On Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin’s Divorce, Clickbait And The Death Throes Of The Media

Integrity: 1) the quality of being honest and having moral principles. 2) the quality of being sound in construction.
__

Sad news as Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin announce publicly via Gwyneth’s website Goop.com that they’re getting a divorce. A divorce is almost invariably sad news, even when one half of the erstwhile couple wrote I Was Born To Fix You. So it ought to go without saying that hopefully they can be left to it to get the split finalised with a minimum of pain and anguish and without the sort of journalistic pile-up these affairs usually invite.

Like I said, it ought to go without saying but, y’know, clickbait…

The Goop.com statement itself is entirely dignified and thoughtful. Ok there’s also an Instagrammy snap of them in presumably happier times, and of course she’s wearing something floaty like a latter day earth goddess (and why not) that makes her look both, like, totally effortlessly glamorous and completely approachable. Which is a bit ick, but all in all it could and possibly should have been worse.

Of course in the celebriverse nothing is so simple. And they didn’t quite help themselves, what with that pseudospiritual/scientific-sounding title ‘Conscious Uncoupling’ and the much longer –insert pejorative term here– diatribe explaining the concept, which is exactly what you’d expect from a cursory glance around the rest of the website.

That’s the nicest way I can think to put it – being a crusty old cynic I take issue with anything quasi-thought-based that uses Paleolithic man as a rhetorical parry in the intellectual skirmish.

See also: the paleo diet (Paleolithic man had a life expectancy of about five minutes and a diet that consisted of whatever happened to be lying around, up to and including the contents of dead animals’ stomachs – they definitely wouldn’t have been sniffy about cereals or monosodium glutamate).

Anyhoo, the end result of all this is that a divorcing couple made an entirely uncontroversial public statement which they framed in a typically anodyne and precious fashion. But what else would anyone expect: a selfie of Gwyneth with a pint and a double bacon cheeseburger accompanied by a missive along the lines of ‘dumped the drip. Mama’s found her fancy underwear and her inner goddess wants a spanking; who’s gonna’ oblige’?

Or a Chris Martin selfie accompanied by a missive along the same lines for that matter.

That really ought to be the end of it. But modern journalism increasingly resembles an echo chamber of bollocks.

The Daily Mail has been its usual sensitive self, posting pictures of the couple’s real estate portfolio and Gwyneth in short shorts and asking rhetorically how they’re going to split their $150m and sparkly friends. Further downmarket and there’s a shit ton of schadenfreude with Gwyneth’s name on it. So far, so typical.

But the more interesting development is that of proper journalists trying to put it into a wider context, which is like trying to find meaning in a Paulie Shore movie (thanks Clueless, you’ve always been there for me).

The Guardian’s Anne Perkins posted a toxic little piece (she reserved most of her ire for the ‘snake oil salesmen of the soul’ experts, but do check out that final paragraph) about how this conscious uncoupling had nothing to teach ordinary people. To be fair Goop.com is a little didactic, but it’s mainly mildly self-congratulatory navel gazing, like most blogs (especially this one).

The Washington Post crayoned a thinkpiece about how actually maybe the ‘female celebrity’ doesn’t have it all, after all. You see, theoretically they do because they have high-powered careers and the finances to raise kids simultaneously and have agency and look totally hot in skinny jeans. To be fair, a lifetime of pressure to diet surely contradicts the fundamental conceit of ‘having it all’.

But anyway, celebrity divorces enable us to assess our and our society’s attitudes to marriage and divorce with emotional distance. Predictably, the Post concludes that maybe none of us can have it all, after all.

Well stick a knife in me, I’m done.

I mean, wow. Here was me thinking that journalism was in crisis because of money rather than a race to the bottom of the integrity barrel.

In the midst of the tawdry gossip of Gwyneth’s alleged affair(s), published with cowardly qualifiers such as ‘might’ because libel, speculation over asset splits and custody battles, memes and clickbait and snicker-snack paddywhack snark; and crocodile tears cried by commentators for no one but themselves; there’s a faux-profound need to understand, to find any old pop psychology that hasn’t already been claimed by one of the other tabloids to recast a commonplace personal catastrophe as a study in the ways and follies of man. And that, my darlings, is probably the longest sentence I’ve ever written.

There’s only one actual lesson to learn from all this: there’s a yawning chasm between ‘public interest’ and ‘things the public might be interested in’.

Beyond that, if you don’t know either of them then you’re not affected by their separation (if you think you are then you might want to reconsider your priorities in life). Their divorce can teach you nothing about the problems you may have in your own relationships. And while we’re on the subject, whatever enjoyment you might get from it all do bear in mind that it comes at the expense of actual people with actual feelings.

So while ‘conscious uncoupling’ sounds like pretentious self-parody, whatever panacea they self-prescribe for their pain is a matter for them. And it probably beats spending the next year getting pissed in your kitchen Facebook stalking and glazing your friends’ eyes over with never-ending volcanic rumblings about the many failings of ‘ting.

