Definitions

Supercouple

Supercouple

A supercouple (also known as a power couple or dynamic duo) is a popular or financially wealthy pairing that intrigues and fascinates the public in an intense or even obsessive fashion. The term was coined in the early 1980s when intense public interest in the fictional soap opera couple Luke Spencer and Laura Webber from General Hospital made the pair a popular culture phenomenon. Outside of the soap opera medium, the supercouple title has proliferated as a way of referring to certain fictional couples from primetime television dramas and film, such as Gone With the Wind, whose Rhett Butler and Scarlett O'Hara characters popularized the catch phrase "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn". The supercouple created by the ill-fated ex-lovers Rick and Ilsa in Casablanca has been called one of cinemas most beloved couples.

With real-life celebrity couples, the tabloid and even the mainstream media have become fascinated with some wealthy or famous power couples, such as the former pairing of Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez, which became known by the portmanteau Bennifer (for Ben and Jennifer) and the marriage of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes (nicknamed "TomKat"). In addition, the term has entered psychology, as a type of mental stress called "Supercouple Syndrome" which occurs when two overachieving individuals within a romantic pairing are both striving for success.

Definition

The supercouple has been described as "perhaps the most famous entity in entertainment". Supercouples are defined as "high-profile, culturally significant and nearly perfect romances that influence our expectations of what a great love story should be". Their existence takes form in television, celebrity, comic books, literature, musicals, as well as in various other incarnations.

In fiction, supercouples are generally thought of as soulmates. They are extraordinarily popular couples who have overcome numerous obstacles or significant strife in order to be together. Sometimes the popularity of a fictional pairing takes precedent over the amount of upheaval they have faced. Celebrity couples that fascinate and intrigue to the point of obsession are typically thought of as supercouples. They can be couples that incite mania or couples whose combined finances and prominent allure contribute to the supercouple title, often earning them the alternate name of "power couple".

Supercouples are not limited to positive influence. The dangerous love of Depression-era gangsters Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker (popularly known as Bonnie and Clyde) has maintained an enduring international popularity in film, television, music and poetry. In 1967, a film based on their relationship was released, and cemented the duo's impact on popular culture. Their romance was tragic, with a graphic death, but this "paired with their ceaseless appeal, cements this couple as an American legend". The appeal of the supercouple has become a societal phenomenon. From chemistry, to good looks, to their seemingly meant-to-be union, they give onlookers the sense of grand romance, a love story to root for and live vicariously through as they provide hope that such a love exists. They are, quite simply, couples who unbelievably inspire.

Internet and media trends

Fans often use portmanteux to refer to their favorite couples on online message boards, a significant aspect of the "shipping fandom". The "shipping fandom" scene, whose name is derived from the word "relationship", is a general term for fans' emotional and/or intellectual involvement with the ongoing development of romance in a work of fiction. Though technically applicable to any such involvement, it refers chiefly to various related social dynamics observable on the Internet, and is seldom used outside of that context. "Shipping" can involve virtually any kind of relationship — from the well-known and established, to the ambiguous or those undergoing development, and even to the highly improbable and the blatantly impossible. People involved in shipping (or shippers) assert that the relationship does exist, will exist, or simply that they would like it to exist.

"Portmanteaus first came about with Lewis Carroll," as a way to "blend words," relayed Jonathan Gabay, author of the Copywriter's Compendium - a reference guide to the English language. Gabay added that people blend words in this fashion because sometimes there are words an individual wants, but those words do not actually exist. "There's a feeling you are trying to get out," he elaborated. For fictional pairings, examples showcase themselves as Logan and Veronica (Veronica Mars) becomes "LoVe," Josh and Reva (Guiding Light) becomes "Jeva," Jack and Kate (Lost) becomes "Jate," Michael and Sara (Prison Break) becomes "MiSa," and so on. Seth Cohen of the show The O.C. parodied this when he talked about real couples' overexposure to one another; he wondered whether or not his pairing with Summer Roberts would be called "Summereth" or "Sethummer".

Gabay notes that portmanteaux "...giv[e] people an essence of who they are within the same name." In double-barrelled names, the hyphen is almost pushing one name away from the other. Meshing says 'I am you and you are me', which is rather romantic. Occasionally, even anti-fans come up with names for couples, such as General Hospital's Sonny Corinthos and Emily Quartermaine. The unpopular pairing of the mob boss and his enforcer's sweet younger sister became known as "Soily". Viewers even took to online petitions with the nickname, urging for the end of the couple. Similarly, the phenomenon exists with celebrities' first names. Said to be a sign of commitment and togetherness, meshing is also seen by some as an attempt to banish what might be considered a "sexist" tradition of a woman taking her husband's name when she marries.

