they are the Shakira/Pique of the online world, the Preysler/Vargas Llosa for people who have seen after the sunPlease read Ottessa Moshfegh and learn what she means by “the Lorde and Jack Antonoff PDF”. The separation, still unconfirmed, of Normal people star Paul Mescal and singer Phoebe Bridgers have broken the hearts of those who call themselves “Internet girls,” and who aren’t just girls.

The breakup rumors began circulating in late December. As with almost all news from the international gossip press, the story originated on Deux Moi, the site that shares anonymous sightings of celebrities in the wild. In this case, the Two Me podcast, two you, mentioned that Bridgers and comedian and filmmaker Bo Burnham had been seen “kissing” on a date at New York’s Connelly Theater. At the same time, Matty Healy, the lead singer of The 1975, posted on his account a photo showing him and Bridgers kissing, with Burnham behind them as if blessing the encounter. The theory has even been supported by the singer’s lyrics. In the song that Bridgers wrote for SZA, ghost in the machine, talks about “being alone” and fighting with someone in the Ludlow Hotel in New York. “You said all my friends are on my payroll/You’re not wrong, you’re an asshole/Screaming at you at the Ludlow/I was yours for free,” the lyrics continue.

Mescal has since been seen having coffee with Angelina Jolie in London, along with Jolie’s daughter Shiloh, although they are not believed to be a couple. Jolie congratulated Mescal after seeing her performance in A Streetcar Named Desire at the Almeida Theatre.

When the news broke, social media was flooded with laments like “I can’t keep living in a world where Paul Bridgers and Paul Mescal aren’t together.” The creators of TikTok made heartbreaking montages with scenes of Normal people, the television series that made Mescal famous, and photos of the couple at the Met Gala. The hashtag #paulmescalandphoebebridgers reached 3.2 million views.

Why so much emotional investment around a couple who had only been together for a year and a half and only had a few photos together? Several factors explain the interest. For starters, a certain corner of internet culture views Bridgers and Mescal’s relationship as something of their own making: it formed before their very eyes. The first date between Bridgers and Mescal was given in full view of the whole world, in an Instagram Live, and their first contact was through Twitter.

It was May 2020, the peak of the first pandemic lockdown. Like everyone else, Phoebe Bridgers watched Normal peoplethe series based on the Sally Rooney novel that had just premiered, and tweeted: “Just watched Normal people and now I’m sad and horny,” to which Mescal, who was apparently already a fan of the singer, replied, “I’m officially dead.” Continuing the public flirtation, which received hundreds of thousands of likes at a time when there were no events, premieres, or award shows to watch, Bridgers retorted, “nooo don’t die, you’re so talented, uh-huh.”

Shortly after that, Wonderland The magazine came up with the idea of ​​inviting them to their already famous Instagram date. “What is the leisure offer?” Mescal started (an Irish way of saying “what’s up”). “I think it’s well documented that I’m a fan of his music,” he continued. In the next few minutes, he virtually introduced her to his plant, Henry.

Confirmation that the two were seeing each other in person also came on Twitter. In July 2020, the Lemon Tree cafe in the Irish town of Kinsale tweeted that the two had been there having breakfast. Mescal later appeared alongside Phoebe Waller Bridge in the video for Bridgers’ song. savior complex, but it would take another year for the couple to make a public appearance together, blessed and dressed by Gucci, at a gala at the LACMA museum in Los Angeles. By then, a segment of the population had already decided that the American singer-songwriter and the Irish actor were their ideal couple, a Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz for Twentysomethings, a new version of the Alex Turner/Alexa Chung duo that continues to have a cult following. It’s hard to resist such a calculated combination of good looks, success, talent and fancy clothes: In her most famous photo, which shows them both bundled up on a beach, the Prada logo is clearly visible on her jacket. Even her hair was aspirational and the sweet spot of alternative: a fashionable mullet for him, the signature platinum gray tint for her.

It was the latest case of shipping, a term that refers to the desire of a fandom’s followers for two or more people, either real life people or fictional characters, to have a romantic or sexual relationship. It is what is known as “parasocial relations”.

The expression caught on in the United States, and, well, in the Republic of the Internet, a little over a year ago on the occasion of another relatively niche celebrity divorce. Comedian John Mulaney, who had incorporated her wife, costume designer and photographer Anne Marie Tendler, into her comedic routines, announced that he was separating from her and, shortly after, expecting a child with actress Olivia Munn . Many social media users reacted as if they had experienced a cruel betrayal.

“When you have a parasocial relationship with someone, you admire them and idealize them in some way. As a result, you really want that person to be happy and successful in every possible way. […] Your hope that their relationship will work out is a manifestation of some kind of wish fulfillment,” said psychology professor Sally Theran, who specializes in researching these kinds of projections. harper’s bazaar. According to Theran, some extreme examples of this include the hope that Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston they will be together again or the collective joy when Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck gave their relationship a second chance.

Clinical psychologist Arianna Brandolini d’Adda, who has her own YouTube channel, explained in an article in repellent that the reason we make such a big deal about celebrity divorces is rooted in the theory of evolution. “As humans, we are programmed to pay attention to the dominant individuals in the group, in this case celebrities. By simply watching and learning what high-status people do, you are more likely to become one,” he said. “Paying attention to what those at the top are doing has a political purpose, because it will make you better equipped to work on the social scene. Celebrities often represent a fantasy of what we would like to have, so it’s quite natural to get involved in their lives and relationships.” This was already the case in early Hollywood, but no one saw Carole Lombard and Clark Gable dating live on Instagram. The seemingly unfiltered access to celebrities provided by social media intensifies that illusion of intimacy.

In the theater of celebrity relationships, still shaped by traditional norms of monogamy, the worst role is often reserved for “the homewrecker,” the woman who is perceived as the cause of the breakup of a beloved heterosexual couple. So far, Bo Burnham isn’t getting the virulence that, say, Olivia Munn got. As one tweet summed up: “This is all like Brangelina to the Lexapro people.” Those who had made an emotional investment in Bridgers and Mescal’s relationship are left to review the photos Mescal took of the singer, and wait for clues about the breakup on her next album.

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