The Era of Celebrity Weddings Is Over — It’s Celebrity Divorces That Define the Moment
Following four years of marriage, celebrities Sophie Turner and Joe Jonas are reportedly, heading for a divorce. Ideally, the fact that a couple — once madly in love — are headed for legal proceedings to dissolve their union, wouldn’t be news. But in the far-from-ideal world we inhabit, not only is it ruling the news cycle, but also eliciting the kind of collective meltdown online that was previously reserved typically for weddings.
The “news” of the Turner-Jonas separation followed Britney Spears announcing her divorce with Sam Asghari, which had came soon after Sofia Vergara and Joe Manganiello’s announcement, which, in turn, came after Shakira and Gerard Piqué’s split in June 2022… the list goes on. This rather long list of recent celebrity divorces — and the flurry of discourses it’s generating — shows that our obsession with celebrity couples is no longer restricted to their weddings; divorces, now, are fair game, too. According to The Cut, 2023 marks the “return of the messy celebrity divorce” — pointing to the unravelling of relationships garnering mass attention, even as the celebrities at the center of these attempt to navigate the emotional nunaces of their break up.
In India, we’re yet to witness nearly as many high-profile divorces, yet. But recent divorces, here, too — featuring Aishwarya Rajinikanth and Dhanush, Samantha Ruth Prabhu and Naga Chaitanya, Sohail Khan and Seema Sajdeh, and Kusha Kapila and Zorawar Ahluwalia, among others — have turned into cultural focal points, eliciting curiosity, joy, tart, and even misogynistic speculations.
This isn’t to suggest that celebrity divorces didn’t create ripples before; the number of people who are yet to recover from Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt’s divorce in 2005 — yes, almost two decades ago — only continues to remain inexplicably high. What’s appears to be changed, though, is that society is now more opinionated about a different facet of celebrities’ personal affairs. Has society just evolved to become less considerate? Or, is the growing normalization of divorces — frankly, not at all a bad thing — prompting reactions that merely appear desensitized?
There’s a reason why it’s now more interesting to witness a divorce than it is to spectate upon a wedding. The latter is picture-perfect; and a celebrity wedding, moreover, is straight out of fairytales. It’s a spectacle, yes, but not much else is intriguing about it. A divorce, on the other hand, is ripe for interpretation: who left whom? Who gets the kids? And more importantly, how the hell did these husbands lose women who were so out of their league in the first place?
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Or, perhaps, our love for divorces has to do with the collective dissatisfaction with celebrity weddings that appears to have reared its head lately — marking a shift from the frenzy surrounding Alia Bhatt and Ranbir Kapoor’s nuptials last year, which felt nothing short of a national festival. Kiara Advani and Siddharth Malhotra’s wedding earlier this year was probably the straw that broke the camel’s back: it was beautiful, but was it too beautiful? So beautiful, that it was… repetitive? It prompted conversations about the templatization of celebrity weddings in India: from the outfits to the aesthetic to the location, even down to the photographs.
And, more recently, as a testament to the shift in society’s outlook, the internet began speculating on the state of Bhatt’s marriage to Kapoor — pointing out how he’s been publicly douchey to her, and only half-jokingly starting a “#FreeAlia” campaign.
The “freedom,” in question, speaks to a projected urgency: we need highly successful and competent women to drop husbands who can’t appreciate their worth, because it’ll be the template-setter we need, but don’t have yet. The fascination with divorces, then, aligns with the shifting conversation around female celebrities. After a long history of viewing their domestic transformation after a marriage, a divorce might look less like tragedy, and more like breaking the shackles of patriarchy — speaking, simultaneously, to the collective dissatisfaction with the heteronormative culture that conditions women into associating their self-worth with marriage. But that rationale reflects the mindset of only a small set of privileged individuals — for most of the world, divorces continue to be stigmatized.
“Upon being told by a cop that divorces are hardly stigmatized anymore, [the character] says that may be the case for more privileged Indians, but not for people in the lower rungs of the socio-economic ladder. But a rather grim fact is: despondent as this sounds, [the character] may have actually painted a picture far more pleasant than the reality,” noted an earlier article by The Swaddle, explaining how “the fear of being known as a divorcée, nonetheless, keeps women trapped in loveless — even abusive — marriages.”
And, unfortunately, it is precisely the kind of conjectures — or, “gossip,” to be accurate — that emerge in the aftermath of divorces, that prevent individuals, and particularly women from walking out of bad marriages: in reducing divorce to a salacious piece of gossip, its complexity is buried under a garb of sensationalism.