In other internet trends, fans often take part in making fan videos (also referred to as fanvids, a compilation of favorite scenes stylishly intercut as music videos or other various forms of entertainment) and writing fanfiction (alternative endings and stories to the show's outcome) for their favorite pairings. Of this, YouTube and Fanfiction.net are two of the most frequented outlets.

Soap opera

Origins

See also: List of soap opera supercouples

What soap operas are most well-known and remembered for is romance. "[Daytime] knows how to get a couple together, split them up, and how to start from square one with the same couple and go through the whole thing again" to ensure that viewers are still watching, and that strategy often succeeds. In soap operas, a supercouple storyline is typically detailed by the couple facing seemingly insurmountable challenges, such as a difference in social class, strong family interference, simple disagreements, marriages to other people, children with other people, etc.

However, the two characters that make up the supercouple will usually reunite and marry. The most significant obstacle for the pairing is the soap opera genre; it is neverending, and subsequently there is no closure for the couple unless both characters leave the show together or one of them dies. It is because of this, that after the usual fairytale wedding, if the supercouple remains on the series, writers do not allow the item to live happily ever after as a couple in a fairytale would, but rather subject them to a continual cycle of being separated and reunited. This factor has contributed to two characters of a supercouple divorcing and re-marrying each other several times.

Legends

While the term was not coined until the early 1980s, and early supercouples could be noted as Jeff Baker and Penny Hughes and Bob and Lisa Hughes on As the World Turns, the first supercouple is primarily considered to be Doug Williams and Julie Olson from Days of our Lives. From 1970 until 1976, Doug and Julie wavered between the thin line between love and hate. The chemistry that the two actors exhibited became evident off-screen; the real-life couple, Bill Hayes and Susan Seaforth, were married in 1974. This set off a commotion among fans, thousands, who wrote endless letters to the show asking that the couple also be allowed to marry in the story, since the actors were married already. NBC milked the tension for all it was worth and lengthened the anticipation of the wedding, but eventually caved into the audience's pressure, and characters Doug and Julie were married in October 1976. They were also the first soap opera characters to grace the cover of Time Magazine.

Luke Spencer and Laura Webber, portrayed by Anthony Geary and Genie Francis from General Hospital, are considered the most famous soap opera supercouple. Their romance enthralled viewers; when they wed on November 16 1981, American daytime television recorded its highest-ever ratings, with 30 million people tuning in to watch them say, "I do. As a result, Luke and Laura have become one of daytime television's quintessential and most iconic couples. While Guiding Light has the smallest number of couples that could be deemed supercouples, the series still had prominent pairings, notably Quint and Nola, as well as Josh and Reva, one of the big supercouples from the 1980s onward.

Golden Age: 1980s

The 1980s is known as the "Golden Age" of supercouples and shows such as All My Children, As the World Turns and along with the aforementioned General Hospital and Days of our Lives were well known for their supercouples. Days of our Lives in particular had a significant number of them — Bo and Hope, Shane and Kimberly, Steve and Kayla and Jack and Jennifer all going on at roughly the same time. The show soon featured John and Marlena. All My Children was represented by Cliff and Nina, Greg and Jenny, Jesse and Angie, the first African-American supercouple, and later by Tad and Dixie.

As the World Turns had the popular couples Holden and Lily, Craig and Sierra, Tom and Margo, and Steve and Betsy, with Betsy Stewart being portrayed by future star Meg Ryan. Along with Luke and Laura, General Hospital also boasted Alan and Monica and Frisco and Felicia. At the same time, Santa Barbara introduced another supercouple, Eden and Cruz Castillo.

The phenomenon spread to foreign shores around this time, with Scott and Charlene, portrayed by Jason Donovan and Kylie Minogue on the Australian soap opera Neighbours. The success of their romance prompted a fellow Australian daytime drama Home and Away to shelve out their own supercouple, Shane and Angel. "Dirty" Den and Angie Watts, portrayed by Leslie Grantham and Anita Dobson on the British soap opera EastEnders, generated an audience response similar to that of the supercouples on American soap operas. Den and Angie are renowned as arguably Britain's most iconic soap opera couple, having broken the record for episode ratings to 30.1 million viewers on the episode of their divorce, a record that remains unbeaten by any British soap opera episode today.

1990s-2000s

Popular couplings on soap operas exist today; few of them, however, earn the right to be called a supercouple by fans and the soap opera media alike. Usually, the term is reminiscient of the 1970s and 1980s. As such, the few supercouples that are still on serials today are from the 1980s, or at the latest, the early 1990s. In the mid-1990s, the supercouple phenomenon slowly faded and the nature of soap operas today allows few couples to define the nature of the show anymore, as original supercouples once did.

