By Inara Hossain
Everybody loves a love story. No matter how you feel about love and relationships, there is a certain satisfaction in watching this story play out. We are completely immersed in watching two people fall in love and live happily ever after. Through watching a celebrity love story we are entertained by a real-life fairy tale.
However, the reality isn’t as cut and dry with a simple “once upon a time...” and a conclusive “the end”. Relationships are complex and require constant growth and change to strive against the testament of time. Falling in love isn’t as easy as it is for Snow White or Cinderella. Realistic love stories will not have a basic beginning, middle and end.
Even the most robust relationships may tear up and result in the disintegration of love.
Love is not guaranteed to sustain.
This stands true for all relationships, even those of celebrities.
The lens through which we view a celebrity love story has been hand-crafted and tinted with rose-coloured glass. The story has been crafted to allow for your opinions and your praise. You will hear stories of love and affection, but not of the fights and struggles. The ending of a relationship is felt similar to the cancellation of your favourite show, as that is exactly what celebrity relationships have become- entertainment. These are no longer two human beings, but rather characters. The negative connotations of the public fixture for celebrity relationships result in overlooking toxic relationships, which results in a harassing fan base as they demand their show.
Whether this is in the shape of a false story portrayed by the media to appease a certain audience outside of the couple or a peaceful break-up twisted into a media frenzy resulting in a bitter end. Harmful characters and relationships are praised as we turn a blind eye, and fall prey to the image of a “perfect” relationship.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle
**I would like to preface that I will solely be talking from the side of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, as expressed in their 6 episode Netflix documentary and other instances where the couple spoke about their relationship. For the sake of this article's focus, I will only be touching on a couple of interactions Harry and Meghan had with the media and will not be mentioning the royal family.**
The relationship between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle is by far one of the most highly publicised relationships in our current times. The couple has a notorious relationship with the media, throughout what was supposed to be their fairy tale. Ever since the couple's confirmation of their dating rumours in 2016, the tabloids found their new favourite royal/celebrity couple to harass.
Throughout the couple's relationship, the media has continued to obsess and plague the couple with articles published continuously on the couple's private life.
No matter how you feel about the characters in question, one cannot dispute that the coverage given to Meghan was vile to put it politely. Meghan has been called and labelled a variety of disgusting names with the excuse of the media ‘exposing her true nature’ when in reality the behaviour the media had with Meghan can only be labelled as bullying.
In October 2019, Meghan sued The Mail as they had invaded her privacy and published a letter she had written to her father. Prince Harry came forward at this point as well as he released a statement on the bullying Meghan faced from the media due to their relationship and how he “had been a silent witness to her private suffering for too long,” and how the media’s behaviour “destroys people and destroys lives”.
Furthermore, a particular media personality that comes to many people's minds when discussing the media's cruelty towards Meghan, is the English broadcaster Jeremy Clarkson who writes weekly columns for the Sun. Clarkson had a strange fixation on Meghan Markle and declared that he despised her “on a cellular level” and made a variety of repulsive comments about Meghan. Clarkson had written and published a column on Meghan that could only be described as a hate crime with his unsavoury comments in December of 2022. The Sun in an effort to damage control did publish an apology following the criticism of the column, but the damage Clarkson would have caused the woman in question is not something that cannot be easily fixed.
*mention of suicidal thoughts*
During Meghan’s interview with Oprah Winfrey in 2021 and in her 2022 Netflix documentary, Meghan talked about the media's influence on her mental health. The torment from the media had led to Meghan struggling with suicidal thoughts, as she told Oprah “I just didn't want to be alive anymore. And that was a very clear and real and frightening constant thought.”
*mention of miscarriage*
During the Netflix documentary, Prince Harry also made comments on how he blames The Mail for Meghan’s miscarriage in July 2020. Harry placed blame on the stress caused by the legal actions warranted when The Mail published Meghan’s private letter to her father in 2019. Harry states that “I believe my wife suffered a miscarriage because of what the Mail did”.
The relationship between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle is one of love but also one of struggle. Unlike most relations where the struggle is private and dealt with accordingly, their struggles were from the obsessive coverage the media gave to their private relationship.
Nina Dobrev and Ian Somerhalder
Former ‘Vampire Diaries’ costars and couple are prime examples of a peaceful breakup turning toxic due to a problematic fanbase. The couple worked together on their CW show, with Dobrev playing the show's protagonist ‘Elana Gibert’ and Somerhalder playing her love interest ‘Damon Salvatore’. As their characters grew closer so did they, as they started dating off-screen in 2010 during the show's second season.
