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The Importance of Being a Combined-Name Couple
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8 Jun 2010 EST

- by Rachel Allen, Staff Writer

TomKat. Brangelina. Bennifer (the original), Bennifer II, and now Speidi. Combined names have emerged as both an easy way to shorten celebrity names for magazine covers, which these couples grace weekly, and, ironically, as a way of mocking those golden duos which make the gossip industries unimaginable sums of money.  And while the stars themselves possess unique celebrity muscle, when they become a couple, and the press simplifies their names into one awkwardly disjointed title, they become a celeb superpower.

The history of the combined name is fraught with drama, intrigue, and paparazzi. Brad and Jen, the couple of the 90’s, were just known as Brad and Jen. Sweet, simple, and seemingly indivisible, Brad Pitt and Jennifer Anniston seemed like the ultimate celebrity couple. They lead a generally unexciting celebrity life (Brad’s nude sunbathing episode aside), but then Brangelina happened. A whirlwind of drama, are-they-aren’t-they-hooking-up on the set of Mr. and Mrs. Smith and countless periodical covers, the debacle was one of the most fruitful breakups ever for the tabloids. But the Jen-Brad-Angelina triangle was years, and many adopted children, ago.

What has kept Brangelina in the public’s eye and in the press was not each person’s body of work but their somewhat bizarre fixation on “humanitarianism” in the form of adoption. This particular brand of altruism has kept them on the covers, as every trip to an impoverished country has yielded a new Jolie-Pitt child.

The same nominal phenomenon has happened with another “crazy” (and more famous) couple - Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, aka TomKat. The 20-year age difference was a scandal in itself, but the public got over that. So what was TomKat’s hook for the press? A little religion called Scientology. Couch jumping on Oprah and a few stunts later, Tom and Katie were on every magazine cover.

While TomKat and Brangelina had their earlier celebrity to fall back on, and their current film projects to keep people interested, this trend has given rise to a whole new breed of cover-grabbing couples who don’t have those advantages.  Today, anyone of modest celebrity can use the same drama to make a name for themselves.

Heidi and Spencer of The Hills fame, now known by the public as “Speidi” (a mix of their names but the word “spite” also seems like it has a place in the title), are an excellent example of this. The couple’s antics--Spencer’s angry explosions and Heidi’s 10 plastic surgeries--have kept the public grotesquely enthralled, and are the reason for that show's popularity.

Each episode seems to show an outburst by the couple (or an oddity--Spencer’s obsession with healing crystals for instance), and the remainder of the episode shows the rest of the cast out to lunch gossiping over what Speidi has done this time.

Yet Speidi is challenging this trend while simultaneously urging it onwards in their latest move to attain more media coverage: Speidi is breaking up. They are--gasp!--separating.  But they’re doing it all in front of a camera, in a new show entirely dedicated to their break up, and Heidi’s travails while moving out and on from Spencer.

Is this actually the two breaking up, or simply a stunt?  No one really knows, but it will be interesting to see whether the name-combination will be able to hold up when a couple has separated, or will Speidi boringly go back to Spencer and Heidi?  As J.Lo and Ben Affleck are no longer called Bennifer, Speidi runs the risk of falling into obscurity, or perhaps becoming bigger and crazier than ever.  

No one has ever pushed the celebrity breakup envelope this far--off the stands and onto TV.

While many celeb couples have been chewed up and spit out by the tabloids, those with catchy names have shown remarkable resilience in a very fickle market. Whether it is the fact that the names sound cool and slide off the tongue easier, or the antics that put them on the covers, celebrities with combined names aren’t going anywhere--their numbers are only growing (see: Zanessa, for Disney tween sensations Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens).

In a world where shorter, faster, and easier to remember are some of the most important keys to tabloid fame, celebrity name combinations are an integral aspect of keeping a celeb couple famous.

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