We need to stop saying 'love is dead' when celebrities break up

Channing Tatum and Jenna Dewan in November 2017. <i>(Getty Images)</i>
Channing Tatum and Jenna Dewan in November 2017. (Getty Images)

Breakups are never easy, but in Hollywood – when a celebrity couple decide to call it quits, it seems as though it’s the fans who have the hardest time letting go.

On Tuesday, actors Channing Tatum and Jenna Dewan-Tatum released a joint statement announcing their separation after almost nine years of marriage. Despite assuring fans there were no “secrets or salacious events” that impacted their decision, many people –and several news outlets — took to social media to dramatically declare that “love is dead” – and it’s got to stop.

The “love is dead” response to a celebrity split fails to recognize the machine behind our favourite Hollywood couples that carefully crafts and sells audiences a specific idea not only of what love is, but what it should be. In Hollywood, relationships, especially those between high-profile celebrities, are good for business. Engagements, weddings and babies drum up the kind of positive media attention that helps build fanbases, builds reputations and translate to dollar signs for studios and record labels. For celebrities, there are teams of publicists, managers and executives helping to carefully craft a public image that appeals to its target demographic. Everything, including how public figures present their relationships is carefully orchestrated. We see what they want us to see — and we believe that what we’re being sold is real.

ALSO SEE: Jenna Dewan and Channing Tatum have ‘lovingly chosen’ to separate

Celebrity relationships, especially heterosexual celebrity relationships are romanticized and idealized in the media. We declare couples to be #goals because when we see them lovingly gaze into each other’s eyes on the red carpet, when they gush about their partner in an interview or publicly declare their love and admiration to one another on social media. While the feelings may be real, their actions are essentially performance in a public setting. What happens behind closed doors is a mystery. Everything looks picture perfect, until suddenly it’s not.

Anna Faris and Chris Pratt in April 2017, four months before they announced their split. <i>(Getty Images)</i>
Anna Faris and Chris Pratt in April 2017, four months before they announced their split. (Getty Images)

After her high profile split from husband Chris Pratt, actress Anna Faris revealed what it was like to live through such a public breakup. In an interview with Dax Shepard for his podcast “Armchair Expert,” Faris spoke honestly about the social media reaction to news of her divorce.

“Chris and I did talk about it. We got on the Twitter feed, ‘Love is dead’ and ‘Relationship goals,” Faris said. “We obviously cultivated something and it was rewarding for a while. It was like ‘People seem to think we got all this shit all right.’”

ALSO SEE: Anna Faris may be swearing off marriage for good after divorcing Chris Pratt

“I had a little bit of a childish feeling of ‘Oh come on, f—ing grow up’ — a little anger… But that’s not fair either because I cultivated it. We intentionally cultivated the idea of like, ‘Look at this beautiful family’, and there were so many moments that weren’t like that,” she continued. “But like anything on social media, you don’t post ‘Where the f— is the toilet paper?’ or whatever. I think it’s a very hard forum to be genuine, and I think it does a disservice to people to not be.”

Shepard, who is married to actress Kristen Bell revealed he finds similar comments about his own relationship frustrating. “There is a weird pressure to it, as much as it was fun,” he said. “If I was an a–hole to her and we were in a fight for two days and I’m reading these comments like ‘I need to find a Dax’ and I’m like, ‘No you don’t, Dax is being an a–hole right now and hasn’t talked to Kristen in 36 hours.'”

Given the element of escapism celebrity culture provides us from politics, current events and our own lives, it’s understandable when we find something like a celebrity breakup upsetting. Breakups disrupt the illusion that happiness comes from a trifecta of fame, money and good looks. While we may have wisened to the idea that anyone with a social media account can curate their own image of their life, it seems as though we haven’t lowered celebrities and celebrity couples from the pedestal we put them on.

ALSO SEE: What goes into a celebrity breakup statement?

Instead of crying “love is dead” at the news of a complete stranger’s breakup, we should focus on our own relationships offline – not just how they look to the outside world, but how they make us feel. Having #RelationshipGoals is not a bad thing – as long as those goals are based on healthy relationship models that we know personally and intimately. We have bought into the idea that true love looks easy and beautiful 100 per cent of the time but in our own lives struggle to match what we see on screen or online.

Love is not dead – love is hard work. Our knee-jerk reaction may be to tweet or comment out of sadness, but we have no place to mourn what was never ours in the first place. We never knew what it was really like for Channing and Jenna or Anna and Chris, we were only given a small glimpse into the lives of two entertainers with movies and projects to sell. Looking at celebrity breakups and the world of celebrity through a critical lens can help us become smarter consumers. Ultimately this viewpoint helps redirect our focus inward where we can focus on our own lives – our real lives, and work towards nurturing our own relationships and personal happiness.

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