Jessica Simpson: moron

Jessica Simpson: moron

`Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica’ exposes fraud of celebrity marriage

Christopher Kelly

Knight Ridder/Tribune

The handsome young man stands with his beautiful new bride, enacting that age-old marital ritual – the recounting of his day’s events. On this particular day, he has discovered a dead mouse in the swimming pool.

“It was all, like, stiff and rigor-mortised,” he tells her.

“Riga-who?” she replies.

The camera moves in. The emotions are easily read on our hero’s face. First, puzzlement, then amusement. And, finally, the sinking horror that comes with this realization: I have married the stupidest woman on Earth.

“You know – when you die, and your body gets all stiff,” he tells her, hoping for a light bulb to turn on.

“Learn something new every day,” she mumbles.

There is simply no light bulb there.

This is one of the many sublime moments on a show full of them: “Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica,” MTV’s reality show following the lives of the recently hitched pop singers Nick Lachey (of 98 Degrees fame) and Jessica Simpson.

Only six episodes old, the show is fast turning into the most valuable cultural document of our young century: It’s both a study in our modern celebrity obsessions and a scathing attack on the celebrities who fuel them. Nick and Jessica are young, gorgeous, spectacularly wealthy, enviably privileged – and, ultimately, two gullible fools who have unwittingly given us front-row seats to the train wreck that is their celebrity marriage.

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What’s so terrific about “Newlyweds” is that it is a very contemporary gloss on a decades-old genre: the warts-and-all anatomy of married life. In 1973, director Ingmar Bergman made “Scenes From a Marriage,” a six-part television miniseries that followed a fictional married couple as they tore at, and finally tore apart from, one another. “Scenes From a Marriage” (released in the United States as a 2-hour film) is transfixing in its grasp of the nuances of the envy, hatred and jealousy that swirl inside a married couple’s home.

I like to think of “Newlyweds” as “Scenes From a Bennifer” – insofar as it’s just like the Bergman model, except it’s about really silly people, leading very shallow lives. All the envy, hatred and jealousy are here, but in deliciously inane, star-studded permutations. Watch Jessica get mad at Nick for checking out other women’s backsides – women who happen to be the wafer-thin dancer/models hired to appear in his new music video. Watch Nick blow up at Jessica for ruining his afternoon golf outing by complaining of her golf swing, “My boob gets in the way. My boob makes it curve.”

Oh, to have these people’s problems! Except that’s the brilliant joke here – you wouldn’t want these people’s problems, not for a multimillion-dollar record contract. “Newlyweds” seduces us with its glimpses into the tinted limousine windows of the rich and famous: their fabulous vacations, their photo shoots, their recording sessions, their expansive Hollywood Hills homes.

But the more we see, the more we understand this relationship to be built on a foundation of ego and image. There is only token affection expressed between the two newlyweds; more often, you simply see Nick irritated and bored with Jessica – grateful, for instance, to be able to escape to a Playboy Mansion party and to turn off his cellphone from Jessica’s incessant nagging.

You also see Nick and Jessica allowing envy and competitiveness to consume them, without their even realizing it. When a father and daughter ask Jessica for her autograph, Nick tries to make light of the fact that no one wanted his autograph, but a hint of real resentment flashes across his face and it leaves a nasty aftertaste.

How could it possibly be otherwise? When you measure a marriage by how famous it is going to make you, how can the less-famous partner be anything but enraged at the other? This isn’t a marriage so much as a public relations campaign – a point brought home by the omnipresence of the cameras in their home, by the very existence of the show.


This is what Bergman did. He showed how two people’s goals in a relationship can vary and how a collection of small resentments can expand and destroy like a cancer. He gave us a blueprint for a breakup. “Newlyweds” sends the same idea spinning into the media age: If you’ve ever wondered why even the most successful celebrity marriages seem to last about as long as a “Lord of the Rings” movie, then here is your guidebook.

But “Newlyweds” breaks apart from Bergman – in the end, it’s not an attack on marriage so much as it is an attack on the institution of modern celebrity. Following the success of “The Osbournes,” any number of famous folk thought they could cash in by having the cameras obsessively study their private lives. What Nick and Jessica could never have expected was that the cameras would turn on them.

So we relish Jessica’s whiny, spoiled-brat inability to pick up after herself. We delight at Nick having to put up with her pestering him about how he spends too much time with his brother Drew. Mostly, we laugh at what spectacularly stupid thing Jessica will come up with next. She doesn’t realize that “Chicken of the Sea” is not actually chicken. She always thought “platypus” was pronounced “platymapus.” She thinks buffalo wings are made from, well, buffalo.

That sometimes makes “Newlyweds” rather mean-spirited viewing – surely Jessica never bargained on becoming the American poster child for imbecilic hot chicks. But this mean-spiritedness feels deserved – and, for the ordinary Joes like us watching the show, it is extraordinarily cathartic.

Not just because Nick and Jessica achieved success in spite of their rather dubious singing talents. And not just because we live in a world that heaps limitless rewards upon the dumb, the young and the beautiful. But also because these two newlyweds had the hubris, and the vanity, to think that we would be interested in seeing every moment of their lives on television.

Well, yes, we are interested in their lives, but there’s nothing to be ashamed of. That’s the genius of the show. Instead of exalting these would-be idols, it gives them what they deserve. And instead of making us feel cheap about our celebrity thirst, “Newlyweds” lets us feel haughty and superior. It’s called eating your star-gazer cake and then getting to shove it right back into the celebrity’s face.