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Dua Lipa and Callum Turner: An “It-Couple” and Their Captive Online Audience

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Dua Lipa and Callum Turner: An “It-Couple” and Their Captive Online Audience

Over the weekend, photographs of cinematic proportions surfaced on this public Internet. The pictures were of a dinner date between Dua Lipa and Callum Turner. In them, she is sat in the booth staring at him with the most gaminish, Audrey Hepburn-like smile, the table’s candlelight kissing her face. We see the back of his head, then we see in the mirror behind Dua, Callum’s face: He’s smiling back at her. His hand is on her forearm. And if you couldn’t make it any more over the top, they were in Paris. 

It’s been quick, the romance between the two of them, and we know so very little about it. But the smiles on their faces, their arms around each other, their carefreeness—it’s the most perfect image upon wish to project your deepest wishes. And people are.

Pop Tingz posted a picture of the two of them with their arms woven together like a friendship bracelet. I’ve seen people making jokes about how certain pictures of the pair would have gone mutli-platinum on Tumblr. And it’s so true. Regardless of the true goings on in their relationship—how serious or casual they are, how happy they are, how they feel about each other—to the voyeurs, they are a stills from a movie to be pinned up on a moodboard, to be reblogged to the moon and back. We study their postures, their body language, even their possible bids for privacy, as if doing so will make us closer to having it ourselves.

I haven’t seen people obsess over and root for the success of a couple like this since Alex Turner and Alexa Chung or Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone or even Posh and Becks. Celebrity couples are nothing new, but we love nothing more than people madly in love who seem not to be posing for the telephoto lenses hiding in bushes. 

Of course, these pictures are invasive. Our culture’s relationship with celebrity on the whole is invasive. Both celebrity and fan exist in a cycle of exploitation, of product and of consumer, benefiting a third party more powerful than any of them. These pictures are taken for that reason. The concept of a parasocial relationship became a hit in pop psychology last year. Extreme fandom, once a behavior of the fringes of society, is now somewhat normal and accessible to everyone. As the Internet and camera phones have appeared to close the distance between celebrity and fan, making people genuinely feel like we know them, like they are but semi-distant acquaintances of our social circles. To some degree, it’s almost impossible to avoid. People surmise it’s why podcasts are such a popular new media: They make you feel like more than just an observer of an ongoing conversation between two people, but rather a participant amongst peers who share inside jokes and know the same references and maybe, just maybe, see the world in the same way. But obviously, celebrity couples represent a line of desire much more intense.

In 2023, the World Health Organization declared loneliness to be a “global public health concern.” If you search ‘touch deprived’ on TikTok, you’ll see people making jokes and sincere pleas in the name of touch deprivation or touch starvation. It’s easier said than done to derive a sense of self from within even when alone, but the truth is, we’re constructing our image of who we are with feedback from people around us all the time. From our friends, from our siblings, from our flings and our forevers. Being wanted and being understood in the context of a successful romantic relationship is all anyone wants. 

The truth is (and deep down, we all know this,) the concept of an It-couple is completely made up, it’s a status we assign, like ‘genius’ or ‘muse’ to put people on pedestals so that we don’t have to face ourselves. To this effect, if all we have is a perfect photo of smiling faces, our brains will fill in the rest. 


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