Oh god, another celebrity couple calls it quits. We’re still reeling from Ben and Jen, Gavin and Gwen, and Miranda and Blake, but Kermit and Miss Piggy? This is worse than our parents divorcing. This is like our whole childhood being torn asunder—all our notions of romance, lifetime commitments, and happily ever after blown to smithereens.
Are the Muppet writers just messing with us for sport? I mean, why not also announce that Alice from The Brady Bunch went on an arson spree? That Captain Kangaroo enjoyed illegal big-game hunting? That Mr. Rogers proudly waved the Confederate flag?
I suspect they’re trolling us for caring so much about celebrity relationships—after all, Jennifer Garner is no more real to me than Miss Piggy is, though I am fairly certain that Jennifer Garner is an actual person and Miss Piggy is a puppet. And maybe the writers have a point: In fact, I have no idea why I care so much about celebrity divorces. There is no rhyme or reason to my distress over these announcements: I cared more about Ben and Jen than I did about Miranda and Blake, for example, because for some reason Jennifer Garner felt “realer” to me than other celebrities. Jennifer Garner plausibly could be my very accomplished best friend, who also just so happens to be gorgeous. But I don’t know them, and rationally, I should save my sympathy for people I know in real life.
But Jennifer Garner or Gwen Stefani getting divorced does strike a nerve, precisely because they are so celestial: They’re accomplished; they’re gorgeous. They have beautiful homes, enviable careers, adorable children. They’ve got their shit together. They even seem to have great personalities, for crying out loud. And to top it all off, they are our age. For those of us who aren’t gorgeous, or are frustrated with that extra 10 pounds, or are mad at our husbands about the pan that’s been soaking in the sink for three days—well, what does that mean for us? If they can’t make it, with their extraordinary looks and their even more extraordinary financial means, does that mean we’re all doomed? Can love ever survive?
Stories of romance, like those of heroism or kindness, are almost as important as seeing them in real life. Take, for example, the furor over Go Set a Watchman, which features an Atticus Finch who is markedly different than the Atticus Finch readers admired in To Kill a Mockingbird. The story is important to us as evidence of a just world: Atticus fights for what’s right; he’s a good man. We believe we can be good because Atticus is, and this new evidence that Atticus is not good, that “morality” is changeable, profoundly shakes our worldview that we exist in an orderly world in which people strive to be good and hope to be happy. We hold up the story of the romance of Ben and Jen or Gwen and Gavin as evidence that life-long romance exists. And when it falls apart, it shakes our belief that that ideal is possible at all. It shakes our belief that anything good is permanent.
Of course we know, rationally, that celebrity couples don’t love each other more or that they are “better” at relationships than we ordinary folks are—compatibility largely depends on luck. But celebrity news is a reminder of the constantly changing nature of the world: People get married and people get divorced. Kids grow up. People die. Nothing stays the same, no matter how much we want it to. Even two Muppets are vulnerable to the whims of their writers. The only constant is change.
And yeah, as for Kermit and Miss Piggy, well…I don’t actually believe it. They’ve got that amour fou, that crazy love, the love that only ends when someone dies.
Or, actually, it might just be a publicity stunt. They are celebrities, after all.
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