Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes: The Need for Social Censure
The picture gives away the punchline, but let’s do review the outlines of this story. Work with me here, and pretend for a moment you don’t know who they are:
A middle-aged man who is handsome (I guess), wealthy (in the extreme) and powerful begins dating a fresh-faced, virginal young woman, 17 years his junior. She hero-worships him.
This man has as part of his personal history two failed marriages. The end of both previous marriages is universally acknowledged to have been at his instigation.
Barely six months after the man and the young woman begin dating, she turns up in public, visibly pregnant.
A spokesperson says that “no wedding date has been set.” Oh, and yes, the couple “is very excited.”
In another era, this couple would have gotten married quietly. And the community would have raised their collective eyebrows and studiously avoided publicly noting how robust the baby appeared when it arrived “prematurely” six, or seven months later.
My critics will race forward to say that in that bygone era the “community” would have made our erstwhile couple feel downright uncomfortable in public. They will point out that “shotgun weddings” might not always have been best for everyone involved.
They will say I’m being judgmental.
Well, so be it.
Let me be clear: I’m not necessarily arguing for a return to shame and stigma full stop. But there is a Shame Continuum.
We may not want to visit Stigma on their heads . . . but must we celebrate them on the cover of People Magazine?