Shows have attempted to revive the success of supercouples through modern couples. There are instances where a character becomes a part of two popular pairings, where both couples in which include the character develop the same or close to the same amount of positive fan reaction from viewers. This causes a certain rivalry between the two couples, with both vying for the title of supercouple. An example of this was especially evident with the early 1990s storyline of General Hospital's Sonny Corinthos, Brenda Barrett, and Jasper "Jax" Jacks, often referred to as "the hottest love triangle in soap opera history" by the soap opera media. The couple combinations within the love triangle were equally in demand, and which of the two is the actual supercouple remains in dispute to this day. Sonny and Brenda, however, do gain reference to being a supercouple.

Yahoo! TV pointed out that "...Vanessa Marcil’s coupling with Benard, gave 'GH' its first legitimate heir to the 'Luke and Laura' throne of soap coupledom." The article commented that the Marcil’s Brenda Barrett character, "a spoiled, troubled beauty drawn to danger and dangerous men" created "... explosive sparks" with Corinthos, who was rumored to be involved in crime. The Yahoo article argued that this type of supercouple "... has not been seen on daytime television in some time — if ever", and that, "along with the return of Luke and Laura after a decade-long absence", it created a "second golden age" for soaps as "the daytime appointment television. The Sonny character eventually acquired supercouple status in the pairing of Sonny and Carly, as he became a part of two successful on-screen romances.

In other instances, a character is part of two equally popular couplings, but the storyline does not lend itself to the scenario being referred to as a love triangle. Samantha "Sami" Brady of the soap opera Days of our Lives is romantically desired by the two men, Lucas Roberts and EJ Wells. However, she was not considered to be actively involved in a love triangle. Yet both couples, Lucas and Sami and EJ and Sami, resonate with fans and appear to be at least equal in comparison and popularity. This particular aspect was also seen with the relationships which involved Elizabeth Webber on General Hospital. The difference is that Elizabeth was witnessed to be in love with Lucky Spencer and Jason Morgan equally. Both couples are in demand by viewers.

In today's medium, there are couples which come close to gaining supercouple status in terms of popularity. Although these pairings have perceived chemistry and potential, the couple's story is cut short, often due to the actors leaving to pursue jobs outside of soap operas or due to the writers changing direction in a storyline. These couples simply do not last long enough onscreen to garner the long history of what is often considered a genuine supercouple. Such couples include Leo and Greenlee (All My Children), Ryan and Gillian (All My Children), Dusty and Lucy (As the World Turns), Simon and Katie (As the World Turns), Robin and Stone (General Hospital), Jonathan and Tammy (Guiding Light), Todd and Téa (One Life to Live). These couples were or are popular with critics and fans, and may have become beloved supercouples.

Gay and lesbian

Soap operas are traditionally heterosexual when featuring tales of romance and true love. For American soap opera, that began to change with characters Bianca Montgomery, Lena Kundera, and Maggie Stone from All My Children. Bianca's unveiling as a lesbian marked uncharted territory for daytime television. By being a core character and the daughter of legendary diva Erica Kane, "the show initiated an innovative discourse about the possibility, location, and representation of lesbian and gay characters in a television genre historically predicated on the celebration of heterosexual courtship, romance, and family life."

In 2003, Bianca's relationship with Lena resulted in American daytime's first lesbian kiss. The two became American daytime's first lesbian couple, and received much press. Though Bianca and Lena's romance was very well-received, popular, and the couple made history on more than one occasion, it was Bianca's relationship with close confidante Maggie that thoroughly captured the hearts of viewers. What made the topic particularly unique was the show's insistence that character Maggie was not gay. The show's insistence, however, did not deter viewers from desperately wanting the two romantically paired; the audience often wrote in to the network (ABC) pleading and demanding that Bianca and Maggie become an official item.

Eventually, hints that Maggie might not be as heterosexual as she claimed started to appear throughout the series, complicated by Maggie (now instead of the show's executives) insisting that she was not gay but rather very much "into guys" and only guys. The audience saw this as a case of a woman in denial of her sexual orientation. Fan mail for the Bianca and Maggie pairing became enormous, as the show continued to tease the audience with subtext that implied that the two romantically desired each other, going so far as to add friendly and intimate kisses to their already ambiguous status. Bianca and Maggie's scenes were often written so that the pair would be on the verge of becoming a couple, even with declarations of clear romantic love from one to the other, but that they would never quite make it there.

This coy approach by the writers infuriated some viewers, but the audience remained entranced. The couple's popularity grew beyond soap opera press, as newspapers and television magazines became fascinated by the love story as well. TV Guide, The Advocate, Daily News, among others, were of the media taking interest. The pairing eventually became the most popular gay couple in soap opera history, shocking industry insiders that a gay pairing could be this in demand.Though Bianca and Maggie's romance was not made official until both were offscreen, it made clear the answer to writers and executives who had been conflicted about including gay and lesbian love stories — daytime was interested.

