Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper were the unexpected dream team whose interpretation of A Star Is Born was uniquely vulnerable and undeniably addicting, wow-ing both critics and fans along its way to earning $425 million worldwide. In return for their hard work, apparently, we're going to ruin their lives.
The aftermath of the stars' intimate Oscar performance, in which they sang the 2018 movie's signature song "Shallow" while practically nose-to-nose, has been riddled with speculation about their close relationship. Are Cooper and Gaga going to run off together? Are Gaga and Cooper's partner, Irina Shayk, secretly feuding? And what, for some reason, does Cooper's ex-wife think? Instead of basking in the glow of a freshly-earned Oscar, the two stars are quietly weathering a tornado of suspicion that seems to be almost giddily rooting for the total destruction of their personal lives.
It's undeniable that Gaga and Cooper have chemistry. That IRL connection facilitated their character's on-screen success, and the actors have frequently said as much during the press tour.
"The second that I saw him, I was like, 'Have I known you my whole life?'" Gaga told Vogue in a September interview. "It was an instant connection, instant understanding of one another."
They were also genuine admirers of the other's work, with Cooper recounting to the publication: "She had her hair slicked back and she sang 'La Vie en Rose,' and I was just... levitating. It shot like a diamond through my brain. I loved the way she moved, the sound of her voice."
They gushed and the world ate it up, prompting them to up their chemistry on stage Sunday night. However, rather than acting as a triumphant finale to the whole A Star Is Born cycle, their earnest performance was one long eye-gaze too much for fans, who took the passion and ran with it to dark and petty places.
On the surface level, it's understandable. The idea of an iconic on-screen couple falling in love off-screen was too tempting for even this publication to resist, and I shan't cast the first stone without acknowledging that I did implore Gaga and Cooper to "make out" in a headline. But it soon became clear that playful fantasy has real-life consequences, as publications became dominated with speculative coverage about Gaga, Cooper, and Shayk that seems hellbent on stirring up trouble.
A frequent reaction during the Oscars performance was to pity Irina Shayk, or to suggest that she was watching the whole thing while seething with jealousy.
This narrative was only fuelled when Cooper's ex-wife, Jennifer Esposito, commented "Ha" in response to David Spade's Instagram photo of Gaga and Cooper with the caption, "Is there any chance these 2 aren't fucking?"
Instagram is also where tabloids tried to kick up some drama, claiming that Shayk went and unfollowed Gaga after the performance, escalating the love triangle rumours from a buzz to a full-on flame.
As soon as people realized the narrative was getting out of control, many of these things were walked back. Esposito clarified in an Instagram video that she only commented "ha" because Spade was "so bold in what he was saying."
"I didn’t watch the Oscars. I don’t know what went on, I don’t care what went on," she said. "I commented on something that I thought was funny […] And to find that people are making judgment calls about me or them or the people that the comment was about is really psychotic."
As for Shayk, it's unknown whether or not she ever followed Gaga in the first place, and a source assured Us Weekly that the model "knows that Bradley and Gaga are artists. It’s a nonissue for her. They were in character putting on an Oscar performance."
But let's say we follow this line of fantasy — is our dream for Cooper and Shayk to break up? For their one-year-old daughter to never know their parents as couple? For Gaga and Cooper to get together as Gaga is still recovering from her own heartbreak? That situation rivals Jackson and Ally in terms of messiness, and emotional-torture-as-entertainment should stay safely on screen, away from real lives and families.
Gaga and Cooper gave audiences something special, and used their talents to portray a relationship that genuinely moved the world — let's always remember them that way, and not as petty headlines.