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Julie Burchill Life

The rise of virtue-splitting

Are you a celebrity wanting a divorce? Just blame Trump and Brexit

November 30, 2018

9:34 AM

30 November 2018

9:34 AM

The Old Hollywood was remarkable for its flagrant shamelessness. Film stars who walked cheetahs on leashes along Sunset Boulevard were hardly likely to be climbing into bed with a mug of Ovaltine and a detective novel once their working day was done and film fans just knew that their idols were merely marking time on the screen between one long round of booze-soaked bed-hopping, living vicariously through them.

But now that sex taboos have been busted, *civilians* also are able to live lives of booze-soaked bed-hopping. So stars of the screen have become icons of cleanliness. This can take the shape of banging on about *wellness* until the paying public feels a fervent desire to garrote them to death with a knotted rope of kale – and of claiming that their romantic relationships break up not because of the normal levels of sexual fatigue which plagues lesser mortals but BECAUSE THEY CARED TOO MUCH. It’s virtue-splitting, the choice of stars who don’t want to become international figures of fun like Gwyneth Paltrow when she and Chris Martin *consciously uncoupled*.

Film stars have always employed publicists to spin tall tales about their love-splits. It’s either *pressure of work* (tell that to nurses and ambulance drivers) or *the difficulty of long-distance relationships* (ditto cabin crew and oil workers) but surely the most monumentally self-serving luvvie-fest rationale for getting the hell out of Dodge was the recent announcement from the actor Michael Sheen – to a bated-breathed world, I’ll wager – that he split up with the actress Sarah Silverman after a four year relationship because of Brexit and Donald Trump.

It gets better. You might think that like, any reasonable couple, they broke up because they were on opposites sides of the political divide. But no – being highly-paid and over-privileged, Sheen and Silverman would naturally be immune to the rough magic of populism. It was sheer sacrifice that tore our star-crossed lovers apart, as each sought to minister to their respective traumatized homelands; he came back to pontificate – sorry, investigate – on why we voted for Brexit, while she chose to stay in the USA and harass hapless Trump-supporters. Sheen told the Telegraph, ‘That led to her doing her show I Love You America and it led to me wanting to address the issues that I thought led some people to vote the way they did about Brexit, in the area I come from and others like it.’

It had nothing to do, of course, with the fact that our lovebirds had been together for four years at this point – practically a Golden Wedding in Hollywood years, but generally agreed by psychologists to be the actual point when the notorious Seven Year Itch kicks in. Just as the sex-thrills wearing off had nothing to do with the sundering of Jen ’n’ Justin, Brad ’n’ Ange and the intolerable Lena Dunham and her hipster beau Jack Antonoff, who split after five years and claimed as is par for the course to be Bestest Friends Forever until he was caught with Dunham’s friend Lorde sitting on his lap and issued a tweet complaining about ‘having the most important friendships and working relationships in my life reduced to dumb heteronormative gossip.’

‘First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in a baby-carriage’ went a rhyme from more innocent times. In showbiz, as surely as the sun rises, first comes the press release about utmost respect, then come the lawyers, then comes the popcorn and gaiety of nations. They may be legends on their own Instagram, but when it comes to affairs of the heart and genitalia, it’s good to know that stars are still just as needy, greedy and seedy as us civilians.


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