Ariana Grande and the Problematic History of Labeling Women as Homewreckers

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For as long as people have been interested in celebrities, they’ve been obsessed with celebrity relationships in their often (humanly) complicated and sometimes messy glory. Apparently, we might be a bit hard-wired to do so.

The latest relationship capturing the collective imagination is Ariana Grande’s most recent coupling with her Wicked co-star Ethan Slater. Since the romance comes on the heels of the reported end of her 2-year marriage with Dalton Gomez (and Slater’s recent filing for divorce from his wife, Lilly Jay), the internet quickly turned on Grande.

Soon, she was being cast in the homewrecker role, which has been used to belittle women — especially the very famous ones — for dating non-single men.

What is being said about Grande?

Last week, TikTok user Rikki Valentina shared a post captioned, “When karma finally exposes Ariana Grande after she stole your boyfriend in 2010.” Her video quickly became her most-watched at 5.1 million views, with thousands of commenters demanding she “spill the tea.”

Valentina followed up with a two-part story time, explaining how she allegedly discovered through a series of DMs that her ex-boyfriend — a Victorious day player named Christian — was cheating on her with Grande while on set. When she reached out to the singer, she got blocked, according to Valentina.”The only reason I’m bringing this up… is because I did not know that she had so many victims… Something needs to be said because she clearly doesn’t get it.”

While Grande and Slater’s teams have been silent on relationship rumors, Lilly Jay (who has a young child with Slater) has gone to the press with a series of statements — the most damning one a declaration that Grande is “the story really. Not a girl’s girl. My family is just collateral damage.” The focus is more on Grande’s actions and less on Slater, who was the person who ended a 10-year relationship.

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Since the news around Slater and Grande broke, people have analyzed timelines of Grande’s past relationships (starting when she was 13 years old) to construct a narrative about her being a “man-stealer.”

Today, the finger-pointing reaches new levels as casual sideline observers can share their thoughts with their thousands of followers: “Usually I would never call a woman a homewrecker… But Ariana has such a history of going after people who are already in relationships that it’s really accurate,” @meatymollie said in her viral TikTok. According to the video’s like count, over half a million people agree with her. It would be inaccurate to say Slater has come out of this drama completely unscathed. He’s faced backlash from all four corners of the internet, though the criticism has been relegated to making fun of his looks and his role in Broadway’s rendition of Spongebob. But not once has he been called a homewrecker as Ariana has been.

A rethinking of labels

Consider Valentina’s original post — admittedly, the word “stole” is doing a lot of heavy lifting here. It eliminates her boyfriend’s complicity in the affair, implying that Grande can take another woman’s man whenever she pleases. Valentina acknowledged as much in Part 1 of her story time.“I’m very sorry for the way that I worded the video. I shouldn’t have said ‘stolen’ because he definitely was at fault. More so at fault than her,” she admitted.

Grande being labeled a homewrecker is just the latest example of celebrity women who, in these situations, often suffer more consequences (or at least more backlash) than the men they’re entangled with.

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Take Angelina Jolie, LeAnn Rimes or Kristen Stewart, who faced the brunt of criticism after getting involved in relationships with married men. In most cases their reputations were questioned, they lost work opportunities and suffered through more gleeful hate from the public if their relationships didn’t last. Were these women seabound sirens, calling out to helpless men with their irresistible songs? Yet, they are always being held accountable — whatever that really means on the internet.

Pop culture (and society at large) could take a page from Jennifer Aniston book. In 2015, she reflected on her split from Brad Pitt once and for all declaring: “Nobody did anything wrong. You know what I mean? It was just like, sometimes things [happen],” she said to the Hollywood Reporter.

“If the world only could just stop with the stupid, soap-opera bullshit. There’s no story. I mean, at this point it’s starting to become — please, give more credit to these human beings.”