Lachlan Gillespie and Emma Watkins from The Wiggles this year announced their marriage was over. Picture: Naomi Jellicoe
Lachlan Gillespie and Emma Watkins from The Wiggles this year announced their marriage was over. Picture: Naomi Jellicoe

Why we want to believe in celebrity romances

BY Hollywood standards - it's the phrase we use when referring to the longevity of celebrity couples.

"Chris Hemsworth and Elsa Pataky have been together a long time, by Hollywood standards," we say to explain the pair's apparently enduring seven-year marriage.

The truth is that while we look at these couples to provide the happily ever after fairytale romance we crave, we don't hold out much hope for the ability of Hollywood pairings to endure.

So why then do we express such sadness and regret when one of these apparently doomed relationships fail?

In August, Australians were shocked and truly saddened by the announcement Lachy Gillespie and Emma Watkins - the purple and yellow Wiggles - were splitting up after two years of apparent married bliss.

The social media feeds boiled over in disbelief.

"True love isn't real," one poster bemoaned, while another gushed: "I seriously almost cried, you all are a part of our families too."

These comments were not from close family and friends of the couple, but people they had never met before.

The ups and downs of Hemsworth's brother Liam and his relationship with fiance Miley Cyrus have had a similar impact on their fans.

The couple made their love red carpet official in 2010 but there have been several breakups, a broken engagement and reunions.

Elsa Pataky and Chris Hemsworth have been married for seven years. Picture: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty
Elsa Pataky and Chris Hemsworth have been married for seven years. Picture: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty

When rumours of a new breakup in July, fans flocked to Twitter.

"No I really hope Miley and Liam's break up news isn't true! I won't let them," one wrote.

"I'm already having a terrible morning then 96.5 breaks the news to me that Miley and Liam called off their engagement," another said.

Social researcher Mark McCrindle says our fascination with celebrity couples is not new, the public has always been absorbed by power pairings.

Think about the intense interest in every one of Elizabeth Taylor's eight marriages. Then there was the headline-grabbing rise and demise of Marilyn Monroe's failed unions with baseball star Joe DiMaggio and playwright Arthur Miller. Even further back, Egyptian queen Cleopatra's trysts with Roman generals Julius Caesar and Mark Antony eclipsed any of her political conquests.

"A belief in the fairytale is a timeless trait in humanity," McCrindle tells BW Magazine.

"Think of John F Kennedy and the whole ideal that was built up of Camelot. While the public may be more voracious for information today, romance is still at the heart of it."

Anna Faris and Chris Pratt split up after eight years of marriage. Picture: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty
Anna Faris and Chris Pratt split up after eight years of marriage. Picture: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty

Our need to believe in happy ever after has not dimmed, but our need for information is at an all-time high thanks to the modern ability we have to - almost literally - step inside a celebrity's life.

Instagram posts uploaded daily allow us never-before access into their lives; an engagement is not official until it's been posted with a memorable selfie on Instagram. A pregnancy announcement, likewise, is often made first on social media.

It's this accessibility that helps create the facade of happy couples, a phenomenon actor Anna Faris apologised for after announcing her split from husband of eight years, Chris Pratt.

"We intentionally cultivated this idea of 'Look at this beautiful family,' " the Scary Movie star told media after the August 2017 split.

"There were so many moments that were like that but like anything on social media, you don't post like, 'Where the f … is the toilet paper?' I think it's a very hard forum to be genuine, and I think it does a disservice to people to not be."

Eva Mendes and Ryan Gosling. Picture: Sonia Recchia/Getty
Eva Mendes and Ryan Gosling. Picture: Sonia Recchia/Getty

McCrindle says it's this accessibility that allows people to feel more connected to famous couples.

"People almost see them as part of their social network as they consume so much of their content," McCrindle says.

Academic Sean Redmond says star relationships are like a mirror, albeit a flashier one, held up to our own and when they fail, we almost take it personally.

"I think when fans invest in and believe in a star couple's relationship the 'breakdown' of it is felt as a personal loss," the Deakin University professor in communications and creative arts says.

"But it is also the loss of the way that we hope love binds us and holds us all together. It takes the wind out of our sails because we translate their breakdown as confirmation that relationships fail, that romance can wither.

"I have written about how we increasingly live in an impersonal world, more isolated than ever. Celebrity couples offer us the intimacy that might be missing from our lives, and the stories and pictures of their relationship draw us into affective relationships. When they fail we are again thrust back into the sense that the world is lonely."

Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker. Picture: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty
Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker. Picture: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty

One of the most shocking celebrity splits came in 2016, when Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie announced they were parting ways after a two-year marriage and 13-year relationship that produced six children.

That year Gwyneth Paltrow and Coldplay frontman Chris Martin also finalised their divorce after more than 12 years of marriage and two children.

Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith. Picture: Charley Gallay/Getty
Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith. Picture: Charley Gallay/Getty

One of the biggest blows to the fairytale mirage came when Buckingham Palace made official the separation of the Prince and Princess of Wales in 1995, after 14 years of marriage. The world may have seen it coming but it was still a shocking end to what we wanted to believe was a happy ever after.

"People become invested because they see these couples as representing the ideal we are trained from childhood to believe in - the fairytale and finding the one," says Elisabeth Shaw, Relationships Australia chief and clinical psychologist.

"We need to find someone to attach that ideal to and say, 'See it does happen,' and if you can prove it to be true, then you can hold out hope for yourself."

Hugh Jackman and Deborra-lee Furness. Picture: Presley Ann/Getty
Hugh Jackman and Deborra-lee Furness. Picture: Presley Ann/Getty

Shaw says this is why we hold up examples of enduring couples with such pride - couples like Chris Hemsworth and Elsa Pataky; Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendes; Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker and Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith. Even Diana's own sons, Princes William and Harry, appear to have broken the tragic spell of their parents' doomed relationship finding authentic love matches.

Will Smith recently explained he's been married to Jada for so long, more than 20 years, he no longer considers himself married.

"We refer to ourselves as life partners," he says, "where you get into that space where you realise you are literally with somebody for the rest of your life."

Couple goals: Elsa Pataky and Chris Hemsworth. Picture: Instagram/@chrishemsworth
Couple goals: Elsa Pataky and Chris Hemsworth. Picture: Instagram/@chrishemsworth

Even Chris Hemsworth was candid about the hard work every marriage requires.

"My wife and I fell in love, had kids, didn't really see each other for a few years, then fell back in love," he told GQ Australia last year.

"Once you have children, every instinct and every moment of your time is consumed by that. So make sure you have date night even if it's once in a blue moon, because most of the time you're just too tired and you'd actually prefer to sleep."

 


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