Breaking down why we’re obsessed with celebrity relationships

The low-down on frustration over famous breakups

Celebrity breakups can sometimes feel more earth-shattering than our own.
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The planet may be dying, Western politics may be at an extremist tipping point, and life-threatening weather may be ripping through the Bahamas, but celebrity breakups somehow still make national headlines.

Why? Because the relationships of famous people tap into our most primal emotions.

When Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth got back together after a messy break-up in 2016, I found out through a friend who immediately texted me that “MILEY AND LIAM HEMSWORTH ARE BACK TOGETHER.” When I replied with a shocked “WUTTTT,” I was informed that “SHES WEARING THE RING AND MOVED INTO HIS HOUSE.”

Yes—this was written all in caps and lacked punctuation, just for emphasis.

Now, Cyrus and Hemsworth have called it quits once again, and their fans are poring over tabloid headlines, blurry pictures, and song lyrics looking for an explanation.

Even though almost every facet of a celebrity’s day-to-day life is subject to scrutiny from their fans, nothing is more newsworthy than a celebrity’s love life. The early paparazzi photos, posts on social media that make it “official,” quirky interviews with blushing comments, and matching red carpet outfits are certainly entertaining. The sometimes-inevitable breakup, though, is captivating like nothing else.

We get invested in famous couples not only because we like a certain actor or admire a model’s skill, but because the celebrity lifestyle is aspirational—including their love lives. Admiring celebrities is all about trying to emulate them. From dressing like them to following their workout regimes or admiring their fancy cars and houses, we look up to celebrities as role models, whether consciously or not.

So, when “perfect” celebrity couples split up, it leaves fans feeling hopeless for their own prospects. Therapist Kathryn Smerling explained to Cosmopolitan that celebrities in these idealized relationships “seem like real-life examples of fairy tales, like love conquers all and dreams do come true.”

If celebrities, with their limitless bank accounts and high-profile lives, still struggle to make relationships work, no hope is left for us ordinary people, with our student debt and boring pastimes.

The obsession doesn’t end at the breakup, though. People are still invested in failed celebrity relationships from decades ago, like Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake with their iconic denim-on-denim red carpet looks and Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt, with their bad-boy meets girl-next-door personas. The fact that I know about these relationships despite the fact that I was a child while they were happening speaks for itself.

However, being invested in famous relationships isn’t always a bad thing. Fame exists for a reason—people love to idolize the rich and successful in society, and celebs fill that gap. When I see drama, friendship, or love between famous people, I can gossip about it with my friends and feel like I’m part of that celebrity’s life. Sometimes that means speculating about mean rumours, but most of the time, it means empathizing with another person because of their struggles.

If only we could garner the same public interest for dissolving climate health that exists for dissolving marriages, we might be onto something.

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