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Everyone's getting divorced. But not everyone is handling it the same way publicly.
In June, The Cut declared the messy celebrity divorce had returned with the breakups of Kevin Costner and Christine Baumgartner and Addison Timlin and Jeremy Allen White, respectively. But it's September now and The New York Times has proclaimed everyone is breaking up but no one is bitter: Hugh Jackman and Deborra-Lee Furness, Teyana Taylor and Iman Shumpert and Reese Witherspoon and Jim Toth. Of course, Joe Jonas and Sophie Turner are bucking that trend.
So which is it? It's both. Celebrities, in the age of social media and with more unfiltered access to fans than ever, are doing whatever they want when it comes to their breakups. Much like me or you. Either way, it's typically intentional.
"Whether it's a celebrity couple or the couple down the street, there's a choice when it comes to handling a divorce – quietly or in a very dramatic way," says Molly McPherson, crisis management and public relations expert. "In high-profile divorces, it's not uncommon to see one party putting considerable effort into shaping the narrative. When that narrative is used to tarnish the reputation of the other party, it often reveals more about the person spinning the story than about the divorce itself."
Joe Jonas, Sophie Turner divorce breaks 'proverbial third wall'
Have we entered the age of "anything goes" celebrity splits?
Melvin Williams, associate professor of communication and media studies at Pace University, says we never really exited it.
"When fame, wealth, and, in the case of Joe Jonas and Sophie Turner, parental custody is involved, the metaphorical boxing gloves are on, and audiences gleefully sit front row to watch a publicized 'love gone awry showdown,'" Williams says.
This has, however, only become more a part of our lives given social media's reign over our collective consciousness.
Scrolling through Instagram gives people a curated glimpse into celebrity lives. Red carpets and awards show moments, not to mention paparazzi photos, offer a seemingly unvarnished look into their lives. "It reminds us that they're ordinary people too," Erica Chito Childs, a professor of sociology at Hunter College and The Graduate Center, CUNY, previously told USA TODAY.
Whether that gives license for endless speculation about relationship happiness, that's another story.
Given that many fans feel like they know stars personally thanks to social media, celebrity exes "are more intentional than ever in getting ahead of the story when announcing divorce or legal separations and dissolving the previously privileged 'put up a united front' façade for PR’s sake," Williams says. "Unfortunately, an enduring pillar of celebrity divorce is breaking the proverbial third wall and granting the public a glimpse into the couple's love life unmediated."
That's played out with Jonas and Turner, who reached a temporary decision over their daughters' residence amid their impending divorce and a lawsuit.
They "belong to a generation that has grown up with social media," says Narissra M. Punyanunt-Carter, a communication studies professor at Texas Tech University. "Their openness about their lives on platforms like Instagram and Twitter contributed to the perception of a more tumultuous divorce. Their followers had an intimate view of their relationship's ups and downs, and this transparency carried over into their separation."
Chito Childs adds: "Celebrity couples know they have to contend with the public and even the quietest divorces still include the couple making a joint statement that they have decided to go their separate ways and will remain friends, which further shows that it is accepted that the public deserve/need/must be given an explanation for this most personal life event."
'It will almost certainly be messy'
Of course, some breakups have played out more smoothly in the public eye. Take Jackman and Furness, for example.
"Divorces that unfold on equal footing tend to pass without much public scrutiny; there's simply less to sensationalize," McPherson says. "However, when one party has significantly more at stake – be it reputation, recognition, or financial resources – the balance of power can shift dramatically if the public finds out there are dirty tricks at play."
It behooves celebrities to keep any disagreements either very private – or if public, also truthful. Fans will always find receipts to back up their favorite.
"Because social media tends to pick sides, if one side pushes too hard for their version of the truth, the online masses will get to the bottom of it – and it will almost certainly be messy," McPherson adds.
And the messiness isn't something to gloss over as idle celebrity gossip. These are real people with real relationships, finances and children at stake.
Williams adds: "When celebrities divorce, their relationship narratives carry conversational weight, polarizing opinions of their collective and individual public images by brand partners, casual spectators and fans, and profound legal implications for custody, property and wealth distributions in divorce proceedings."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Sophie Turner, Joe Jonas and the messy celebrity divorce era