With the recent news of one of this year’s breakout stars’, Zooey Deschanel, divorce from Death Cab for Cutie’s frontman, Ben Gibbard, my wheels got spinning about a recent trend I noticed forming among celebrity couples, the-people-finally-know-who-I-am-so-I-don’t-need-too-mooch-off-your-fame-anymore Effect. I first recognized this epidemic early this year with the announcement that Ashton Kutcher would be taking the much sought after role of “Charlie” on Two and A Half Men; and then, just a month later, having publicly embarrassing sexcapades with another woman after Demi Moore, a noted Hollywood icon, has put up with him for 6 years! Per this example, you can see how the Effect comes into play when a somewhat no-name or genre-specific actor/actress dates someone of consistent high-status in Hollywood, someone who has held fame for along time and desires more, while their lesser known counterpart might just be using this person’s continual recognition and longing for love for their own benefit. Deschanel and Kutcher are the most recent perpetuators of this Effect, but I am sure more will become victims as we move into the 2012 Oscar/Mid-season Television that is full of recognition for “Breakout stars”, many of whom are attached to Hollywood royalty. Below I will speculate why and how this nasty trend feasters and ultimately breaks these celebrity unities.
Now I am not saying that love or strong like never came into play with these relationships, but my feeling is that there was an even stronger motivator, fame. Both aforementioned stars, Deschanel and Kutcher, had attained niche-recognition for her quirkiness and his That 70’s Show’s Kelso/Stoner behavior, however neither ever came to the point where your mother or those who watch just network television knew who they were. This is why their nuptials were so crucial! Kutcher had the best exposure by marrying one of the entertainment industry’s most sought after vixens, Moore, who he most he knew would always be held up as a Hollywood icon, and therefore she and him would always have a space in the media spotlight. Maybe he even thought the fact that their ages and degrees-of-fame were so far apart would keep them in the limelight longer than it did, however when they both kept brushing off the media buzz. But he stuck it out, knowing that being tied to an Entertainment Mogul would eventually pay off for his own benefit, and eventually it did. Similarly, Deschanel, who had enjoyed some quirky fame with The New Guy, Elf, and 500 Days of Summer; and who then tried her hand at music, which was better received at the time, knew she was going to be an indie-darling and had to find her catalyst. She found that in Death Cab for Cutie’s Gibbard. She, like Ashton, knew he was a hipster God and that being tied to his style would only help get her music recognition in this niche market/ a very big and well-know niche market. From early on, you could foresee how these two couples were on the cusp of being victimized by the Effect and its false perceptions.
This Fall, with Kutcher being announced as the successor to Charlie Sheen’s infamous role in Two and a Half Men, playing a character much like those he has always played, something started to change in him. I think he began to realize that this was his one big shot at fame and a chance to prove he could actually make it big by just being who he always was, a Kelso/Stoner type character! Maybe people would get sick of seeing this pigeonholed portrayal of Ashton every week, but at least now everybody would know him, including my mom and all those who watch network television. He probably thought he had finally made it, and maybe that is what gave him the motivation to cheat on an über-famous/ yet currently in the background celebrity, and feel that it was not that big of a deal. After all, he started making more of those Nixon commercials, with those womanizing themes, after this situation came to light. In a similar vein, Deschanel was offered her own quirk-tastic show this season, The New Girl, which allowed her personality to shine on a popular Fox timeslot, right after the new sensation, The X-Factor. She, like Kutcher, probably realized that her on-screen behavior had finally won her some talked-about fame as her show is constantly rated as one of 2011’s Best Fall shows. So, although she sings on the show, her unique acting skills that made her an indie darling in the first place, pushed to make her a household name, with no help from her husband. Therefore, she most likely thought that this could be her only chance at having a project that really fits her style, so she had to let her husband and her music go to focus solely on this endeavor.
With all these glimpses and glimmers of fame popping up in Deschanel’s and Kutcher’s heads as they circle around their inflated sense of recognition, they must also see their looming doom in the future. If they didn’t why are they trying so desperately to infiltrate all areas of fame and recognition in order to find something that sticks for them after their series’ finales? However, seeing the way they are and the way their careers have been, I’d say they will be hard pressed to establish themselves after these type-casting roles have solidified their fate.