In their almost 20 years of marriage, I imagine David and Victoria Beckham have experienced a combined half hour of peace. Two of the most high-profile celebrities on the planet juggling several careers and four kids surely run out of hours in the day, but the Beckhams' stress levels are no doubt exacerbated by the cheating rumours that have followed them their entire marriage.
Recently, another round of vague cheating accusations surfaced on Twitter, accusing soccer star David of betraying pop starlet-turned-fashion-designer Victoria via an affair with his daughter Harper's school teacher.
"This is just fake social media news," the couple said in a statement to The Sun. "This is all very bizarre and an embarrassing waste of time."
However, this staunch denial has done nothing to quell speculation, which has gone well beyond gossip and now resembles more of a determination for the long-term couple to divorce.
This is pretty much the story of their lives together. News breaks, they deny it, no one listens. This pattern began for the couple in 2003, when David was playing for Real Madrid and spotted at a club with a woman who was revealed to be his assistant, Rebecca Loos. Tabloids reported that his marriage was in trouble, and Loos was the cause. He denied it.
Then, Loos' brother came to the Daily Mail in 2004 to reignite the rumours, saying that his sister had confirmed her Beckham affair to him. Beckham denied it. Later that year, Sarah Marbeck claimed to have slept with him in 2001. He denied it. He was then accused of cheating with their nanny in 2005. He denied it.
At this point, denying rumours of infidelity is as integral to the Beckham brand as football and the Spice Girls — but why? While some couples can stop cheating rumours in their tracks, or avoid them altogether, the tabloid press (and now social media) seems hellbent on this pair’s divorce, and it could have something to do with the fact that our expectations of celebrity couples are changing.
Posh and Becks arose during a time nearly two decades ago, when traditional A-list couples were still A Thing. But then, in 2005, Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston announced their split to People via joint statement. In 2012, Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes confirmed their divorce through statements from their reps and lawyers. When Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt split in 2016, the world knew because People found the divorce documents. As fans went crazy around them, all these stars knew was to kept their heads down, their opinions to themselves, and their true thoughts and feelings just out of reach. One by one, the A-list couples disappeared.
But Victoria and David Beckham endured, bringing their international glamour, comically stoic demeanours, and close-lipped tendencies (literally, Victoria never smiles!) — not to mention four photogenic kids, including a budding celebrity in their eldest Brooklyn, age 19 — into a new era when the exact opposite is expected of those who hold the spotlight.
People like Jay-Z and Beyoncé and Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, to name few, definitely fall under the A-list bracket — but not the type of old-school A-list that the Beckhams represent. They don't shy away from the cameras, and they make their statements themselves, with the Kardashian-Wests staying active on Twitter, and Jay-Z and Beyoncé giving us, as of this weekend, three whole albums about their marriage.
By 2018, thanks to all-access social media and the overall evolution of popular culture and the way news and entertainment are sold and consumed, most celebrity twosomes have become less mysterious and more forthcoming than ever. Chrissy Teigen and John Legend recorded and shared the song they sing to their daughter, Luna, whenever they change her diaper. Gwen Stefani and Blake Shelton openly gush to one another on The Voice and to any reporter willing to listen. The intricacies of John Cena and Nikki Bella's break up unfolded on morning television. Put simply, they have struggles. They're relatable. They’re just like us.
So perhaps this fascination with the state of Victoria and David Beckham's marriage comes from the need to humanise what has previously been a perfect, untouchable entity. Celebrity, we now demand, shouldn't feel unattainable — it should be an Instagram story away, and if the duo aren't going to give us the late show sketches and social media banter of a John Krasinski and Emily Blunt or a Pete Davidson and Ariana Grande, then we have to find those cracks somewhere else.
"Do we stay together because it is a brand? Of course not," David Beckham told BBC Radio Four in 2017. "We stay together because we love each other and because we have four amazing children."
Whether they feel the pressure or not, the couple has a legacy riding on their shoulders — one that will fall if they ever succumb to the rumours people are so determined to believe. They are trying to adapt to this new landscape, posting adorable family videos like this one:
But much like their marriage, their reputation is set in stone.