Their relationship was kept private, however, that did not stop their fanbase from showering them with support as the ship ‘Delena’ became, arguably, the most popular ship in the history of the show, with the characters ending up together at the show's finale. While ‘Delena’ lasted till the conclusion of the show in 2017, their real-life relationship did not, with the couple splitting in 2013.
The co-stars and exes continued to work together and repeatedly stressed that their break-up was drama-free. Dobrev confirmed their break-up with E! News, saying that “I've said this before, that we didn't break up because anything bad happened…we were friends long before we dated and we still are now”.
Though the former couple managed to keep things professional and friendly with each other the media continued to spread stories of jealousy and betrayal. The harmless shipping of fictional characters turned toxic as the ‘Delena’ fanbase started placing an uncomfortable amount of pressure on the couple to get back together. Somerhalder made a comment on this during the 10th anniversary of the series premiere in 2019, where he stated that “Delena fans were actually really problematic," and how they “were mean to like my family and me, and it just got really weird for a little while”.
A once amicable break-up turned negative as the fixation on this fictional couple caused the real-life pair stress under the media’s obsession with them. Dobrev explained in 2015, “The drama is in the media, it's not with us”, but it seems that no amount of reassurance can stop obsessed individuals from interfering in a personal relationship.
Selena Gomez and Justin Bieber
The relationship between Selena Gomez and Justin Bieber is well-known and publicised, mostly being known due to the on-and-off nature of their relationship and all the drama circulated around the couple.
They got together in 2010 when Gomez was 18 and Bieber was 16. The couple then split later in 2012 due to their young age. However, even though they broke up that did not stop obsessive fan behaviour.
This couple was expected to be in a mature and permanent relationship when they were only teenagers/young adults. Most relationships pursued at a young age don’t work out and have their own issues as the people involved in the relationship make mistakes and learn about themselves. However, due to their fans, their teenage relationship was idolised and placed on a pedestal.
The couple had a volatile relationship filled with controversy and public arguments. The stress of having your teen relationship and break-up being publicised constantly would only work to put the couple in question under an unfathomable amount of stress. They engaged in Twitter disputes with feuds forming and cheating rumours going wild. The world was given a front-row seat in this ‘teen romance’ movie.
However, it wasn’t a movie, was it? These were the lives of two very real people.
There is a lot to say about the controversy of this couple but, I will mainly be focusing on the toxic behaviour of the ‘Jelena’ fanbase in recent years.
Even now when the couple have permanently separated with Bieber marrying his wife Hailey Bieber in 2018, people continue to harass the couple. Toxic fans have accused Hailey of ‘stealing’ Justin from Selena and have created this false internet feud between the two female celebrities. Both of them have come out and said that they themselves do not have any ill regard for each other. In December 2020, a source told Entertainment Tonight that all three of these stars have expressed how exhausted they are over this ongoing feud. The source states “Selena, Justin and Hailey are all tired of the Selena vs. Hailey narrative at this point”. The source goes on to say that, “they just want people to move on so they can move on too”.
The turmoil caused by the incessant negative fanbase has affected all parties involved in this relationship, in particular Hailey Bieber. The model expressed the stress and pressure she faced from the consistent rumours of drama surrounding her marriage. She took to TikTok in April of 2022 in an attempt to beg the persistently negative fanbase to leave her alone, “I’m minding my business. I don’t do anything. I don’t say anything. Leave me alone, please. Enough time has gone by where it’s valid to leave me alone.”
Selena Gomez has even come forward in another TikTok live where she urged her fans to be wary of their words as “words matter”. The TikTok live in question did not make mention of Hailey Bieber but many believe this is in response to Hailey opening up about her struggles regarding online hate and bullying. Selena makes it clear that “no one should ever be spoken to in the manner that I’ve seen”, as all she wants is a positive and kind space surrounding herself and her fans.
While these are just a few examples of how our obsession with celebrity relationships can often lead to disastrous consequences for the couple in question. There are still many more examples of this as it’s been a staple of pop culture. From Brad and Angelina to Olivia Rodrigo and Joshua Basset, we keep becoming totally entrapped with celebrity relationships.
While many celebrities do choose to make their relationships public it is important for us to understand that all relationships deserve a level of privacy and that even though you might have a particular favourite ship or celebrity couple you should keep a level of distance. It is important to remember that these are people too and their relationships are human just like ours.
So, when privacy is asked for, give it, and respect decisions made by these public figures in regard to their relationships as it only directly affects themselves.
Even the most wholesome relationships have their problems, and it is important to understand that, we as a society should not be giving any support to toxic relationships and harmful relationships just because we like the idea of a certain two people together.
Love stories will always hold a special place in our hearts. But in the case of real-life love stories, we need to keep in mind that these relationships are not those of the stories, as they are human.