What really triggered the return of the messy celebrity divorce.

In a blink-and-you'll-miss-it Instagram Story, Sophie Turner shared a photo of her bracelet.

It was a beaded friendship bracelet that spelled the word 'Fearless'. 

Yes, you probably see where this is going. For the uninitiated, Fearless is the 2008 sophomore album from a then-18-year-old Taylor Swift. It was released barely a month after Taylor's break-up with fellow teen idol Joe Jonas, and she famously told Ellen DeGeneres that she'd raced to include a track about that particular break-up ('Forever and Always', FYI) before its release.

And so, with a silly little bracelet pic (that was quickly deleted, because of course), Sophie said *a lot*.

It is very petty, in the wake of her split from that very same Jonas 15 years later. Although, in a divorce full of literal court documents, it's also a much sillier tid-bit.

We have seen many messy celebrity splits before. Think Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore's messy 2011 divorce. The furore of Brad/Jen/Angelina (and now just Brad/Angelina). Kim Basinger and Alec Baldwin in the very early 2000s. And a decade earlier, there was perhaps the messiest of them all: Charles and Diana.

Listen to The Spill explain why the messiest celebrity divorces all have one thing in common.

But then came a much nicer narrative. Ushered in by a phrase for the ages: the conscious uncoupling.

Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin's divorce statement is perhaps the most iconic of all time, and while it signalled that they personally were charting a new course, it also seemed to popularise civility. At least outwardly.

But, I am so sorry Gwyneth, the conscious uncoupling tagline is dying.


The days of celebrity divorce statements proclaiming 'we're still the best of friends' or 'we will always share a deep love and respect for one another' are fading away. 

In the past few years, messy divorces have been the backbone of the celebrity news cycle. John Mulaney's iffy divorce/new baby timeline with ex-wife Anna Marie Tendler and now-partner Olivia Munn immediately springs to mind. There was also the demise of Kimye in 2021, the Johnny Depp and Amber Heard fiasco that went on far too long, and oh yeah - Brad and Angelina are still working it all out.

In April 2022, Olivia Wilde was served custody papers on behalf of her ex-fiancé Jason Sudeikis while she was presenting on stage during CinemaCon in April 2022. 

The extremely public moment and Wilde's live reaction became a major media moment, fueling an all-round messy few months for Wilde regarding her relationship with Harry Styles (remember the salad dressing?) and behind-the-scenes drama from her film, Don't Worry Darling

There's also Grimes, who has publicly tweeted (or whatever we call the things we do on X post-name change) at Elon Musk asking him to let her see her son, before suing him for parental rights. Strangely, it was later revealed that Musk secretly sued her for the same thing a month earlier.

Kevin Costner's divorce from Christine Baumgartner, his wife of 18 years, also played out like a soap opera earlier this year. 

The pair claimed in a statement that they would remain the best of friends, and then Christine was accused of refusing to leave their AU$227 million home, requested AU$389,000 a month in child support and claimed Costner told their three kids about the divorce via a 10-minute Zoom call. 

So, not besties then.

There are so many others: Addison Timlin and Jeremy Allen White. Kelly Clarkson and Brandon Blackstock. Shakira and Piqué! For every mature, quiet Reese Witherspoon and Jim Toth-esque split, there seems to be two other couples burning everything down for all of us to see.


Everyone loves a clearly defined, easy-to-follow narrative. 

And while Gwyneth and Chris' relentlessly positive divorce vibe was interesting for a while, there's nothing more enticing, and easily understood, than the tale of a hero and villain. It's the default setting.

And so, if you can position yourself as the hero — which probably requires divulging things publicly, or at least letting court documents do it for you — you're set.

That's certainly what Joe Jonas' team were trying to do in the early days of his separation, as sources would not stop implying Sophie Turner was a bad mother, but it backfired spectacularly and now Sophie is riding a wave of unbelievable public support.

Brad Pitt's team have been (allegedly) courting public opinion for years now, with sources telling magazines about how much he loves his kids or other 'nice' things on the reg. Before her very recent Vogue cover interview, Angelina's PR seems much less active.

Kevin Costner came out of his legal issues with Christine looking pretty good, because she wanted AU$389,000 a month in child support and to almost everyone, that truly is just absurd. Kelly Clarkson and Shakira released scathing songs, which almost always goes well.

It's not always classy, but controlling the public narrative is a crucial part of the celebrity game.

And sometimes, it seems, it's decided that mess is best.

Feature image: Getty

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