People Really Care about Olivia Munn and John Mulaney—Should They?

by 24USATVNov. 18, 2021, 3 a.m. 17
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Contrary to recent reports that there might be some rockiness between John Mulaney and Olivia Munn, the two are, evidently, still dating—at least based on her use of the present tense while discussing him in a new interview with the Los Angeles Times. “They think they know our relationship so well. When in reality, they don’t,” Munn said of internet rumors and gossip about the couple, who are expecting a baby together. “There’s no way anyone could know what any of his relationships were or what our relationship is.”

That hasn’t stopped people from having very, very strong feelings about Mulaney and Munn since they were revealed to be dating in May, three months after Mulaney completed a rehab stay and just three days after the news broke that the comic and his wife, Anna Marie Tendler, were divorcing. Tendler’s statement was memorably specific, eschewing the usual diplomacy about a mutual breakup: “I am heartbroken that John has decided to end our marriage.” Twitter—and the internet at large—reeled. The very same fans who expressed empathy for Mulaney when he entered rehab at the end of 2020 were hyper-concerned about his new girlfriend, how the new relationship may or may not have overlapped with his marriage, and the fact that he previously said he didn’t want kids at all.

An obsessive interest in celebrities’ love lives is nothing new. Fans fancy themselves on a first-name basis with Liz and Dick, Brad and Jen, Ben and Jen. They cling to it long after the stars themselves seem to have moved on. Even by this standard, the level of emotional investment in Mulaney felt unique. Maybe because, as a beloved comedian who bares his personal life onstage, fans felt especially connected. Perhaps people saw themselves in Mulaney and his battle with addiction, or in Tendler as a wife who, at least by outward appearances, was traded for another woman. Either way, people talked about Mulaney like he was their brother or their best friend; someone they knew intimately. As the Times points out, the term parasocial relationships (expending time, energy, and love on public figures who don’t know you exist) trended on Google when Munn and Mulaney announced her pregnancy. The phrase popped up as a burn on Mulaney obsessives, but did it lead to people investigating their own intrigue? Perhaps we’re not as unaware as we might seem.

Fandom plus social media—the ability to track someone you admire almost on the daily—can blur into a creepy degree of fascination, but the onus isn’t purely on fans. Stars share publicly about their personal lives when it serves them—announcing engagements and weddings and babies—and this has given their fans a new, seemingly intimate relationship with them (or at least as new as social media). But the celebrity romance news cycle is a fickle mistress. Inviting the world into your relationship is, inevitably, like opening Pandora’s box (hence why megastars like Taylor Swift and Harry Styles no longer do it).

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