If two star images get married “in secret” in South Carolina and everyone yawns, did the marriage actually happen?
I’m being somewhat facetious, but the news of the marriage between demi-stars Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds broke late last night, and everyone yawned. Twitter is undoubtedly the best place to observe these initial reactions, and there were some doozies:
Sign of pop dementia: I initially assumed the Reynolds/Lively wedding was a RE-marriage, having mashed Lively and Scarjo into one person.
— emilynussbaum (@emilynussbaum) September 10, 2012
I just told my husband Blake Lively&Ryan Renolds got married and his reaction was”Why do these people keep getting married!?” Made me laugh.
— Busy Philipps (@Busyphilipps25) September 10, 2012
@annehelen Ryan Reynolds is totally a crazy person in my mind now. He’s the Liz Taylor of contemporary bland leading men.
— Rebecca K. (@isadora_ink) September 10, 2012
Now, if you are a lover of the Reynolds or Lively star image, you will likely protest: they did it in secret because they don’t want the publicity! True and false. They did not sell the photos of their wedding to People Magazine — something we associate with reality stars, but don’t forget well-respected, well-regarded stars like Reese Witherspoon, Drew Barrymore, and even Tom Cruise sell the rights to their weddings. It’s smart PR. (And who knows – these photos may emerge in the next week or so). Many of those stars had “secret” (meaning: not publicized ahead of time) weddings. This wedding was not publicized ahead of time, and there are currently no paparazzi shots, but I do not buy, for a second, that it’s truly a secret wedding. If anything, they kept it secret so that they could then sell “exclusive” rights to the photos, another well-known gossip industry trick. They’re also slowly leaking crazy info, like the fact that Lively’s “friend” Florence Welch (does this seem to crazy to anyone else?) performed a few songs, the couple had lunch with Bette Midler earlier that weekend, and the site of the wedding is from The Notebook.
But here’s the thing: Lively is an established fame-whore. She/Her Agent runs the fame game, and she has done a spectacularly good job of exploiting her major talent, namely, the ability to look stunning in short dresses. There is no way she’s not going to exploit this marriage – in as tasteful a way as possible, of course – the same way she exploited her relationship with Penn Badgley and Leonardo DiCaprio before her. When you’re short on one half of the stardom equation (actual acting talent), you compensate with an intriguing extra-textual life. And Lively has been very, very good at doing so every since her name made its way to the public’s lips back during the halcyon days of Gossip Girls‘s first two seasons.
Again, doubters gonna doubt: and say that Lively did love Badgley, did love DiCaprio, does love Reynolds. I don’t contest that. You just have to understand that love — in any situation — can also be accompanied by career savvy. Both Lively and Reynolds were on paths to legitimate film stardom that didn’t quite pan-out. And when the performances don’t do the job, the best publicists know that you turn to the extra-textual life to keep interest until the performances can win it once again.
Which is why this reaction to her marriage to Reynolds may prove a problem. The all-powerful minivan majority will eat up the details, in part because the minivan majority just loves monogamy and wedded monogamy in particular. But when the tastemakers of celebrity gossip consumption consider the union boring, confuse Lively with Reynolds’ previous wife (ScarJo), and express general disinterest, the best laid star union may not equal the sum of its star parts.
On a purely pragmatic level, lots of stars date other stars because they’re the only ones who understand/can cope with the lifestyle. Frankly, it’s the same thing with grad students, which is why I need to get some start-up capital to start my genius “G-Date” graduate-student dating site. But stars also date other stars because it raises their star stock exponentially — meaning, star dating star does not equal star + star, but (star) * (star). This wedding should be dynamite. It should be so much more fascinating than Barrymore’s wedding to a non-star, or Witherspoon’s wedding to a beige-looking agent.
But we don’t care. It’s not because Reynolds hasn’t been truly interesting since Van Wilder (seriously, that persona: go back to it) or because Lively can’t enunciate. It’s because their relationship is beige. It’s because there’s nothing scandalous, despite the fact that Reynolds is ten years her senior. It’s because they, and their teams, have planned badly: sure, it’s a wedding, but they’ve done nothing in the build up to make it worth your gossip-minded energy. It doesn’t stand for anything. It doesn’t represent anything, other than two wealthy good-looking white people with middling talent getting married — which, if you’re really invested in such things, read the New York Times on Sunday for much more fascinating backstories.
People mistake Ryan Reynolds for other handsome, long-faced stars all the time. People mistake Blake Lively for other long-haired television blondes. People mistake their relationship for the relationships of other beautiful yet otherwise unnotable people. Even if you think that it doesn’t matter whether they married for publicity or not, the fact remains: neither one of them is interesting enough to render the “secret” wedding interesting. And that, readers, is the sign of a falling almost-star.