Zoe Kravitz, Channing Tatum, and the Era of Offline Boyfriends
Instagram announcements are cheugy — everyone's just vibing
The most chaotic plot twist of the summer so far — and therehavebeenmany — is the new trio that has been spotted around New York City: Zoe Kravitz, Channing Tatum, and Channing Tatum's bike.
Though there were whispers about the unlikely Kravitz and Tatum pairing earlier this summer, they were dismissed. That was partly because the pair seems so opposite that it was too baffling to believe, and partly because there were more interesting rumors about Zoe Kravitz floating around the internet — namely that she was dating Taylour Paige.
Despite the fact that Taylour Paige is famously dating Jesse Williams, this was a more compelling rumor simply because it started on Instagram. When Kravitz posted a (now-deleted) photo of the two of them with a cryptic, slightly suggestive caption, the internet collectively said: oh?
And because so much celebrity news and gossip starts online (shoutout to DeuxMoi, the people's princess), we're so used to decoding tweets and getting updates on Instagram. However, we've reached a turning point.
Gone is the era of curated Instagram PSAs. Keeping in trend with the new age of Gen Z nonchalance, celebrities are less likely to let us completely into their lives and instead, more prone to keeping us guessing.
After years of being Very Online, curating perfect versions of ourselves on social media and turning ourselves into (*gags*) personal brands, the tides are shifting and trends are moving in the opposite direction.
The pandemic brought on a lot — like, a lot — of oversharing. So much of 2020's quarantine content was relentless and terrible in the guise of "togetherness" and "vulnerability." Celebrities lamented about "our" situation from their pools, old acquaintances seemed to always be livestreaming on social media, and even our friends posted maybe too many photos of their banana bread.
But the increased volume of content decreased the quality. Suddenly, the need for curation was usurped by the desperate need for attention and validation that isolation wrought. And now, with most people venturing out into some semblance of their old lives, the constant social media updates have petered out, but what remains is the unpolished veneer that has made Instagram casual again.
It's the era of photo dumps (the 10 photo carousel that acts as a time capsule and is usually a chaotic combination of group pictures, solo shots, and out of context observations) and unfiltered feeds. It's also the era of shameless stories, oversharing as an art form, and constant declarations of our own defining, or niche, personality traits — seeing something on TikTok and saying "that's so me."
But with all this online chaos, somewhat paradoxically, this is also the era of the very Offline Boyfriend.
While seemingly innocuous parts of our lives are broadcast for all to see, significant others are no longer a crucial part of the aesthetic.
This is especially true within a heteronormative paradigm. Where once Instagram was the prime venue to "show off" a boyfriend to get validation and peer approval, this shift is further proof that the reigning cultural "cool girl" is no longer the one who has the most male approval. Rather, the "cool girl" is cool for her peers by herself, and her boyfriend is rendered irrelevant, or even reductive, to her aesthetic.
Why is everyone obsessed with having an ‘offline’ boyfriend right now? @lauraepitcher investigates. #normcore #bellahadid #loggingoff
But aside from Tatum, Kravitz, bike, who are these cool girls and who are their offline boyfriends?
When Issa Rae posted her wedding photos in July, everyone was like … what? While Issa Rae's relationship had been public, with a few articles announcing her engagement months prior, it was also very private. Despite her veritable television empire and iconic cultural status, Issa Rae had no interest in wedging her relationship status into her personal brand and becoming one half of a proverbial power couple — why would she? She's Issa Rae.
Similarly, despite the constant paparazzi and media flurry around her as part of her job, Bella Hadid has managed to keep her long-term boyfriend mostly under wraps.
This is opposite to her highly publicized relationship with Abel Tesfaye of The Weeknd from a few years ago. Instead of photo ops, paparazzi pictures, and public outings, Bella and her new man are barely ever spotted — usually only by fans snapping blurry iPhone photos of the pair in SoHo.
After the spectacle of pandemic pap walks — a horror show led by Shawnmila (everyone's least favorite PR couple) and the brief, pre-Bennifer pairing of Ana De Armas and Ben Affleck — nothing came to fill the void. And celebrities welcomed it. The unexplained, confusing couples that have emerged this past year were a precursor to the offline phenomenon that looks like it's here to stay.
The bygone era of celebrities calling paparazzi to showcase their relationships and of heavily curated couple announcements ended firmly with J-Lo and Ben Affleck's Instagram carousel announcement (peak Leo behavior) — the perfect blend of new age photo dump and semi-cheugy PDA. And while we'll kind of miss the drama of it, we're glad it ended so spectacularly.
From now on, it looks like we'll be playing guessing games and being ambushed by surprise couples riding through New York City on fixed-gear bikes.