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In case you didn't realize it from the popularity of Mad Men, Eat Pray Love, and Elin Nordegren on the cover of People, divorce is trendy in pop culture.
So very trendy, in fact, that a writer for The New York Times had no choice but to coin a convenient, catchy term in order to explain the phenomenon that is our obsession with the breakup of (real or otherwise) celebrity marriages: divorce porn.
The mentions above aren't the only cases of divorce porn inundating our pop culture landscape. The writer points to several other examples including: the Broadway hit, Promises, Promises; Andrew Young's best-selling memoir, The Politician; and the much-publicised breakups of celebrities like Susan Sarandon, Sandra Bullock, and the Gores. The list goes on and on ... which is great news for happily married couples everywhere because apparently -- if you believe this author -- divorce porn addiction is the key to long, happy marriage.
One only has to look to some recent statistics to understand the validity of this statement. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the divorce rate in America is at a 30-year low -- down 8 percent in the last five years and 34 percent since its peak in 1979. Another way to look at it: roughly 20,000 fewer American couples are divorcing every year as compared with a decade ago.
So why are people divorcing less? Of course, the author reasons, it's because they're all watching divorce porn:
Divorce porn may be that rare indulgence that actually slakes interest in the activity it celebrates. Don’t like divorce; partake in more divorce porn.
In other words, couples who fantasize about cheating or throwing in the towel can simply live vicariously through the failed marriages they see on TV, and all their rocky relationship issues will be cured! Talk about self-medicating.
Thousands of divorced people across the nation are likely slapping themselves on the forehead, exclaiming: "If only I had set my DVR to record Mad Men, this wouldn't have happened!"
Obviously, I take issue with this article. I will agree that divorce is very prevalent in entertainment today -- but then again, when hasn't it been? Just because this (note: married) writer hasn't noticed it before doesn't mean it hasn't been there the whole time. Moreover, it's the insinuation that there's a cause-effect relationship between the popularity of divorce porn and the drop in divorce rate that's eliciting more than a few eye-rolls from me.
(And this probably isn't the time to point out that perhaps the number of divorces is less because the number of marriages is less. But why quibble about methodology when there are moral high grounds to occupy and marriage advice to be doled out?)
In response to the article, I'd like to propose a couple reasons why divorce -- divorce, not divorce porn, which to me is a confusing, lazy, faddish label -- is so popular in pop culture not just today but every day.
For one thing, we live in the era of too much information; we're obsessed with every graphic, gory detail of celebrities' personal lives. To suggest that we're more fascinated by celebrity divorce than we are with other life events -- marriage, death, family life, arrests, whatever -- is absurd. Obviously, that writer needs to read a few more gossip rags! So what if several major celebrities happened to get divorced this year? That doesn't automatically reflect a national divorce trend.
And another: Whether people like to admit it our not, most of us find comfort in knowing that other people experience the same pain, joy, heartbreak, triumph, sadness, pride, and disappointment that we do. Far from using pop culture to live through folks who we tell ourselves are vastly different from us, I think many people instead derive enjoyment from relating directly to them.
Do you think pop culture is obsessed with divorce?
Image via AMC