‘Karl Stefanovic is a free man. He owes you nothing.’

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Another day, another headline, another Karl controversy is the talk of town.

Karl Stefanovic, as by now I’m sure you’re aware, has a new girlfriend. Her name is Jasmine Yarbrough, she’s a model and fashion designer and she does, yes, happen to be 10 years his junior.

In the relative lifetime that was his marriage to Cassandra Thorburn – the couple were married for 21 years and share three children together – it’s not unfair to say his new relationship came quickly, because it did. News broke of the relationship in February, four or five months after Stefanovic’s split from Thorburn came to light.

Does it matter? Well, not to us. Do we care? Unfortunately, we do. We care because we always have. We live in a celebrity-obsessed and saturated culture, and as much as we lament the media’s focus on celebrities, we’re still the ones clicking on them.

And so, naturally, everyone has weighed in.

On Friday, radio host Meshel Laurie expressed her concern for the way the relationship is playing out publicly on her breakfast show. She had no qualms calling out Stefanovic’s behaviour as brazenly “insensitive”.

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“All you ever see are photos of the ex [Thorburn] cleaning out the house. She’s got the kids, she’s doing the life and Karl is at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, or he’s flying off overseas for holidays. I think this is a bit rude.

“Is he doing anything wrong? Well, it depends. Is it criminal? No. Is it illegal? No, is it a bit bloody shameless and rotten? Maybe.”

When probed by co-host Matt Tilley as to whether it was possible to hide his new love forever, Laurie went on to say there are consequences Yarbrough can “cop”.

“Do you know what? She can just cop it mate, because he’s got kids and an ex-wife who’s stood by him for 100 years and they have a life together that still needs to be protected.”

Laurie wasn’t the first. Jackie O came weeks before her.

“They see a mother, she stood by him for all those years… this is a lovely lady who’s stood by him for years, they have a family and they see him leave her.

“And this is what they think,” she said. “He’s just left her for some young 20-year-old and he’s cavorting around, kissing her, cuddling her, for everyone to see.

“They also believe that could happen to me.”

Image: Getty.

It's not a coincidence that both of these comments were made by women. The curious case of Karl's crush has been unique in its ability to strike fear, passion and total contempt in the most ambivalent of minds. From afar, without the benefit of context and nuance, Karl's story looks like the ultimate stereotype. It looks like the plot of a crappy sitcom, where a man leaves his family for a younger model.

It looks like that. It's probably far from that.

But because we don't have the gift of context or nuance or details, we take the stereotype at face value and run. Jackie O and Meshel Laurie aren't an anomaly when it comes to thinking  - and feeling - this way. One look at social media comments will show you the crowd is pretty evenly split. Australians inherently value "the good bloke"; the loyal one, the down to earth one. Somehow our most prized larrikin wasn't so "good" anymore.

It's not uncommon -  and perhaps a little innate - for us to project our own fears and insecurities onto someone else. Particularly if that someone is in the public eye.

The problem comes when we consistently do it publicly; because despite purporting to do the opposite, our criticisms of Karl do nothing to help Thorburn or the couple's kids. It simply casts Karl as the shallow devil a little longer, undermining the good he does, the person he probably is.

So does that mean the media will stop reporting on them? Don't hold your breath. The media, us, you, will always be a little interested in the life and times of those on our small screen. Consider the coverage of Pete Stefanovic and Sylvia Jeffreys' wedding, or how the internet just about fell over itself when Peter Fitzsimons gave unique insight into his marriage with Lisa Wilkinson.

A piqued interest into Stefanovic's love life is normal. Our obsession with his character, decisions and values not so.

Life, as we know, isn't so black and white. Relationships aren't so black and white. And although so many of us are desperate to avoid finding ourselves the centre of our own Thorburn/Stefanovic saga, there's no place for projecting our insecurities on him.

It's become unhelpful, and perhaps a little unkind.

The truth is, Karl Stefanovic is a single man. And like it or not, he doesn't owe us anything.

Your fears aren't his responsibility.

The Mamamia OutLoud team discuss Australia's obsession with Karl's new relationship.

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