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'They’re like our Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton': Why are we so obsessed with Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston?

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 19: Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston attend the 26th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at The Shrine Auditorium on January 19, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. 721313 (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for Turner)

Some may call it the story of the week, but it’s more like the story of the past two decades. When Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston had their viral run-in at the SAG Awards on Sunday, people rushed to social media to share their reactions to the moment that took everyone back to the early 2000s.

The photos of the former couple, and the video of Pitt watching his ex-wife win a SAG Award for outstanding performance by a female actor in a drama series for “The Morning Show,” have been circulating for days with fans, and critics, dying to find out if the two are in fact moving towards a romantic relationship, again.

After the viral moment occurred, Yahoo Canada asked readers to share their thoughts on whether they still think the pair should get back together. Over 60 per cent of respondents want them to be a couple again, showing the desire for the exes to rekindle their relationship is still very real.

Stepping back from our fascination with Pitt and Aniston, a larger question still remains - why are we so fascinated with celebrities and their personal lives?

Our obsession explained

Back in 2017, author and journalist Julie Klam decided to take a deep dive into celebrity obsessions, including her own, in her book “The Stars in Our Eyes.” Klam believes our interest in celebrity culture stems for our desire for “an escape from our regular day.”

“Especially in the current climate of politics and everything that’s going on, people are looking for any sort of news that doesn’t make you want to throw up,” Klam told Yahoo Canada. “It’s like a delightful thing to sort of see something trending that isn’t going to make you filled with despair.”

In terms of the, sometimes intense, social media discussions surrounding various star-studded events, or shocking celebrity photos, Klam identifies that this is connected to our inclination to know as much about these people as we can, to the best of our ability, and find similarities within ourselves.

“The people that sort of star in those things, the actors, the athletes, the musicians, are these celebrities who do these things that make us feel good and we like to connect to them and know more about them, we think,” Klam said. “That’s why we like to see them...picking up their kids from school because it’s like...I’m sort of like they are.”

(EXCLUSIVE, Premium Rates Apply) Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston *Exclusive* (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)

The ‘X’ factor

From all the celebrities that Klam has written about, from the Kardashians to Timothy Hutton and Renée Zellweger, there is a special place in her heart for Aniston. Klam has an entire chapter in “The Stars in Our Eyes” titled “My Evolving Relationship with Jennifer Aniston,” where she describes Pitt and Aniston as her “imaginary best friends” and “favourite celebrity couple.”

“They’re like our Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton as long as they’ve been together,” Klam said.

In the book, the author walks us through how she felt when the news of the Pitt and Aniston split surfaced, after Klam’s long “obsession” with Aniston that started with her iconic role as Rachel on “Friends.” Still to this day, Klam believes Aniston has an “X” factor that makes so many people fascinated with her and feel like she is “one of us.”

“She seems like a likeable, normal person who you would meet,” Klam said. “As opposed to Angelina Jolie who seems like she would be floating a few feet above the ground if you ever met her.”

“I think that the more accessible personalities are the ones that we like better and I’m always actually stunned when I see somebody who likes one of those distant ones...I’m not looking for the far off, disconnected thing.”

While promoting “The Stars in Our Eyes,” Klam went on “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” and she still remembers when she mentioned Aniston and “the whole audience went crazy.”

“Everybody felt the same way, everyone just loves her and I was wondering why, why do we love her that much. There’s definitely...an X Factor,” Klam said.

“For the longest time, Jennifer Aniston had no social media presence and she only recently came on Instagram and like, immediately broke it with the number of followers she had,” Klam added. “I follow her and...she doesn’t post a ton but in seconds there are like millions of people and that doesn’t happen for almost any other...she’s in her own category of whatever that ‘X’ factor is.”

Are these obsessions bad?

Whether you’re also obsessed with Aniston and Pitt, or you’re more interested in a particular singer or athlete, people have been obsessed with celebrity culture for ages and there’s no sign of it slowing down anytime soon. But social media has changed the way we engage with celebrity culture, “for better or worse.”

“When I was a kid, I sent fan letters to people...and you might get back a packet of...fan club information or something like that,” Klam said. “Now, you see somebody ask Sarah Jessica Parker a question and she responds and it’s like, I spoke to Sarah Jessica Parker, I now love her even more, we’re friends and I will fight for her and defend her.”

Although some of these obsessions may seem extreme, Klam believes there isn’t really a problem with having a particular fascination with celebrities, unless it gets to a point where a star feels “threatened” or “uncomfortable.”

In terms of the attention the viral Pitt and Aniston moment got this week, the “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” actor doesn’t seem to have a huge problem with it. Pitt said he is “blissfully naïve” because he hasn’t read the headlines and plans to “stay that way.”