Why Celebrity Breakups Hit Us So Hard
A clinical psychologist explains why Anna Faris and Chris Pratt's split is exceptionally difficult for fans to bear.
“Chris Pratt and Anna Faris are separating.” Reading the text from my roommate, my heart hurt—just a little—and the popular clip of Michael Scott screaming “No, no, no, nooo” popped into my head. And then I immediately thought, “Why, save the one time I ran into Faris in a hotel elevator, do I care about two people I’ve never met nor spoken to in my life?”
Twitter was abuzz with similar, albeit more emotional tributes and comments about the actors’ separation announcement. “TRUE LOVE DOESN’T EXIST,” “It’s official, love isn’t real,” and countless gifs showing people sobbing were just a few of the online reactions. This year the public endured the Brangelina split, but losing Chris and Anna—a couple who bonded over their Washington roots and dead bug collections—appeared to hit closer to home.
Steven Meyers, a clinical psychologist and professor at Roosevelt University, says this particular breakup has affected people more than others for two reasons. “First, both have played lovable and grounded characters, which are very identifiable,” he says, referring to Pratt’s adorably impossible Andy Dwyer from Parks and Recreation and Faris as a recovering addict and single mom raising her two kids in the CBS sitcom, Mom. “People often confuse actors for the characters they play, whether they are heroes or villains.”
He continues: “Second, Pratt and Faris effectively used social media, which allowed people to see the more intimate and tender details of their relationship. We think we know them as people and as a couple, even though we have never met them. This perceived closeness can be similar to actual closeness in terms of our feelings.”
Despite their newly-announced split, Faris and Pratt's romance is splayed all over social media. As recent as late June, Faris posted a birthday tribute to Pratt with the message, “Ahhh!!! Happy birthday honey!! You always make me laugh. And I love being romantic over twitter.” Combine those with headlines like “Why Chris Pratt and Anna Faris Define Relationship Goals,” and videos piecing together clips of their best moments, and it’s tough to imagine their worst.
But as for those now questioning the whole notion of love? Meyers says it’s a common overreaction.
“When emotions run high, rational thinking runs low,” he says. “Strong negative emotional experiences prime similar memories from our own lives, creating even greater discouragement.”
Just a quick scroll up (six-and-a-half weeks later), and you’ll see Faris’s latest message: “We are sad to announce we are legally separating. We tried hard for a long time, and we’re really disappointed…” Signed by both Faris and Pratt, the screenshot of the iMessage text seems to make their situation even more raw, relatable, and within reach.
For me, it almost felt unfair that perhaps their most vulnerable moment needed to be shared so publicly. After all, he isn’t actually a guardian of the galaxy and she isn’t a former Playboy bunny-turned-sorority housemother. The Instagram tributes with 100,000+ “likes” and red carpet smiles make it easy for us to forget that they’re really just Chris and Anna.