Time after time, Hollywood manages to fool us with its glittering golden couples. Every time a couple of favorite stars get together, we're all convinced they live a charmed shared life. They always appear so poised, so together, so happy. Plus, they're rich beyond our wildest lottery-winning fantasies. Their enviable lives extend beyond the bounds of relatability. It just seems further proof that celebrities are indeed special on a level us ordinary folks can never attain.
Just as suddenly as their perfect romances begin, though, many of our favorite celebrities quickly plummet back down to human status. On one level, it makes the rest of us feel a tad better about our own problem-addled lives. These people may be rich, beautiful, and famous, but hey, they've got issues, too. On another, though, it crushes our misguided illusion that any of us can achieve perfection. If these people can't manage it, how will the rest of us normals fare?
It's understandable that maintaining a romantic relationship under the glaring minutiae-dissecting public spotlight is a challenge. We're all watching their every moves, praying for a shred of evidence that their lives are a bit more like our own than we'd initially considered. When their relationships do fail, however, we feel somewhat let down. It's a sort of catch 22: they're damned to suffer our scorn whether they make it or not.
The 90s was a time ripe with celebrity couplings, though many of the pairs didn't cross the finish line into this decade. While they may have seemed nearly untouchable in those days, it's tough today to make sense of some of these match-ups. Whether you loved them, hated them, or just didn't get it, you have to admit that these couples enjoyed more than their share of fanfare and publicity in their heyday.
Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman
I'm not sure if you can think back this far, but try your best to remember a time when Tom Cruise wasn't just a infamous couch-jumper plagued by reputation-defaming rumors. Back in the 80s and 90s, Cruise was one of the most successful and coveted movie stars in Hollywood. Cruise and Kidman were married 10 years, which seems like a lifetime with respect to the span of most celebrity relationships. There was much speculation over the reason for their split, with reporters hinting at scandal. While Cruise has since remarried to Katie Holmes, he has yet to shake those pesky speculations on his character. The couch jumping and misguided Matt Lauer name-calling hasn't helped much, either.
Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder
If I were to engineer a quintessentially 90s couple, I doubt I could come up with anything quite as representative as these two. Examine a photo or two in their days as a happy couple and they just ooze 90s from their every pixel. It was hard not to root for them after watching their doomed romance bloom in Edward Scissorhands. After their split, they went on to further respective high-profile romances: Ryder with Matt Damon and Depp with Kate Moss, both of which relationships have since run their course. Still, it's gotta hurt that Depp altered his "Winona Forever" tattoo to read "Wino Forever". It's tough to think you could be so easily replaced by a full-bodied chardonnay.
Puff Daddy and Jennifer Lopez
Yeah, I said it. Puff Daddy. That was we called him back then. They had a certain charm, with him in his all-white get-ups and her in her scandalous double-stick tape supported Versace Grammy dress. If nothing else, we certainly liked them better than J Lo and Ben Affleck. As long as a Hollywood couple doesn't put us through a Gigli, they're alright in my book.
Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Phillippe
I'd really thought these kids were gonna make it. The story of their courtship seemed so cute and Hollywood storybook, we just didn't want to believe things were less than perfect with our favorite Cruel Intentions co-stars. They got married, had 2 kids, and everything seemed to be going swimmingly until they announced their decision to divorce in 2006. I'd prefer to remember them as they were, with Reese making that weird deformed devil face in the carwith Ryan in Cruel Intentions.
Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake
Talk about your golden teen couple. These two seemed so in love, we were willing to overlook the fact that they were cohabiting in the midst of their allegedly chaste relationship. It might be tough now to remember Britney as an innocent virginal pop starlet, but once upon a time we were all under the spell cast by her talented publicists. We even considered tolerating their God-awful matching denim outfits if they could just make it. Unfortunately, some things just aren't meant to be, no matter how much foreshadowing we thought we'd seen on the Mickey Mouse Club.
Brad Pitt and Gwyneth Paltrow
It's easy to forget that before there was even Brad and Jen, there was Brad and Gwen. Brad has long been a part of the Hollywood "it" couple, though he's cycled through a few female counterparts over the years. We once fell in love with Brad and Gwynnie, though we've since been convinced to fall in love with Brad and Jen and eventually the less-rhyming but more annoying hybrid classification Brangelina.
Carmen Electra and Dennis Rodman
This one had all of us scratching our heads. They both seemed to bask in the attention of the public eye, Carmen for her Baywatch physique and Rodman more for his odd appearance and outlandish fashion choices than his prowess on the basketball court. The two were wed in Vegas, though the marriage was annulled less than two weeks later. The reason? Why, intoxication during the wedding vows, of course. It's probably a common tale for Vegas, but not quite so widespread an excuse in celebrity couplings.
Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee
These two got hitched after knowing each other for just a few days, characterizing the carefree (and some might argue, careless) nature of their relationship. Their infamous honeymoon sex tape went into wide circulation after it was stolen from their house, but the couple took it in stride. Considering the two weren't exactly known for their wholesome image, it all played out pretty well. They not only won over a million in the lawsuit, but they made a killing on video sales. Well played, Anderson and Lee.
Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley
There have been all sorts of speculations on Jackson and Presley's short-lived marriage, most claiming that it was a sham. Presley still vehemently denies the charge, though that footage of the two of them kissing at the VMAs still raises some eyebrows. Like most of Jackson's personal life, the details remain shrouded in secrecy, leading the public and the press to jump to all sorts of conclusions. We may never know the true nature of their relationship. I'm torn on it. I read that heartfelt note Presley wrote upon learning of Jackson's 2009 death, and she seemed to have genuine affection for him. I watch that kiss again, though, and it's a little iffy.
Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger
At this point, it's tough to look past the tarnished image of this now-bitter relationship and remember how we revered this couple upon their public debut. Back then, though, we were blissfully unaware of a looming custody battle and eventual reputation-dinging leaked voicemails from Baldwin to his daughter Ireland. The former spouses now occasionally make contact through their publicists to fling angry and bitter accusations, so I would venture things did not end so well for these two.
Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey
This one still hurts my heart just a little. I know, I know, it's not like I knew these two personally. After Newlyweds, though, I really thought they were going to be in love forever. Yes, it's naive, but he was so sweet when she made silly mistakes like confusing chicken and tuna based on the name of a popular canned-fish brand. I've always liked Jessica Simpson, so I feel for her that she never quite seemed to rebound in terms of fame and image. I'll try to think of her as she was, believing buffalo had wings and charming MTV audiences everywhere.
Their relationships may not have stood the test of time, but for a brief moment these couples represented to us the ideal partnerships. We may just have to settle for remembering them as they were, before bitter divorces or circumstances drove them apart. As they say, if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. If you can't, well, then it seems you're at least in pretty good Hollywood company.