"While the past decade has witnessed a growing number of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered characters in primetime dramas and situation comedies, daytime soap operas offer unique challenges (and possibilities) regarding the inclusion and 'normalization' of varied sexualities in entertainment television." Daytime television has been ahead of primetime for some time in exploring diverse or controversial storylines and characters, with the one glaring exception being homosexuality. Gay and lesbian issues or characters were invisible in 1950s and early 1960s TV. When it came to the mainstream shows, audiences were built up as "replications of the idealized, middleclass nuclear family, defined as monogamous heterosexual couples with children" (Buxton, 1997, p. 1477). Because of this perception of what was ideal, networks geared programming toward it, feeling that viewers were exactly like these images on their television screens.

In contrast to primetime, daytime dramas have different obstacles to developing innovative programming, with their advertising sponsors being more conservative, their audience smaller and "genre restrictions that emphasize continuity and respect for history over innovation." Soap opera tried its first chance at including a gay character back in 1983 on All My Children. Actress Donna Pescow portrayed Dr. Lynn Carson, who "came out" as a lesbian to patient and confidante Devon Shepherd McFadden (Tricia Pursley). The two women admitted to having romantic feelings towards each other — "and that’s about as sexual as the good doctor, or any other gay soap character, would get for quite some time. A gay man whose never-seen partner with AIDS came later, followed by a couple of gay teens who battled community homophobia in the 1990s."

A prominent obstacle for gay and lesbian characters on daytime television is interference from television network executives who fear a decline in their ratings. The characters are often denied fulfilling and lasting romances with others of the same sex. "Before Bianca's gay character was written into All My Children, the purpose of gay characters was to make a point or explain homosexuality for the audience — a task handled within the course of a few episodes. The distraught parents or angry bullies who caused the early gay characters so much turmoil would suddenly see the light. Then the story — and the character — would simply vanish." It was not until Bianca, that prominent gay characters and couples seemed possible within daytime. Since then, soap operas have tried to replicate the success of the Bianca character with the introduction of their own gay and lesbian characters. One soap opera in particular, As the World Turns, has been successful in launching the first popular romance between two men on a daytime drama, Luke Snyder and Noah Mayer. In late 2007, the two made television history by carrying out the first kiss between two male lovers on an American soap opera. The popularity of the pairing borders on the same fascination level that centered around Bianca and Maggie's lesbian romance. Not even months into the romantic aspect of their relationship, TV Guide named the male duo a top power couple.

Noah Mayer, one of the latest soap opera characters to "come out", joins Bianca and others as visible gay characters in daytime. One year before Luke and Noah, the United Kingdom soap opera Hollyoaks had already embarked on issuing their own gay male supercouple, between characters John Paul McQueen and Craig Dean; the storyline became one of the show's most successful, gaining "legions" of fans.

While "the boys are garnering attention, their female counterparts are, so far, garnering the most affection". In either aspect, however, gay and lesbian couple storylines are making an impact. "These stories have the ability to reach the many different generations of viewers who watch daytime and share with them stories of our lives. What viewers are seeing is that more and more of their own neighbors and friends are dealing with these issues, and the soaps are merely reflecting the reality of the world we live in," stated Damon Romine, media entertainment director for the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation organization.

Primetime television

See also: List of primetime supercouples
Formulas for courtships regarding primetime supercouples are usually less evident than that of the tactics issued by soap opera writers, but primetime couples are often subject to paradigms as well; one paradigm is the typical love-hate relationship. Characters Krystle and Blake (Linda Evans and John Forsythe) from the television series Dynasty fought for years, through ex-lovers and a host of other interferences. Krystle wound up in a coma and Blake spent years in jail. But their love eventually conquered all, becoming one of television's classic supercouples. Other early primetime power couplings include Pam and Bobby (Victoria Principal and Patrick Duffy) from Dallas, and Cliff and Clair Huxtable (Bill Cosby and Phylicia Rashād) from The Cosby Show, etc.

Sometimes television shows spin the occasional tragic love story, as in the case of Buffy and Angel from the series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The pair's long and tortured fight to be together cemented their place in supercouple history. Voted Number 2 on IGN's list of top ten favorite television couples, the tear-jerker of a romance was described in all of its early gloomy angst:

Buffy and Angel were the ultimate star-crossed lovers. After all, when you're a Vampire Slayer, it hardly seems like the appropriate person to fall for would be a Vampire. But fall for Angel Buffy did, setting up one of the most involving and tragic love stories we can remember on TV. After all, it's pretty rare for one half of a great couple to go from gentle and caring to sadistic and murderous in the course of a single night…and spurred on by having sex with the girl he loves no less.
Not all shows are apt for telling a tragic love story. For comedies, there's often the mismatched couple approach, and for dramas, there tends to be the "will-they-won't-they" setup. Website Cinemablend states, "There’s two general formulas for a 'will-they-wont-they' setup. The first one is when one person pursues the other, then finally gives up and dates someone else, and the other scenario is when the two characters are so different and often do not get along with one another, they fight and argue constantly, but then one thing or a series of 'things' happen and they are forced to put up with each other." Popular couples cited for having displayed this formula are Buffy and Spike (of Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Ross and Rachel (of the show Friends), Logan and Veronica (of the show Veronica Mars), etc.

