Consider that tabloid stories usually fall into one of two categories: "I've never been happier!" Cher shrieked in one notable tabloid cover from the '70s, in which she was seen in a photo with her arm around Elvis. (The story said they had just been married. They never were.)
The alternate story is about how dire a celebrity's life has become. The tabloids serve to elevate celebrities to religious figures; they spend as much time and energy tearing them down, reminding us they are mere mortals.
Whenever someone visits from out of town I take them for a drink at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. It's hallowed ground, after all: this is where Liz Taylor and Richard Burton were first wed. And Liz and Dick are the perfect celebrity couple: full of glamour and beauty, but tainted by endless bickering, breakups, reunions — they were married and divorced twice — booze, weight gain and loss. Their legendary problems made them the perfect tabloid couple.
It boggles the mind to consider how much money The National Enquirer alone must have made from Liz and Dick stories (and they didn't even get any residuals).
So the next time you mourn the end of a celebrity couple's relationship, take a moment to ask yourself: are you sad, or are you taking secret pleasure from watching the rich and fabulous suffer for their perfection?
Matthew Hays writes for The Guardian, The Globe and Mail, The Daily Beast, The New York Times and Vice. He teaches courses in film studies at Concordia University and Marianopolis College.
Read Matthew Hays' 10 biggest Oscar snubs of all time.