Las Vegas may be an earthquake-prone city, but no one in the entire state of Nevada could’ve been prepared for the Level 8 seismic event that shook Caesar’s Palace last week when a process server handed Olivia Wilde custody papers from her ex, Jason Sudeikis, while previewing her latest directorial effort Don’t Worry Darling at CinemaCon.
Wilde retrieved the envelope placed on the stage by the unidentified server, opened it to examine the contents, and quickly continued with her presentation unfazed. The manila envelope may have been marked “Personal and Confidential,” but it didn’t take long for news to surface about its true contents, giving the entire spectacle a woefully ironic but irresistibly juicy sheen. Wilde had been served papers filed by Sudeikis at a presentation for the film where she met the man she went public with one month after their split — a virtually unknown, up-and-coming actor named Harry Styles.
News out of the Vegas Strip hasn’t rocked the world this hard since Nomi Malone pushed Cristal Connors down a flight of stairs in Showgirlsso naturally, everyone on Twitter was quick to take sides.
Some were sympathetic toward Wilde, citing the objectively flippant manner of the incident as a callous disregard for a woman having a pivotal career moment. Others delighted in the soap-operatic nature of the whole thing. Many, like myself, fell somewhere in the middle, unable to help ourselves from reveling in the deliciousness of the kind of messy celebrity moment that is all too rare these days while still acknowledging that a legal case involving the custody of two young kids transforming from a private matter into a public laughing stock is unfortunate, to say the least.
The online discourse — the three most harrowing words in 2022 culture — surrounding the scandalous moment in the days since it happened has been brutal, and is only getting more intense. Fans aren’t just taking sides in a situation they know nothing about, they are bullying, mocking, and making cruel assumptions about the other. Personal trauma is being exploited for memes and the opportunity to go viral.
Much like the online reaction to the Johnny Depp and Amber Heard defamation trial, it is revealing a vicious and unsavory — and maybe, now inescapable — underbelly to celebrity culture and how we interact with it: A new way in which fandom can be toxic.
On one hand, it’s hard to feel too bad for Wilde. And not just because she’s a millionaire who went from one very hot boyfriend to another very hot boyfriend.
Sure, she may have served custody papers during a career-high, but CinemaCon is just not going to be a process server’s first choice of location for this kind of legal transaction. With contact details provided by the filing client (Sudeikis), a process server would have more than likely made every attempt to contact Wilde to serve the papers prior to the now-legendary CinemaCon smackdown. Wilde would’ve had to have made herself unavailable or been dodging this for some time, which certainly makes sense after she was spotted following Styles on his world tour at the tail end of 2021 and in the audience of his Coachella headlining performance just two weeks ago.
Serving someone at a concert isn’t impossible — just ask Ciara, who was served papers on stage while performing at a Pride event in LA back in 2013 — but it would be difficult given the amount of security at the average Harry Styles show. That man has four nipples, three Grammy nominations, and one upcoming album to promote. No one is getting close to his inner circle who isn’t supposed to be there! So if the process server couldn’t make contact with Wilde anywhere else, why not go where they know she’ll be: a convention for cinema industry insiders? Accessibility might’ve been one thing, but apparently, the price was no issue.
A source close to Sudeikis told several outlets last week that “Mr. Sudeikis had no prior knowledge of the time or place that the envelope would be delivered, as this would solely be up to the process service company involved, and he would never condone her being served in such an inappropriate manner. ” But a CinemaCon badge is $ 1190 for a non-industry attendee, which is a pretty substantial chunk of change for an elaborate scheme such as this.
Even if Sudeikis may not condone the way it happened, he’s certainly going to be the one who foots the bill either way. And he didn’t even get to enjoy the exclusive first look at the trailer for Don’t Worry Darling! Won’t someone think about Jason Sudeikis in all of this?
Unsurprisingly, Ted Lasso obsessives on Twitter have that part covered already. They’ve been hard at work in the mentions and quote tweets of users who have been joking about Sudeikis’ perceived pettiness. “I have a feeling [the original poster] wouldn’t have the same energy [if this happened to Jason]” one user with a Ted Lasso avatar said regarding an innocuous jab at the situation. Another tweeted a photo of Ted Lasso star Hannah Waddingham giving a look of disgust, captioning it, “Me whenever OW and HS are mentioned,” referring to Wilde and Styles. One Ted Lasso avatar just simply quote-tweeted the news of Wilde being served with one word: “Delicious.”
“Suddenly all of the most obnoxious people on the Internet are locked in a deathmatch trying to defend the integrity of celebrities that they don’t know personally. ”
First of all, going to bat for any man is a mistake, but going to bat for a man simply because he plays some plucky soccer (sorry, football) coach who brings his down-home values of kindness and fairness to the infamously stuffy United Kingdom despite not knowing beans on toast from Sunday roast is just ridiculous. Ted Lasso is a character! He cannot cheer you on, he cannot give you a little locker room pep talk, and he most certainly would not have his ex served in public.
This imaginary person’s views and decisions do not reflect that of the actual person that plays him. Ted Lasso exists behind a screen and a $ 4.99 Apple TV + subscription that should only be used to watch Severance and Physicalnot base your entire online presence around.
While one side is attempting to defend Ted Lasso’s honor, the other has jumped in front of Olivia Wilde by proxy of their favorite singer. “IN THIS HOUSEHOLD WE ADMIRE AND RESPECT OLIVIA WILDE,” one Harry Styles fan said. “I gain more respect for her each day. I hope she knows she has people who support her and care about her in this fandom and outside of it. ” I’m sure that Olivia Wilde now feels a great comfort knowing that tweenage fans of her boyfriend have got her back through this.
Maybe Styles fans sincerely like Olivia Wilde, maybe they’re just trying to deter and distract from any speculation that the lyric “Leave America, two kids follow her” from Styles’ most recent single, “As It Was,” has anything to do with Wilde’s current relationship with the two children she shares with Sudeikis.
The saturation of social media within our everyday lives has opened a portal that makes every little detail about every little thing hyper-visible, allowing us to play out our morbidly curious voyeuristic fantasies. What was once an itch that could only be scratched by watching court television, hour-long network dramas, or Nicole Kidman sinking into a brown turtleneck sweater while looking fraught in Big Little Liesis now something that’s served up to us on a platter that fits in the palm of our hands and fries our brains with blue light every morning.
So it’s not surprising that when two famous people who are normally not prone to splashy tabloid gossip — and barely have any online presence at all — get themselves suddenly embattled in a messy, ultra-dramatic, and incredibly public custody case, we can’t help but take our hot little hands to Twitter to watch all the ugly details pour out in real-time. If only season two of Ted Lasso had been anywhere near as engaging, maybe I too would’ve found myself throwing barbs at strangers for a 6-foot-tall mustache in a tracksuit.
And so, what’s left? Where are we? Suddenly all of the most obnoxious people on the Internet are locked in a deathmatch trying to defend the integrity of celebrities that they don’t know personally. None of us are privy to the intimate details of these peoples’ lives and histories, and yet some are so intent on pretending like their relationships with the parties at the center of it all aren’t completely parasocial.
Even if you’re not pulling for one side or the other and you’re just enjoying the show, there’s still a woman at the center of it all, holding a manila envelope marked “Personal & Confidential,” who has just been thrust into an irrevocably public custody proceeding with her ex regarding their two children. As fun as it may be to revel in all of the drama as spectators, there won’t be any winners here when the dust settles.