One of the well-known "will-they-won't-they" setups is the sexual-tension filled relationship of supercouple Agent Fox Mulder and Agent Dana Scully from the science fiction/thriller series The X-Files. Mulder and Scully, two FBI agents investigating cases that involve the paranormal, bordered on the line of subtle hints of romance throughout the entire series, without ever being heavily romantically involved. While the excitement of waiting for Mulder and Scully to romantically commit to each other built up a great deal, when the two finally kissed in 1999 after seven seasons of buildup, some viewers could not help but feel that the show waited too long. In this case, if a series goes on too long with sexual tension, the downside can be that when the couple finally begins their romance, the best part of having watched the pair was all of the years of their "will-they-won't-they" status. With some fictional supercouples from soap opera or primetime, the couple might have started out as an unexpected pairing, in which case they have not necessarily followed a paradigm. However, due to viewers becoming excited over the prospect of chemistry between the two, the show's producers and writers decide to pair the unlikely lovers.

Film

See also: List of film supercouples

Of all the various forms of entertainment, film has arguably become the most influential medium that defines a supercouple. Given that films inherently have a shorter amount of time in developing characters and carrying out storylines, the task of convincing the audience that the two main lovers within the film are of true love can be somewhat daunting. With film, if not enough of the plot focuses on the buildup of the two lovers' interaction, it can leave the love story seemingly more contrived than a soap opera or a primetime drama putting together a quick romantic union. An aid to this can be a classic line (otherwise referred to as the catch phrase) spoken between the duo, which may create an iconic supercouple.

Film love stories will often resort to the fairytale notion that romance is a solution to life's problems, tapping into the audience's need for "love to conquer all". In tales of doomed romance, the underlying message may be that while the love story was cut short, the love itself was not. Within soap operas or primetime dramas, not all romances will have an impact on observers, but on occasion there are two lovers within a film that manage to captivate their audience in such a way that the two achieve supercouple status. In film, a supercouple may be a coupling that appears with the same actors over the course of several films, to where it is the actors rather than the characters that are the supercouples. Such as Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan or Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. Or a supercouple could take place in an epic style of film such as Rocky and Adrian from the Rocky series, or Jenny and Forrest from Forrest Gump.

From a classic couple or a couple that has just emerged, audiences continually seek out fictional romances for what they consider "thrilling, unequalled love stories". The love story in Casablanca, between ill-fated ex-lovers Rick Blaine, an American expatriate, and Ilsa Lund, the wife of a Czech resistance fighter, is often considered the greatest romance in American film history. A classic phrase is uttered by Rick when Ilsa enters his café for the first time after their Parisian affair: "Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine," he says. Their relationship is a combination of drama, comedy, and suspense. A notable obstacle given to the pairing is Ilsa's emotional struggle of who she really loves — Rick, or her husband, Laszlo. "In the end, Rick sacrifices a lasting relationship with Ilsa because solving the world's problems is far more important than personal love." The most iconic line of the film becomes "Here's looking at you, kid.", uttered to Ilsa by Rick. Other classic romances such as Rhett Butler and Scarlett O'Hara from Gone With the Wind and Tony and Maria from West Side Story remain two of cinema's most beloved couples. In the 2005 film Brokeback Mountain, Jack Twist and Ennis Del Mar entranced audiences "like no other romance in recent years". The love story between the two male ranch hands depicts a clear love between the two characters, but they find it hard to show each other affection, because of the sense that a cowboy must be the ideal American man. The social norms of the era make it difficult for them to create a life together. Before Brokeback, writer/director James Cameron released the 1997 epic Titanic. The film's love story captured the hearts of movie-goers all over the world, and became a media sensation. The star-crossed romance detailing its lovers, Jack Dawson and Rose DeWitt Bukater, and the pairing's short but fulfilling time together on a sinking ship became the highest-grossing film of all time with a worldwide total of $1.8 billion, a record still unbeaten to this day.

