There are many serious problems in today’s world, but one in particular is really very grave. Personally, I think it’s time we found the bravery to speak about this: why are there are never any good celebrity couples anymore? It’s beginning to feel as though we’re approaching crisis point. Think about it: Taylor Swift is supposedly going out with some American football player called Travis – right, OK? Emma Corrin is dating Rami Malek – snore. Timothee Chalamet and Kylie Jenner have been snogging indoors in matching sunglasses – zzz. I can’t even muster any enthusiasm for Sophie Turner and Joe Jonas’s rapidly toxifying divorce, even though she accused him of abducting their children (accusations he’s denied). And the less said about Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher, the better.
I know, I know – celebrities don’t owe us anything. These people are entitled to their privacy. I need to get a life. While these things are all true, I wonder if it’s really so much to ask that a few of them get married on a throne, or issue a statement to say they are “consciously uncoupling”, or even get married in Vegas and then have it annulled 72 hours later?
It’s not a crime to be fascinated by the love lives of the rich and famous. We always have been – and, once, it was for good reason. They used to really deliver. In Hollywood’s golden age, for example, the fresh-faced starlet Debbie Reynolds married crooner Eddie Fisher. Then Fisher married Elizabeth Taylor. Then Taylor made the most expensive film ever made up to that point – 1963’s Cleopatra – alongside Richard Burton, married him, divorced him, then married him again, before, yes, divorcing him again. The pair’s scandalous early romance was condemned by the Vatican and essentially invented the paparazzi, and over the years they bought each other eye-wateringly expensive jewels, got drunk and screamed at each other a lot, and made 11 films. “Her breasts were apocalyptic,” Burton once wrote in his diary. “They would topple empires.”
The most famed classic couples offered gawpers like me the perfect mix of gossip and glamour, from the tumultuous love story of Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh, to Eighties power couple Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell, to the breathlessly chic Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin. And, who could forget, the original royal chaos machines: Edward VIII and American divorcee Wallis Simpson.
Of course, it is all a bit of a fantasy. A-lister relationships are often carefully stage-managed – this we all know. Whether it be a fling or a full-blown marriage, it’s clear that Taylor Swift, these days, is ostensibly happy for us to see her being shouty at rumoured beau Travis Kelce’s football game, just as she didn’t mind us seeing former flame Tom Hiddleston frolicking in the sea while wearing an “I Love TS” vest. (Hiddleston, who is now in a seemingly happy, functional – boring! – marriage with Fresh Meat star Zawe Ashton, later claimed he wore the garment to avoid getting sunburnt, which obviously no one believes.)
The thing is, though, the carefully curated glimpses we used to get into celebs’ love lives used to be – let’s be frank – a lot less boring. As we all know, in 1999 amid the dawning of the internet age, David and Victoria Beckham set the gold standard with their £1m exclusive deal to share their wedding photos with OK! magazine. We saw Posh and Becks in matching purple outfits, sitting on thrones; we heard that their cake was topped with a nude sculpture of the couple. Not only did they deliver, they created the template. When Katie Price and Peter Andre fell in love on the set of I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! in 2004, the nation was deeply invested. And who wouldn’t be – the couple’s first dance at their wedding was to nothing less than their own duet of “A Whole New World”. When they divorced in 2009, I still remember the shockwaves. People asked themselves, “If they can’t make it, how can any of us?”
Surreal, tacky, and gloriously over the top, the celeb couplings of yore were even more compelling when they went off script. Oh, how I miss them. There was the time that Ordinary Boys singer Preston, wearing a sequinned cardigan, infamously stormed out of panel show Never Mind the Buzzcocks for the sake of his wife and Celebrity Big Brother winner Chantelle Houghton’s honour – host Simon Amstell had been reading teasingly from Houghton’s memoir. Remember, too, when Donald Trump weighed in on the fact that Kristen Stewart had cheated on her Twilight co-star Robert Pattinson with director Rupert Sanders. “Robert Pattinson should not take back Kristen Stewart. She cheated on him like a dog and will do it again – just watch. He can do much better!” the former Potus tweeted in 2012.
That era had its messy couples. Jude Law and Sienna Miller – then a fast-rising star aged just 23 – rapidly became a major Noughties It couple before it all went up in flames. Daisy Wright, the 26-year-old nanny to Law’s children with ex-wife Sadie Frost, sold the explosive story of her affair with Law to the Sunday Mirror. “Jude was a masterful lover who made my whole body tingle,” she said, before revealing it had all gone a bit wrong when the kids had walked in. And Pete Doherty and Kate Moss pinballed around Glasto in muddy wellies and pork pie hats looking the height of indie cool; Doherty was to later say, “Kate Moss didn’t go to crack dens… if I’m honest, that’s why we broke up.” And it’s still as weird now as it was in 2008 that former Liberal Democrat MP Lembit Opik ended up going out with a Cheeky Girl. Their eventual split, according to Gabriela Irimia’s mum, was down to the fact that “she doesn’t smile like she used to because of the stress”.
The fact is, I’m nosy, and I don’t want to read about our broken economy all day. From the A-list to the C-list, these stars used to provide a vital national service. But who are our great celeb couple hopes now? We all dreamt big things for Meghan and Harry, but now they are essentially just one, overly long, passive-aggressive Instagram caption. Olivia Wilde and Jason Sudeikis’s acrimonious split seemed like it influenced the final season of Ted Lasso, which felt a bit like your ex was telling you off while you left the phone on speaker and went in another room. The Oscars “slapgate” hasn’t made me any more interested in Will Smith and Jada’s excruciating oversharing, and when Ben Affleck and J Lo got back together, weren’t we all just going through the motions, wishing we were younger, happier, immune to disappointment, failure and mortality? Yes, Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds are cute, but should their trips to Wrexham really look like such a shiny advert? Emily Blunt and John Krasinski are sweet, and Lily Allen and David Harbour are really nice together. But where is the drama, where is the nonsense? We need an urgent celeb couple restock. It honestly can’t be that our only hope in this world is Molly-Mae and Tommy Fury.