The good news is Will and Jada are staying together. The bad news is Kermit and Miss Piggy are splitting up.
It’s been a summer of ups and downs for the folks who care about celebrity marriages. We may have breathed a sigh of relief when Will Smith posted on Facebook a few days ago: “So, in the interest of redundant, repetitious, over & over-again-ness… Jada and I are…NOT GETTING A DIVORCE!!!!!!!!!!!!! : -)” But Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale are done. So are Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner. (The nanny, Ben? Talk about a cliché.) Not to mention Reba McEntire and Narvel Blackstock and Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert. For Americans short on time and attention span, the question remains: Why does it seem like so many celebrities are getting divorced? And should we care?
Well, to the first question, there are probably more so-called celebrities today than at any other time in history. Not only does every two-bit reality start count as a celebrity. (Earlier this summer, Amy and Matt Roloff, the stars of TLC’s Little People, Big World, announced their divorce too, and it was covered in People, US Weekly and every other celebrity watching publication. I’m sure they’re lovely people but their claim to fame is… being short.) We also have the technological ability to follow the lives of way too many people, too. Not a country music fan? You still know what Miranda Lambert is up to. Haven’t seen Will Smith since The Fresh Prince of Bel Air? You can still follow him on Facebook.
Some celebrities probably inspire more interest and concern than others. Reba has been married 26 years and she and her husband have a child together. Miranda and Blake have been married for four and have no children together. The former marriage seems like something to be mourned. The latter like just another long-term relationship gone sour.
But the fact that so many celebrities are getting divorced also means that a lot of them are still getting married too. No doubt plenty of these are publicity stunts. What celebrity wouldn’t want to have all those wedding pictures splashed all over the tabloids? (Miranda and Blake were married in front of “500 family members and friends, including Reba McEntire, Martina McBride, Dierks Bentley, the Bellamy Brothers and Lady Antebellum’s Charles Kelley. Also in attendance was music artist Cee Lo Green,” according to CMT News.)
But the truth of the matter is that even in Hollywood, where hooking up with a different person every night would be possible and even desirable for some, many women and some men see a virtue to settling down. Maybe they’ve watched a few too many of their own romantic comedies and still believe in true love.
It’s hard to quantify marriage trends among celebrities (since you’d have to figure out who qualifies as a celebrity first) but among the rest of us, the divorce rate has been declining for some time now. Though people—especially those trying to avoid buying an engagement ring—like to cite the statistic that half of marriages end in divorce, that hasn’t actually been true for decades, if ever. If current trends continue, only about a third of marriages will end in divorce.
The real threat to the institution of marriage comes from all the young people who are not marrying at all, who are engaging in long-term cohabiting relationships instead of walking down the aisle. These relationships are more unstable than marriages on average. And they are, generally speaking, worse for children as well.
And the people who are not marrying at all and having children anyway tend to be those in lower income brackets. In some ways, the desire of celebrities to get married is perfectly reflective of America’s upper classes. These are the people who still imagine that two married parents can provide something that a single parent cannot. Or they haven’t given it much thought but getting married seems like a decent, time-tested idea.
For many of the Americans watching these celebrities, though, marriage seems like something that is out of reach. Marriage is something you do once you have finished your education, saved up a lot of money, bought a house, even had children. Like everything else they see celebrities do, marriage seems like a dream. And when they divorce, it can make marriage seem even more pointless to those watching from afar.
Better not to watch at all.