Why does it matter to us when two famous people we don’t even know get a divorce?
Short answer: it doesn’t.
But it’s more complicated than that. When it was announced recently that Amy Poehler and Will Arnett were divorcing, I took it about as hard as I’ve taken good friends’ divorces. For a few days, I was actually shocked how often I thought about what went wrong, why they couldn’t work it out, if there was a bad guy, etc. And then last night I heard Danny Devito and Rhea Perlman are getting divorced. Whaaat?! They married in 1982 but had been together since 1971. These people were together for 41 years! They have three grown children!
As a friend said on Facebook, “What on earth could necessitate a divorce after all those years?” Exactly! And who will think of the children? And by the children, I mean US!
I’m taking DeVito/Perlman harder than I would my own parents. Feel like they were waiting for me to graduate college and move out to do this
— Lena Dunham (@lenadunham) October 8, 2012
In both of these cases – which I know next to nothing about – I actually felt sad. But why?
I think there are a couple of things at play here. For one thing, divorce is always just kind of a bummer. Mine isn’t even final yet – mostly because we are friendly with each other and basically too lazy to make the final push, despite living apart for more than a year. But I’m still grieving it. And so are the people who love me and my family. Even in the best of circumstances like ours, it’s just plain sad. And you know why? Because of weddings.
Goddam weddings! The reason I love them so much – and will cry at a stranger’s nuptials – is that the occasion is so nakedly hopeful. It’s crazy! Lovely and sweet and profound and crazy. Think about it: the deck is stacked against a long marriage. Our life expectancy is double what it was a hundred years ago. Women have financial independence in ways history has never seen before. There’s really no compelling reason to become entangled like that.
And yet we still do it. And it’s heartbreakingly beautiful to see two people beginning a life with shared hopes and dreams for a future together. Every time I witness it, I am full of optimism. Which is why it hurts so much when it ends. It’s not the end of the legal marriage, per se. It’s the death of a very profound hope that is so crushing.
So, there’s that.
Then there’s the star factor. Some people become stars because they are awful and soulless and will crush anyone and anything to get to the top. And other people become stars because they’re awesome. What they do is so rare, or so funny, or just so damn likable that we not only feel we know them, but we like them, too. Both of the couples I mentioned above meet this criteria. Poehler and Arnett are both hilarious and have contributed things to the world that make it better. And Perlman and Devito were not only part of one of the most beloved TV shows of all-time, but they’ve gone on to have cool second (third?) acts both in and out of the spotlight.
You know, if we really do like these people so much, we really shouldn’t mourn their uncoupling. They made a choice. They decided they’d be happier apart. We should probably just respect that and keep movin’, right? After all, we don’t even know them.
But if hear so much as a PEEP about Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick, or Iman and David Bowie, I’m jumping off a bridge. You’ve been warned, celebs!