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07th Sep 2022

Why we’re so intrigued by behind the scenes drama

Sarah McKenna Barry

Sometimes the speculation eclipses the project itself.

If you ventured on social media at literally any stage yesterday, then it’s likely that you were bombarded with memes about the Don’t Worry Darling drama as it made its premiere at the Venice Film Festival.

From Florence Pugh’s late arrival, Olivia Wilde’s refusal to comment on Shia LaBoeuf’s departure from the project and a moment in which it looked like Harry Styles spat on Chris Pine (he didn’t) the content was ripe and the memes were free-flowing.

As the chaos unfurled, it looked as though the behind the scenes speculation was going to eclipse conversations about the film itself, and this isn’t the first time that this has happened in pop culture. Hell, it’s not even the first time in recent history.

In the past few months, we’ve been fascinated by Lea Michele’s takeover of the role of Fanny Brice from Beanie Feldstein in the Broadway revival of Funny Girl. Not only did the career move realise a lifelong dream of her on-screen counterpart Rachel Berry, but it also marked her first major return to show business after she was hit with allegations of bullying and racist micro-aggressions. Add a dash of silliness in form of a viral rumour that the actress can’t read and the story becomes about so much more than a simple Broadway cast change.

A similar pattern emerged when three cast members of HBO’s Euphoria found themselves at the centre of three separate controversies in one week. Following rumours of a disconnect between the show’s creator Sam Levinson and actress Barbie Ferreira, the latter bid farewell to her character and announced that she wouldn’t be returning to the show for another season. Days later, Hunter Schafer was accused of liking an Instagram post which criticised non-binary people (she has since addressed this), while her co-star Sydney Sweeney was hit with criticism after uploading photos from a family gathering in which a guest is wearing a ‘Blue Lives Matter’ t-shirt. Over on Twitter, fans speculated about the explosion of drama, and how it might impact the next season of Euphoria.

Last year, meanwhile, speculation over whether or not Kim Cattrall would ever reprise her role as Samantha dominated any discussion about literally any of the plot points of And Just Like That (apart from maybe Che fingering Miranda while Carrie pissed herself in bed).

In each case, the speculation overshadows the film, the musical, the TV show or whatever the final project is. But exactly why are we so fascinated by it? Well, for starters, it boils down to the type of celebrity that gets embroiled in this specific type of drama. In all the aforementioned cases, we’re dealing with bonafide, A-listers. When you compare them to their influencer or reality star counterparts, they keep a much lower profile. They don’t shade each other on Instagram, or call each other out on Twitter. Instead, they keep mum while intrigue builds. In the best case scenario, they may offer a comment to the New York Times, but for the most part, the overall sense is that we’re not getting the full story, and accordingly, we fill in the blanks.

While the celebrities in question may be happy enough to refrain from comment, the same cannot be said for the rest of us. Online commentators are more than happy to break the silence with jokes and hot-takes. You can trust the internet to get to bottom of the situation, regardless of how trivial it is. Yesterday, for instance, I watched a frame-by-frame breakdown of Harry Styles settling into his seat next to Chris Pine, and as the video clarifies, it’s quite clear that nothing left the singer’s mouth in that time.

In short, the very nature of meme culture sustains the drama. But, like everything in life, this type of drama has a shelf-life. In most cases, it appears to run its course by the time the next speculation-fuelled scandal hits our Twitter feeds, and a new cycle can begin.