When I was a teenage girl, I was obsessed with pop culture.
I knew all the trends, read all the magazines and updated my Myspace and Facebook accounts religiously. But most importantly (or so I thought at the time), I knew who was dating who in Hollywood.
Looking back, I see what my parents meant when they said, “You’re an expert in useless information.” Granted, I now work at a job where I actually need to stay up-to-date on what’s happening in pop culture, but my knowledge of celebrity birthdays turned out to be pretty useless after all.
But some recent articles popping up in my news feed actually brought me back to my former obsession.
I’m talking about Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck’s rekindled romance.
Now before you click away or scroll down or close this tab, let me just preface this by stating that I’m not about to give my opinions on the couple. Because truly, it’s none of my business what they are or aren’t doing with their relationship. More importantly, I don’t actually care.
However, I do care about how the media has treated Lopez and Affleck’s ex-wife, Jennifer Garner.
I remember when Lopez and Affleck split the first time around. I remember the media hype and the fans sobbing over the end of “Bennifer.” But I also remember how they treated Jennifer Garner when she and Affleck began dating shortly after.
Allow me to summarize: They weren’t nice.
It’s been a common trend for years to pit women in Hollywood against each other. Nearly everyone remembers (or at least has heard of since) how Eddie Fisher left wife Debbie Reynolds for Elizabeth Taylor. The Prince Charles affair with Camilla Parker Bowles took place in the 90s. The media destroyed Angelina Jolie and Jennifer Aniston over the Brad Pitt debacle. I personally couldn’t get enough of the Hilary-Duff-Lindsay-Lohan-Aaron-Carter love triangle in the early 2000s. And then everyone I knew lost their collective minds when Beyoncé released “Lemonade” revealing that the reason her sister, Solange Knowles, attacked her husband, Jay-Z, in an elevator was because Jay-Z got caught cheating on Beyoncé.
But what’s sad is that the media is still doing it. So often, the narrative is a guy choosing between two women, or two women fighting over one guy. The narrative takes on a transactional quality: It’s not about love or commitment, but possession and status. Beyond how they’ve recently portrayed Garner and Lopez (showing side-by-side comparison photos and printing articles about what Garner thinks of Affleck’s new relationship status), the media has a history of presenting the women of Hollywood as nothing more than mere objects for men to pick from.
It’s not healthy. And it’s something we all need to be aware of.
I remember talking about some of the aforementioned love triangles with my mom. And I remember that because of the way the media portrayed those women—as objects rather than people—we would say some pretty harsh words about those women!
But mostly, I remember how the articles I read and discussions I had taught me that celebrities somehow weren’t human beings. That because they were on a big screen, I could offer up my own commentary on a person as readily as I would on the latest iPhone.
I didn’t even know these people, let alone know if the information was accurate, and there I was gossiping up a storm anyway. And the Bible has some pretty clear words about that:
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.Ephesians 4:29 [ESV]
Perhaps we aren’t all guilty of gossiping (although if you’re reposting those types of articles on social media, you might as well be). But it’s important for us to realize how the discussion surrounding these topics affects our attitudes towards them.
So parents, if you hear your teen talking about the Olivia Rodrigo, Sabrina Carpenter, Joshua Bassett relationship drama (because that’s yet another love triangle going on), take a moment to see how your teen feels about it and how they’re processing the media’s portrayal of these young performers. Remind them that even if someone’s lifestyle is sinful, that that person is still created by God, and that we shouldn’t gossip about them.
The media is still going to print the negative stories. The articles will still present celebrities as objects rather than people. And the world will still gossip about them. But as Christians, we don’t have to join in.
We can choose to show love by not joining the discussion and fueling the criticism. We can be aware without participating in the jokes. And we can teach our kids—and perhaps even ourselves—that sometimes the best way to respond to a negative news story is to not respond.
(If your teens are like me and love reading magazines, consider getting them a subscription to Brio, Focus on the Family’s magazine for teenage girls. Each issue includes exciting, vivacious, faith-based articles, plus DIY, music and entertainment features. And as an added bonus, parents will receive a free discussion guide when they sign their girls up.)