When fans mourn a celebrity breakup

A summer filled with celebrity divorces shouldn’t make this one any more shocking than the rest but it is. After seven years together and two kids, Joe Jonas and Sophie Turner are getting a divorce. 

You may ask why we care. They’re both young, hot, and famous — it was only written in the textbook of celebrity relationships that this was going to end, the cynical skeptic would say. But the reaction and speculation surrounding this particularly popular relationship has shed light on something deeper than just tabloid fodder and online stan theories.

Jonas began his decades-long career as a child star in the millennial, Jesus-loving Disney-backed band of three brothers called the Jonas Brothers. The brothers broke out as the 2000s suburban girls’ favorite boy band. They would go on to star in their own television show and films before leaving Disney and hitting the mainstream.

Turner also survived similar child star heights relatively unscathed. The now 27-year-old starred in one of HBO’s most popular television shows “Game of Thrones” starting from when she was only 14. Playing one of the main leads, Sansa Stark, she essentially spent the next eight seasons growing up on camera for a global audience. In 2016 while “Game of Thrones” was still airing, Jonas slid into Turner’s Instagram DMs when she was 20 and he was 27, and thus a relationship was born. They were engaged a year later and eloped in Las Vegas in 2019.

Since then Turner has starred in Jonas Brothers’ “Sucker” music video alongside Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Danielle Jonas – the spouses of Nick and Kevin Jonas – calling themselves the “J-Sisters.”

The celebrity couple has projected an image to their joint fanbases that they are young, enjoy roasting each other, and most importantly, they’re in love. So in love that Turner was spotted at a Jonas Brothers concert three weeks ago and even posted about it on Instagram. Therefore nobody expected that on Tuesday, Jonas would be filing to divorce Turner after four years and two kids together. The court filing stated that “the marriage between the parties is irretrievably broken.”

The couple posted a joint statement on Wednesday: “After four wonderful years of marriage we have mutually decided to amicably end our marriage. There are many speculative narratives as to why but, truly this is a united decision and we sincerely hope that everyone can respect our wishes for privacy for us and our children.”

Whatever fantasy of love we were projecting onto the young Hollywood couple appears to have shattered as quickly and painfully as the end of their relationship. As painful as a time this must be for the couple, rabid stans on the internet and tabloids have fueled a specific narrative that the couple addressed in the statement. TMZ reports were speculating that Jonas was caring for their infant children all the time even as the Jonas Brothers tour across the country. Other whispers allegedly from Jonas’ camp said, “She likes to party. He likes to stay at home. They have very different lifestyles.”

If you put aside all the thinly veiled misogynistic speculation that Turner was an absentee mother who partied, you really can sharply deduce that all the speculation in the world could never really tell us what happened in the private breakdown of their relationship and marriage. That’s the crux of why we are always so confused when the couples we think are so madly in love break up. It shifts our reality and makes us question what about the image that they are showing us is real? Was it just an illusion?

A portion of our parasocial relationships with celebrities exist because we yearn for their pristine images of wealth, perfection, endless opportunities and success. They exist as symbols for us to aspire to. But what we fail to recognize is the price that is paid to project such an image of perfection. They illustrate a magical, fictionalized unreal life. Through their Instagram photo dumps or quirky TikToks at home, we think we see an unfiltered reality of their lifestyles but even curated authenticity is still curated to an extent.

In a culture so dead set on performing it’s no wonder that Turner and Jonas’ relationship fell apart behind the scenes while they acted like they were still a stable unit in front of the world and cameras. There are so many factors that could have easily caused the steady decline in their celebrity relationship including the fact that they both have spent a large majority of their adolescence entrenched in the fame machine. Turner is seven years younger than Jonas and had two children before she turned 30. Their rigorous, exhausting schedules as an in-demand musician and actor could have also taken its toll. The circumstances are endless, and we just don’t have any of the answers.

At the end of the day, none of us really know Turner or Jonas even if we watched Sansa Stark turn into the indomitable Queen of the North or crushed on Jonas during our teen and adult years. Their relationship ending is a difficult reality for people to swallow. Even if you tweet “love is dead” — their relationship is still a part of a fantasy that we have to detach from as an audience member as we continue to watch their lives play out minute by minute on our screens.

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