Celebrity

The media is known to focus their attention on celebrity couples, but only certain ones in which either seem to fascinate the public or create a power coupling due to finances are treated as supercouples. A notable supercouple that incited media frenzy was the former pairing of Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez. The highly publicized couple's popularity led to them being known by the portmanteau Bennifer (for Ben and Jennifer) to much of the media, as well as to fans using the name combination. The term Bennifer itself became popular, and was eventually entered into urban dictionaries or neologism dictionaries as notable. The name blend started the trend of other celebrity couples being referred to by the combination of each others' names. However, the pairing of Affleck and Lopez eventually succumbed to overexposure, and the public interest in their romance resulted in less admiration. The couple's previous popularity remains an example of a celebrity supercouple. A description of what often defines a celebrity supercouple may be of what website sofeminine.co.uk reports.

Media and public interest in the super-rich, famous and beautiful, and their equally beautiful offspring, is at an all-time high, and mono-monikers are just one sign that the supercouple is becoming a virtual phenomenon of the society we live in. When magazines are prepared to pay millions of dollars just for the first baby pics of your little Suris and Shilohs, and the paparazzi start setting up camp outside your doorstep, you know you've gone from A-listers to fully-fledged supercouple.

There's something about a celebrity love match that really captures the imagination and brings out the voyeur in us: when rich, famous and successful meets rich, famous and successful, does it equal a passionate relationship based on mutual understanding and respect, or a showcased play-act lived out in front of the cameras? Let's face it, in the plastic world of stardom it's been known for celebs to fake entire relationships with other celebs just for the tabloid space that's in it.

Bennifer's decline in popularity did not stop the public's interest in wanting to see super celebrity pairings; a prominent celebrity supercouple to emerge after Bennifer was TomKat (the power coupling of celebrity stars Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes), and years before, the United Kingdom had Posh and Becks (David and Victoria Beckham), who still dominate today. The spotlight and attention given to these pairings seemed to be the height of celebrity supercoupling, until 2006, where the celebrity phenomenon dubbed "Brangelina" triggered media obsession surrounding screen stars Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. The two emerged as a prominent supercouple, and the mania centered around the pairing was described as having "reached the point of insanity, far overshadowing the hoopla that attended such couples as 'Bennifer' and 'TomKat'". The "hoopla" that now surrounded Pitt and Jolie's union, still observed today, first came to life with rumors of Pitt's involvement with Jolie during the shooting of their 2005 film Mr. & Mrs. Smith. Speculation that Pitt had been romantically involved with Jolie while still married to actress Jennifer Aniston was top gossip and thought to be the reason for Pitt and Aniston's divorce. Jolie, however, stated that there was no romance between her and Pitt during filming and that she would never be intimate with a married man.

An official item not long after Pitt's divorce from Aniston, the two became even more of a media fascination for their social activism and ever-growing family, with the couple adopting from foreign countries. The anticipated birth of Pitt and Jolie's first biological child together, Shiloh Nouvel Jolie-Pitt, was cited as the most influential celebrity baby, as the public pondered what the combined physical features of two of the world's most beautiful people would produce in a child. The first baby pictures for Shiloh set a world record. People paid more than $4.1 million for the North American rights, while British magazine Hello! obtained the international rights for roughly $3.5 million; the total rights sale earned up to $10 million worldwide, and was the most expensive celebrity image of all time. All profits were donated to an undisclosed charity by Jolie and Pitt. On July 26 2006, Madame Tussauds in New York unveiled a wax figure of two-month-old Shiloh; it was the first infant re-created in wax by Madame Tussauds. In 2008, the Shiloh Hello! image was eventually "topped" by images of her siblings, twins Knox Léon Jolie-Pitt (a boy) and Vivienne Marcheline Jolie-Pitt (a girl). The rights for the first images of Knox and Vivienne were jointly sold to People and Hello! for $14 million, making the images the most expensive celebrity pictures ever taken. The money went to the Jolie/Pitt Foundation.

Robert Thompson, director of the Centre for the Study of Popular Television, said the coupling of A-list stars like Pitt and Jolie, or in years gone by Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, was "a paparazzi's dream come true". He further relayed that "as silly as it sounds, this new tendency to make up single names for two people, like 'Bennifer' (Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez) and 'TomKat' (Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes), is an insightful idea'. 'Brangelina' has more cultural equity than their two star parts."

Polly Vernon of British newspaper The Guardian summed up her analysis of what makes a celebrity supercouple in her May 25 2000 article:

The basic appeal of the accomplished supercouple can be reduced to this: by hooking up with another, carefully selected celeb, you can eliminate your bad points, compensate for your own shortcomings, and hint at a softer, more vulnerable side. Attach yourself to someone smarter, prettier, more fashionable, hipper, funnier than you are, and you will automatically acquire these missing qualities by osmosis. They, equally, will benefit from your particular brand of star quality. Your public perception will become more complete, more exciting. Together, you are quite literally, the ultimate individual.

