Divorce in America: More Watching, Less Doing

eyeball.jpgA New York Times columnist calls it “divorce porn” – married people’s fascination with the lives of the divorced.

In his Family Matters column for the Times, Bruce Feiler commented on the dichotomy of divorce in America these days: while the divorce rate is the lowest it’s been in three decades, a lot of our popular culture seems to be obsessed with divorce.

To wit: the big adult movie of the summer is Eat Pray Love, based on Elizabeth Gilbert’s bestselling novel that chronicles her own journey of discovery after a divorce at age 32. That book sold over five million copies. The sequel, Committed, about her marriage to her second husband, has only sold 200,000 copies.

One of the most popular TV shows – Mad Men – has a divorced couple as two of its main characters. The hottest show on Broadway – Promises, Promises – hinges on infidelity and divorce. And American celebrity culture has served up a heaping helping of “divorce porn” this year via Tiger Woods, John Edwards, Sandra Bullock, Kelsey Grammar, Susan Sarandon, Al Gore and others who have graced the covers of People magazine.

Feiler hypothesizes that fantasies about escaping marriage are common to every couple, and that we seem to have found a cure: rather than going through the pain of an actual divorce ourselves, we can “scratch the itch” by watching others do it.