S.E. CUPP: Anna Faris, Chris Pratt and cynical assumptions

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Actor Chris Pratt and his wife, actress Anna Faris (right), arrive for the world premiere of the film “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" in Hollywood, California, in April. Pratt and Faris announced their separation after eight years of marriage in a joint statement Sunday. | Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images

Like everyone else, I’m still reeling from the devastating news. I woke up Monday morning, pulled up my phone, and clicked on the link in an email from my husband, who’d already left for work. Subject line: “Oh no.” As I read, my heart sank, my eyes welled up. Anna Faris and Chris Pratt were splitting up.

After eight years of marriage, which produced a singularly adorable son named Jack — outdone in cuteness only by my Jack, of course — they released a statement saying they’d tried really hard, were very disappointed, and still have love for one another.

Twitter took the news particularly hard, with many proclaiming #LoveIsDead in the wake of the announcement. Some said they were taking this divorce harder than their parents’, and comedian Elijah Daniel tweeted, “Anna Faris and Chris Pratt breaking up affects me in no way but also I feel like I’m their child and it’s my fault somehow.”

Lest you get the wrong idea about me, I’m no believer in Hollywood romances. The split of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie wasn’t even a blip on my radar of significant (or surprising) developments. Ben and Jen? Wasn’t affected in the slightest by Affleck’s split from either Lopez or Garner. Even going back as far as Brad and Jen (Aniston), I thought, of course they split up. It’s Hollywood.

But despite being a product of divorce myself, there was something about Pratt and Faris that made me invest in their marriage, against all my better judgment and usual cynicism.


She seemed to be the quirky, non-threatening girlfriend you feel comfortable bringing around your husband because she burps the alphabet. She goofed around with Pratt at premieres and posted photos of her two favorite boys the way I do. She talked about bonding with Pratt over their dead bug collections.

And he is the guy who you imagined took all the neighborhood kids fishing and dressed up as a superhero for birthday parties. According to his Instagram, Pratt braided Anna’s hair and posted priceless videos of Jack pledging allegiance to the flag.

They seemed not like celebrities, but like real, honest, funny, decent people.

But maybe they aren’t those things, off of Instagram and red carpets. Or maybe they are, but marriage is hard for every couple, no matter appearances. And maybe particularly hard because they work crazy hours and often far apart.

She alluded to the latter on her podcast last December: “We grapple with the idea of being a public couple. I take pride in how great my relationship is with Chris, but having said that, of course, in this crazy world where he’s off doing movies and I’m in L.A. raising our child, of course I’m going to feel vulnerable, like any normal human would. It made me feel incredibly insecure.”

It’s this comment that’s led some to offer a slightly creepy and I think unfair take on their separation, which is that Faris couldn’t deal with her husband’s newfound success.

Read any account of their marriage and separation and within the first few paragraphs it’s being pointed out that she was a much bigger star when they married, and now he has shot to megastardom while her career has cooled.

Others don’t just mention it, they invent storylines around it.

As Slate’s Heather Schwedel writes:

“Viewed in hindsight, it now sounds like both typical Hollywood and high school all over again: A guy goes away to summer soccer camp, has a growth spurt, and gets cool. When he comes back, he breaks up with his old girlfriend and starts hanging out with the popular kids.”

That’s not fair. Putting aside the fact that plenty of couples — famous or otherwise — contend with career shifts and personal growth, the criticism also presumes that Faris was bothered by her new work-life balance.

If I were a working actress and mom, and had the opportunity to stay in L.A. while I worked comparatively regular hours on a successful sitcom, as she is, I’d be thrilled to leave behind the months of filming on location, the weeks of travel to promote big blockbusters, and the instability of film schedules.

Their setup, where Pratt gets the chance to make his mark in Hollywood, despite all the time away, and where she gets to be home with their son — while having enjoyed her own rise to fame, and is still working, mind you — might be exactly what she wanted.

The prevalence of this hypothesis about Anna and Chris is worrisome. Maybe the notion that a woman can be happy for her husband’s success, or can be happy sacrificing part or all of her career for the joys of motherhood doesn’t jibe with the way most modern women see marriage or career. Likewise, do most women believe that a man who reaches some level of success will abandon his family? That seems cynical, even for me, and categorically unfair.

Perhaps because we saw ourselves in Chris and Anna, the speculation about what went wrong will carry on and venture into such silly places. But as much as we thought we related to them, the lesson isn’t that they’re still just celebrities. It’s that they’re still just people.

Contact Cupp at thesecupp.com.

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