The 'Don't Worry Darling' Drama Is Exactly What We Needed
Celebrity gossip is back, and it's glorious.
If you clicked on this blog and aren’t one of my parents, there’s a good chance you already know about all of the drama—and there’s a LOT of drama—surrounding the film Don’t Worry Darling, which premiered at the Venice Film Festival on Monday.
You’ll have been riveted by the months-long bubbling brew of chaos that began when fans noticed an apparent iciness between Wilde and the movie’s star, Florence Pugh on social media. You know about Wilde’s claims that she fired Shia LaBeouf in the role that would later be played by her now-boyfriend, Harry Styles. You know that LaBeouf not only rebuffed those claims but came in hot with receipts. You know that Wilde then made her own second round of claims in response to LaBeouf’s claims.
You know about “Miss Flo.” You know about Pugh skipping out on the press conference in Venice to strut and drink an Aperol Spritz. You know about Chris Pine dissociating during Styles’ attempt to speak about movies, and the stylists getting involved, and Pugh refusing to make eye contact with Wilde during the film’s 4-minute standing ovation (don’t get me started on film festival standing ovations) and that she walked out while it was still in progress (lmao), and you know about the spit (which fairness compels me to say has been denied). The spit!!!!!!!!
If none of this is sounding familiar and you actually came here looking for an explainer, fear not—many have done it better than I ever could. Needless to say, the press tour for Don’t Worry Darling has become a cascading waterfall of pure clusterfuckery, and we are so, so lucky to have it. Beautiful people hating each other extremely publicly and spectacularly?? Literally what more could you ask for? It’s what the movies industry as we know it was built on. Gossip is BACK.
Discourse Blog is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support our work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
I’d wager that most people fiendishly sinking their teeth into this festering open wound had never even heard of this movie a month ago, but I personally have been following it ever since the whispers first began earlier this summer that all was not well, darling, between Wilde and Pugh. It’s a story that swiftly ran through several framings: baffling-but-fun drama between two famous people, a case of two women fighting over a man, a false and misogynistic narrative engineered to simply pit women against each other, a tale of workplace misconduct on the part of Wilde as a director, a tale of workplace resentment on the part of anyone who wasn’t Styles or Wilde, and simply, “gossip.”
Which of these stories is true? I don’t know and I don’t need to know. Sincerely, never in my life has there been a gossip story whose actual facts I have been less concerned about. Much of my career in the news business has been about adhering to the truth, but here’s the thing: journalists are the ultimate gossips. Years before I ever worked for a news organization, I was obsessively reading gossip blogs and blind items and fixating over identities, and framings, and exactly what individual players had to gain or lose from the stories about them, and, ultimately, what was “real.”
When it comes to Don’t Worry Darling, I don’t care what’s real. Did Styles spit on Pine (you will never convince me he didn’t!)? Is Pugh angry at Wilde for hooking up with Styles? Does everyone involved with this movie absolutely want to kill each other? Is Chris Pine…okay? What does QAnon have to do with this? Does it matter that Christopher Hitchens was Wilde’s babysitter? Does it matter that she was once married to a prince? Does it matter that she once said that she and ex-husband Jason Sudeikis “have sex like Kenyan marathon runners” and are now involved in what seems to be a very nasty separation? Is this all a genius work of PR? Are we suckers? Is this movie even any good? I do not care! It doesn’t matter! And from what I can tell, that sentiment is actually perfectly on theme with the film, which seems to be about what lurks beneath the artifice of a beautiful (perhaps too beautiful) 1950s Palm Springs community?? I don’t know if that’s right and I’ll probably never find out. By all accounts, the revelations at the end of the movie are part of what ultimately tanks it. We’ve all heard this yarn before, and anyway, the story you don’t know is better than the one you do. The same is often true of gossip.
This isn’t really relevant, but as an aside, I’m heartbroken to say that Rotten Tomatoes—which as of this morning was in on the drama by insisting on adding the necessary comma in the title—has since edited the page for the “correct” but wrong styling of Don’t Worry Darling. If there is a reason this title has no comma, I would actually like to know it:
Anyway, as the drama surrounding Don’t Worry Darling hit a fever pitch this week, the screams of speculation, fawning, frothing, and glee on social media were interwoven (at least in my feed) by people who found the whole thing boring. Others asked who these people even were, and others still lamented how extremely “white culture” all of it was. All of those are fair points at face value, and also in the sense that gossip has always and will always be a reflection of what society cares about, and what stories we want to tell and project. But the flip side of that is that gossip is its own choose your own adventure story. You decide what you believe and you decide what to engage with. You choose the rabbit hole and just how far down you want to fall.
For me, this spectacle will sit at arm's length as the perfect, delicious morsel of drama. I care just enough to engage, but not so much that I have any personal stakes. It’s harmless chaos (assuming no actual suffering was inflicted, and these are just hot people who really do not get along). More than anything, I feel warmth from the fact that it seems to further confirm what’s been in the air for a while now: a golden era of celebrity gossip is upon us. During the height of COVID, sad king Ben Affleck shouldered much of the burden, along with Ana de Armas, Jennifer Lopez, and Dunkin’ Donuts. We are grateful for his service, but there’s a kind of mayhem brewing right now that we haven’t seen in years. People have changed, have cracked, have fewer fucks to give, are more resolute than ever before, are ready to feel the full weight of interpersonal drama. People have been forecasting the roaring 20s of the new millennium for a few years now, and maybe it’s actually upon us.
There is a palpable sense that we’ve glimpsed the abyss, that we’ve looked with eyes wide open at nothingness, and that petty bullshit is nothing compared to what we’ve been through. And we, the consumers of drama—who have also been through hell—are all the better for the distraction. It’s thrilling, it’s uniting, it’s fortifying. It’s what movie stars were made for. Let us worry about anything, darling. Anything but our own reality.