A Second Pitch For Man Of Steel 2: Batman Vs Superman

With news that Wonder Woman is set to make an appearance alongside Batman in the Man of Steel sequel, here at Frood we have developed a second pitch (first pitch here). Warner Bros, drop us a line and we’ll get a treatment together…

Light-dappled waves kissed the shores, caressed them even. A gentle breeze took the edge off the heat. Paradise. She took a sip of her long drink (such an elegant glass) and allowed her mind to drift.

With fire in his eyes and ice on his tongue he was possibly the most beautiful man she’d ever seen, tall and dark and handsome. She blushed involuntarily in sudden embarrassment at her soppiness. But he’d literally swept her off her feet. He’d promised her the Earth and she believed he could deliver; when they’d made love he’d been gentle and caring, attentive to her every need. And afterwards he’d bathed her in a warm glow, holding her in his rippling arms until dawn.

She sighed despite herself – he was such a simple, sensitive man, maybe the perfect man – a good listener (incredible hearing come to think of it), handy. She found herself increasingly day-dreaming of raising a family with him: he’d be an excellent father, the best anyone could hope for.

She arched her back and stretched languidly, gracefully, enjoying the feeling (he’s really got under my skin).

Better call Steve, she thought, what can I say: I’m sorry, Steve, it’s not gonna’ work out Steve. I’ve loved being with you, and I loved you from the moment I rescued you from your plane crash. But even though I love you I’m no longer in love with you. The truth is I’ve met someone and he…well, he isn’t you.

No, too cruel. But what then: it isn’t you it’s me? I’m not ready to settle down with you because I’ve not settled down with me yet; I don’t know who I’m going to be yet? Yuck.

And anyway, it wouldn’t be quite true. Because she hadn’t just met someone – she’d met someones. Plural.

She’d met him first, just the other week in fact. He was suave and dignified, sophisticated with an arrogant streak a mile wide. Oh he’d swaggered about like he owned the place (he probably did come to think of it), but she’d sensed a shyness in him, a little boy lost hiding underneath the $10,000 suit and expensive manicure. So complex, so intriguing. Potent mix.

They’d gone for dinner, somewhere fancy, but she wasn’t interested in the money, had enough of her own. He’d ordered for her (control freak?), which she normally hated but he’d been right on the money; she couldn’t have done better herself. He was a good detective, he said, could read people, like a gift, like it was no big thing. That arrogance again, but delivered with enough smooth charm that she found she didn’t mind.

He’d walked her to her hotel – streets aren’t safe, he said. She’d laughed internally at that, she was pretty confident that if anything the streets weren’t safe from her. But it was touching in an old-fashioned sort of way. And he clearly adored the city.

She’d made her mind up by the time they reached the hotel. But then his shyness reared up – is he not used to this sort of thing? He’d held the door for her and she’d thought does he really think we’re here for coffee?

But then he’d, well he’d ravished her, like a pirate in one of those stupid romance novels. It was quick and dirty and sexy as hell. Not very feminist of you, Di, she thought; a man who took what he wanted like that, who hadn’t treated her like a goddess like men usually did. But boy did it work

She found herself blushing again from the memory.

Which reminded her, she was seeing him tonight. Better make sure she hadn’t double-booked and agreed to see farm-boy too – this dating two men was exhausting. But she couldn’t decide between them and in her more honest moments she admitted to herself that she was having too much fun to stop.

Her phone rang: he had a helicopter coming to pick her up in an hour (they were going to the opera so dress nice). Shit she found him sexy. She sighed, despite herself.

Miles away ‘farm-boy’s’ brow furrowed. He wasn’t quite sure what he’d heard, but he was uneasy. Don’t jump to any conclusions. But even if you’re right, he thought, I’m a good man with a good heart; I’ve as good a chance as anyone.

Meanwhile in the gloomy, subterranean depths Batman smiled wickedly in the green glow of a computer screen.

Kal-El, this means war.

__

But on second thoughts the studio will have second thoughts about this pitch – there’s only one Wonder Woman after all, which means one of Batman or Superman will lose.  And that can’t happen, because you need a draw (and it’s a cop-out if she decides to go back to wussy Steve in the end having learned the value of reality over fantasy, vomit).

So here’s the shock twist (it doesn’t matter that it makes no sense, just go with it) – it turns out that Batman and Superman are actually dating different incarnations of Wonder Woman from different Earth-Nos so they both win! Just like in that R Kelly/Usher music video!!!

For her part, Wonder Woman expresses her dismay to the studio execs that by now we should have moved beyond the notion that women are chattels to be bartered or otherwise exist for men to compete over them. Surely in this day and age she should be more than just a plot device?  But the producers told her not to worry her pretty little head over it and get back in the kitchen where she belongs. Cos’ she’s really good at all that baking and stuff and the men are sure gonna’ be hungry soon.

So she kills them.

The end.