe and Jonas and Sophie Turner amidst the divorce news.

Divorces and break-ups are quotidian in the entertainment world (as in the ordinary world). They are tasteful to consume; much preferred to read about the errors of a person’s personal life in the entertainment section than to move to politics and read about their professional blunders.

While we continue to splurge our time and mind to these matters, many in the industry have taken notice. How else could we possibly explain our ability to go on streaming websites to find documentaries about the divorces of Kim Kardashian & Kanye West and Amber Heard & Johnny Depp? Or the unglamorous attention placed over Sophie Turner & Joe Jonas’ divorce when our own circles have enjoyed 3+ divorces?

Most publicized celebrity divorce proceedings (or break-ups) today follow a media-specific rulebook and judging by the sheer intensity of these publicized divorces, one could validly assume these tactics were adopted from the American foreign policy playbook during the Cold War. It is heavy as it is effective in curating a heart-breaking personal decision into a PR tug-of-war of who is famous and who wrong.

This game begins during the end of the relationship; and the first stage is normalcy. The marriage looks typical to outsiders, and by typical, casual trips to Paris on a Tuesday evening followed by a visit to the Cannes red carpet together. All the while, their respective PR managers work towards creating a story, and finding the right time to get ahead of the other on the divorce narrative.

Every story has a protagonist, antagonist, plenty of ‘outsider sources’, and a downfall. In the narrative of the divorce story lies the imminent blame and the villain, always and inevitably the same: A woman.

The wife is at fault for being the life of a party while having children who are also the children of the husband (see Sophie Turner), or perhaps she has commitment issues and cannot ‘keep a man’ for long by highlighting the timeline of all her past relationships (see Ariana Grande), or she is at fault for accusing him of abuse without substantial evidence and tainting his image which boomerangs into court proceedings of defamation with the latter winning the hearts of the public for his bravery (see Amber Heard & soon-to-be Angelina Jolie?), or perhaps the traditional route of gold-digging accusations for demanding child support or splitting assets. Either way, the press inevitably publishes in favour of the poor man who was betrayed by ‘cunning, greedy witches’.

These convictions are amplified by the voices of the public, who reflects the attitudes, values, and biases upheld by society. The court of public opinion determines the image of a celebrity; it can be ruined or elevated based on what the majority asserts. In real-time, a societal court which constantly espouses sexism and misogyny. After a divorce ensues a train of slut-shaming, objectification, vilification, and judgement buttressed by double standards; all against the woman. While most men walk away free, their public image untainted, or if tainted, eventually reinstated.

With the breakthrough of social media, spectators of the divorce now have the privilege of sharing essays about public images post-divorce of two people they have never met. As a bonus, they also get to choose teams based on their personal whims of the two parties.

‘Oh he definitely did NOT do that! Don’t believe everything you see on twitter (replaceable with literally any other social media app)’

A little while later….

‘OMG smthn is seriously wrong with her because there is NO way TMZ is wrong’, says the same person as above.

Such are the ills and joys of para-social relationships.

We live in an era where divorce is common. Although for many, it continues to be stigmatized, with women shamed into silence and guilt. Celebrity divorces are a platform to witness because the women fight, they persevere and enjoy the post-divorce world. It is an opportunity to discuss how women can elevate their self-esteem and rediscover themselves. And for that, all couples deserve respect and privacy, not an online witch-hunt.

But today? Oh, today is a great day to be a guy everywhere, minus Joe Jonas and his abysmal PR team waking up to a more informed generation who refuses to accept good ol’ misogyny.