In other media

Video game

See also: List of supercouples in other media
Video game creators have realized the asset of incorporating supercouple romances within their products, stringing together epic stories of love and intrigue. While writing epic romances into video games is not a new phenomenon, the idea of capturing a video game player through emotionally-charged moments via the death of a hero's lover in order to produce feelings of attachment to the fictional environment has expanded, especially within action-adventure or role-playing games (RPGs). The goal is to make the gamer actually become emotionally invested in the characters and their actions, ultimately resulting in heightened gaming experience. Video game designer Peter Molyneux, when speaking of the main component he wanted in his game Fable 2, spoke of more than just the romantic aspect, stating, "We want you to feel loved. You can have sex and you can have a baby. That baby will grow up and will kind of look like you."

In the early days of gaming, the idea of love and romance was used as little more than a plot point to urge the hero to complete the set of tasks put before him. "Mario and Link, heroes of the Super Mario and Legend of Zelda series of games, had their respective princesses to rescue from the main villain. Double Dragon featured the protagonist, Billy Lee, as he attempted to rescue his girlfriend, Maria, from his evil twin brother, Jimmy, leader of a sinister street gang." This era of game-playing was not very well-known for equal-opportunity in gender roles.

Eventually, video games grew to become a respectable and rich source of storytelling. "Larger disk space, greater production staffs, and more impressive budgets allowed more fleshed out characters, more elaborate plot points, and greater instances of interaction between characters." The genre that benefited from this the most is the role-playing medium. They have made romantic themes a prominent element of the genre, having become one of its staples. This subplot is featured through the exploits of the supercouple, the primary pair of lovers.

"Usually, the 'supercouple' turns out to be the main hero and heroine of the game, though this is not always the case." The Lunar series, for example, has become famous for creating several romantic pairings within the player’s party as a whole. In an role-playing plot, often the romantic feelings the characters feel for one another somehow becomes entwined with the main plot itself. In Grandia, Justin, the main character, is compelled to fight against seemingly insurmountable odds in order to rescue the girl that he is in love with. In Tales of Legendia, the love story between Senel and Shirley could be argued to be the main plot of the game, as everything else is secondary. "When the love between the supercouple somehow becomes threatened by the machinations of the antagonist, the heroes fight back with everything they have and usually prove, once and for all, that 'love conquers all.'"

One of the most noted love stories in the gaming world is the complicated romance between characters Cloud Strife (indifferent mercenary put in a position to save the world) and Aerith Gainsborough (also known as Aeris, an innocent flowergirl he crosses paths with during his mission) from the 1997 game Final Fantasy VII. The relationship starts off as a love triangle involving character Tifa Lockhart (childhood friend of Cloud's). While gamers also favored Tifa as a love interest for Cloud, it was his interaction with Aerith that had gamers weeping. One gamer claimed it to be the most touching love story ever in the history of gaming:

Cloud and Aeris are the most memorable couple in the FF series — and have the most tragic love affair in the entire video game world. Cloud’s reclusive character is matched only by Aeris’ happy demeanor. But before they even have the chance to share their feelings, Aeris is struck down by a mad Sephiroth in one of the most infamous video game death scenes. A remorseful Cloud is later on 'forgiven' by the spirit of Aeris in the movie adaptation Final Fantasy: Advent Children. Maybe perhaps Cloud can finally have a relationship with Tifa Lockhart.

In 2005, Electronic Gaming Monthly listed Final Fantasy VII #6 in their list of "10 Most Important Games", citing that without it, "Aerith wouldn’t have died, and gamers wouldn’t have learned how to cry." Other notable love stories that have impacted the gaming industry include Solid Snake and Meryl Silverburgh (from Metal Gear Solid), which took on more of a subtle approach, Squall Leonhart and Rinoa Heartilly (from Final Fantasy VIII), another tale of star-crossed lovers, Tidus and Yuna (from Final Fantasy X), and couples defined more by the troubles they caused each other as opposed to any good. Video game insiders state that the need for these love stories within the gaming realm is valid, and in most cases, a great addition to the gaming experience.

Criticism

In role-playing games, a critic has argued that the use of supercouples has become cliché of the genre. "While it’s true that other forms of media use the device just as (if not more) often, the nature of videogames creates a significant problem." In Tales of Legendia (mentioned above), though the game is centered upon the sexual tension between supercouple Senel and Shirley, it has the added complication that every female character, especially those on the player's team, is somehow interested in being sexually intimate with Senel.

"In a soap opera, the love triangle (or, worse, love-polygon) causes the audience to wonder exactly what the hero will do to solve it." The player is left wondering if the hero will remain true to his love for the heroine, whether or not he will succumb to the heated and lustful stares from "the insidious femme fatale", and what will happen between him and the female who has the schoolgirl crush on him. Will pursuing his one true love wind up breaking the heart of the other? All of this works wonderfully well for grabbing ratings in concerns to television shows, which helps them remain on the air for twenty or so years of recyclable cast members.

