Thursday, September 9, 2010

Divorce Porn

Piece in the New York Times on "The Joys of Vicarious Divorce":

The biggest adult film of the summer centers on a divorce (“Eat Pray Love”), the most talked-about television series of the moment revolves around a divorced couple (“Mad Men”), the hottest revival on Broadway of the season pivots on divorce (“Promises, Promises”), the bawdiest memoir of the year chronicles an affair that eventually led to a high-profile divorce (Andrew Young’s “The Politician”).

A recently separated friend of mine, still in her 30s, has a term for the current cultural fixation with failing marriages. She calls it “divorce porn.” “Married people are obsessed with divorced people,” she said, particularly their sex lives.

The Hugh Hefner of divorce porn is Elizabeth Gilbert, of course. She helped popularize the recent surge. Her 2006 memoir, “Eat, Pray, Love,” uses her painful divorce at 32 as a starting point for an exuberant yearlong “search for everything” across Italy, India and Indonesia, including lavish meals, romantic affairs and a happy ending in the arms of an exotic man (also divorced).

Like all pornography, the film “Eat Pray Love” openly objectifies its subject, in this case the misunderstood middle-age woman seeking self-discovery. The camera positively lingers on Ms. Roberts’s orgasmic reaction to a bowl of spaghetti, her impassioned defense of her “muffin top” midsection, her adoring stare as her avuncular lover kisses his college-age son on the lips, and waits — and waits — for the right time to have sex. The film’s money shot involves Javier Bardem putting on a mix tape, folding down the corner of his lover’s paperback, then whispering in her ear, “It’s time,” as Julia Roberts discreetly closes the bamboo door in the camera’s face.

Forget Penthouse, here divorce porn seems closer to a Williams-Sonoma catalog.

But in a manner that might make for a neat twist in one of Ms. Roberts’s novels, the obsession with divorce is playing out against a remarkable backdrop: actual divorce is plummeting. The divorce rate in America is at a 30-year low. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention puts the current divorce rate at 3.5 per 1,000, down 8 percent in the last five years, 16 percent since 2000, and a staggering 34 percent since its peak in 1979. Roughly 20,000 fewer American couples are divorcing every year as compared with a decade ago.

The upshot of this convergence is a fascinating cultural dissonance: Americans seem to be talking about divorce more, while divorcing less. Divorce porn may be that rare indulgence that actually slakes interest in the activity it celebrates. Don’t like divorce; partake in more divorce porn.

Read the full article here.

AC

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/family_law/2010/09/divorce-porn.html

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Comments

Interesting take on this, but I'm not sure I agree.

I think people just plain enjoy a train wreck. They watch with a mixture of relief (i.e.,thank God it's not me), sorrow, titillation and appreciation for a good yarn - especially in a celebrity-driven culture.

I read the NYT front-to-back almost every day, but I think this article uses a sensationalist, simplistic phrase to overlook the obvious: lush locales coupled with beautiful people, high fashion, power, wealth, rage and romance are irresistible, especially when they're bound up in one big package.

Case in point: Tiger Woods. Cf. John Edwards, Mel Gibson...the list is endless.

I don't think I'd attach word "porn" to the fascination with these people's tragedies or with fictionalized tales about the termination of unhappy marriages, would you?


Posted by: Terri | Sep 10, 2010 4:34:48 AM

I agree that the article probably goes too far with the "porn" metaphor. It makes the fascination with sensational stories sound...bad. And, for no reason!

Posted by: Margaret Ryznar | Sep 11, 2010 7:25:09 PM

The actual amount of divorces are down, but the number of marriages is going down as well, correct?

It is quite likely the number of divorces going down is a result of economic problems, ie. just not economically viable to pay for a divorce, lose the roommate, pay the child support, ect.

Posted by: Tampa Divorce Attorney | Sep 14, 2010 11:02:51 AM

One crucial part of the current low divorce rates are the low marriage rates. Less people are getting married thus there are less people getting divorced. Many cohabit instead of tying the knot.

Posted by: Feki | Sep 14, 2010 8:18:55 PM

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