Why do we ‘simp’ for celebrity ex-relationships?

Written by Jasmine Waters

Having a celebrity crush is a tale as old as time. But with our increasing need to virtually blurt out every thought that springs to mind, comes the spotlight of just how many of us try to keep celebrity relationships of the past alive.

Somewhere in the midst of the internet, Kim Kardashian and Kanye West are in the stages of divorce. If you were to search their names on Twitter, you’d see a healthy dose of the faux “I don’t care” brigade peppered between hot takes on the relationship’s timeline, neatly chronicled into a modern fable. A closer look – although the public relevance of the divorce is now arguable – shows the backlog of Tweeters willing the relationship to stay alive. A window into the broken heart of a stranger on the other side of the world investing their time, energy and words into something they don’t actually have any right to intimately insert themselves in. So why do we intensely fantasise about those hooking up in the sphere of the ‘celebrity’?  

Immediately, our minds turn to questioning our collective social consumption. The nature of gossip, alongside the idolisation of the famous and the romantic, is ingrained in the systemic nature of society itself peddling what we think we want to hear to aid the greater good of capitalism. The gossip magazines of the early 2000s furiously vomited streams of what we would later know to be Fake News directly into the lines of our hairdressers, doctors surgeries and subconscious thoughts. The psychological aftermath is something we didn’t much care about, endless rounds of (typically female) exploitation leading to exclusive expose’s, reality shows, and a paparazzi fuelled rumour mill. Public figures such as Wendy Williams and Perez Hilton made both their name and fortune on the back of fuelling the assumption fire for those in the spotlight. These early stepping-stones were the springboard for the unheard to air their views, aligned with the inherent social pedestal the ‘celebrity’ continues to sit upon.

Even back to the days rampant with Mills & Boon, a prized romantic relationship has been marketed as something we want but cannot have. Whether they’re framed through a Hollywood blockbuster or a haphazard photo from across the street, the lure of the ‘celebrity’ invites us in. We want them – they’re attractive with their oiled, chiselled chests and perfectly tousled locks. We want Mila Kunis or Channing Tatum. As a result, we seek to pick apart the connections we know nothing of, aside from the occasional hand-holding snapshot. After all, why shouldn’t we think of ourselves as the perfect match when they’re clearly being treated so badly?

Take the age-old fascination with Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston. 16 years after the relationship’s demise, a large percentage of us spend hours pondering the chances of their reunion. The gaze has shifted from female parties continually vilified (notice, Brad was never pulled into this particular fold), to the disbelief that a couple with such extensive past romantic ties can actually end up creating a rock-solid platonic bond. Either way, we’re entranced. This specialised interest in the pair must lead us to ask how much of our individual behaviour contributes to the cycle of celebrity culture. Would the media follow-up with continued reports if there was no clear interest? It only takes a quick internet search to be met with thousands of pleas to relive ancient history, or scathing critiques concerning one mistreating the other. Neither of these takes are healthy to be privy to. But thankfully, neither are likely to Google themselves anytime soon.

There are, however, a newly celebrated group that are continually left reeling from our social commentary on their love lives. Social influencers have no choice but to be plugged into the mains, building and engaging with an online community in order to move up the ranks. Often, they can be met with a living relic of their former lives under the guise of a fan page. Homing in to obsess over a relationship that ended a number of years ago, the same platforms that profit from influencing allow for unhealthy obsession over famed entanglements to breed and multiply. Every decision must be answered, every misstep must be accounted for. Although we pride such societal importance on closing the door and moving on, our relationship with famed romance has set the parameters for projected toxicity to thrive.

There’s no doubt that the social landscape is drastically changing. Largely propelled by the impact of locked-down life, mental health has shifted into a sharpened perspective to finally looking to be wholly taken seriously. Even so, there looks to be an uphill battle in getting through the veneer of new-age media – with all of us having a vital part to play. In the same year of the public outcry over the treatment of Caroline Flack, came incessant remarks concerning Katie Price’s latest engagement. While main media channels promote mental health campaigns, they pedal dating reality shows built to serve the notion of ‘drama’, whatever the personal cost. Thanks to an additionally forced lack of human contact to each other and the outside world, this year could prove to be the tipping point for change in behaviour – if we rediscover the appropriate gauge for humanity first.

Regardless of who started it, there’s no denying our entrenchment in a chicken-and-egg routine. Whether we want to come out of it is a question we may never have a definitive answer to. The cycle looks to start afresh once again, with Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck allegedly starting afresh after divorce, leaving social media users quick to play detective. With our mental health and the famed collectives’ precariously on the line, we can no longer afford to romanticise the public scrutiny of those we don’t really know. As we begin to be able to hug each other and physically reconnect, perhaps our reliance on celebrity couples will decrease. We’re better off without ‘simping’ from afar.

Featured image courtesy of Unsplash via Nate Neelson. Image licence found here. No changes have been made to this image.

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