With video games, however, it is an interactive media. Most role-playing love triangles do not make sense in the typical way. An example would be Final Fantasy VIII (also mentioned above). The game centers heavily on Squall and Rinoa’s feelings for each other, but the audience also learns that Squall has another admirer: his former instructor, Quistis. What puts this love triangle off is that the character dynamic between Squall and Quistis is never developed during the course of the game, leaving the player to wonder why it was ever mentioned. "The player had no control over whether to pursue Quistis’s feelings as opposed to Rinoa."

Considering that the player is "intended to put himself in the shoes of the protagonist, the more choices that are denied to him or her, the less the player actually feels like it is him or her in control of the action". Despite making the character's love interest highly charming or endearing, it is almost certain that one player might not feel like he or she is their "type". There are games that exclude love stories completely in order to avoid this predicament. \"However, the vast majority of people can find some sort of satisfaction from the teasing of their deepest romantic fantasies.\" Numerous video games have attempted to give players some sort of control in this regard. In Phantasy Star IV: The End of the Millennium, the player is given the freedom to select the romantic pairing for three generations of heroes. \"The choice results in the siring of a different set of protagonists for the following generation, thus allowing the player to actually breed his or her own choice of hero.\" The Star Ocean series has implemented love story choices as well. In Star Ocean: Till the End of Time, the player is often asked questions that almost always affect how particular characters grow to like the protagonist more or less. \"In the end, the player is treated to a finale where the hero is paired with the individual which garnered the most affection.\"

It is suggested that, to make these love stories less redundant, and besides giving more freedom to the player to choose his or her love interests, the women in these romances should be less stereotypical.

Literature, toys, comic book, and other

In literature, couples such as Romeo and Juliet and Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw are thought of as two of the greatest romances in literary works. The relationship between Heathcliff and Catherine was cited as the reason for Wuthering Heights topping a 2007 poll of the greatest love stories of all time. In the genres of toys and comic books, toys were given their first big supercouple with the creation of Ken and Barbie by Mattel in 1961, and for comic books supercouples like Clark Kent and Lois Lane (created in 1938) and Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson (created in 1966) are still popular today.

In psychology

In February 1998, the supercouple term entered psychology when husband and wife therapists Wayne and Mary Sotile coined what they call "Supercouple Syndrome." A leading source of burnout, marital discord, and divorce, detailed as an all-too-common consequence of the '90s pursuit of the Big Life. In their book of the same name, the Sotiles describe it as "the natural outgrowth of people's unrealistic determination to do everything right, to juggle marriage, family, and career, and be all things to all people." In the book, the couple provides insight into how lovers can beat stress, rekindle their passion for one another, and transform their relationship into what they cite as the haven it was meant to be.

The Sotiles draw upon their nearly two decades of experience helping couples improve their relationships. Explored are the reasons why a number of people in today's society "get caught in the supercouple trap," the Sotiles say. The pairing uses real-life case studies, and detail the strategies people develop to be successful at work, stay in control, strive for perfection, and how maintaining a competitive edge can wreak havoc on personal relationships. People who let their relationships take a backseat to their careers for too long usually wind up drained, burnt out, and even downsized, the duo warns.

They sum up their book's purpose in one paragraph: "Marriage should be one of life's great joys, not a source of stress and unhappiness," the two point out. "It should be a safe haven where you can unwind and be your true self with the one who knows you best. It should be a source of strength, and love, and yes, fun. By following the BEating Stress Together (BEST) program outlined in this book, your marriage can be all those good things, and more."

See also

References

Further reading

  • O'Rourke, Michael (June 3 2006). San Antonio Express-News, S.A. LIFE; Pg. 1E. "Supercouple must have supername". An analysis concluding that "Bennifer, Tomkat and Brangelina. To be considered a supercouple, it isn't enough to be compatible, loving and gorgeous anymore. Your names have to fit together to form a headline-pleasing moniker. You have to be a portmanteau."
  • Meet a geriatric ‘supercouple’ Elderly couple baffles medical experts due to what seems like superhuman abilities at such old ages. "Most people are amazed by their age and what they are capable of doing," said Mitch Solarsh, the club’s general manager. "It is unbelievable to exercise as consistently as they do and lift what they do." Retrieved on 2007-11-20
  • San Diego's Panda 'Supercouple' Keeping Sparks Alive "Since 2003, Bai Yun and her consort, Gao Gao, have produced three cubs, making them one of the most reproductively successful panda couples ever in captivity." (2007-11-23). Retrieved on 2007-11-24

External links

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