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Who Should Succeed Brad and Angelina As the Most Powerful Power Couple?

With Brangelina broken up, we look at the foremost unions in the pop culture spotlight

AP Images
AP Images

Brangelina, our foremost power couple, is no more. After nearly a decade of dating and two years of marriage, Angelina Jolie is filing for divorce from Brad Pitt. That opens the door for a new celebrity power couple to rise to the top of our hearts. So who has the mantle as the most powerful power couple? Our staff weighs in:

Beyoncé and Jay Z

Alison Herman: As the inevitable Brangelina/Lemonade comparisons come pouring in, a friendly reminder: Lemonade is not a breakup album. It’s a “we were thinking about breaking up, but we didn’t — and if I, Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter, can forgive Jay Z, so can you” album. Lemonade is a work of creative genius, but it’s a publicity one, too. Beyoncé got all the righteous fury and feminist solidarity she would have gotten if she’d actually dumped Jay Z while definitively squashing any breakup rumors, accomplishing two contradictory PR goals in one fell swoop. Besides, God knows the Carters have enough money, CIA-level secrecy, and global properties to live separately for years without anyone finding out. Doing so now would just fuck with the brand.

Basically, Lemonade tacked on a minimum of half a decade to Jay and Bey’s reign as the definitive celebrity power couple. Just because an answer’s obvious doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

Getty Images
Getty Images

Kanye West and Kim Kardashian

Allison P. Davis: I don’t even really want to admit this, but it’s pretty obvious that Kimye is our celebrity power couple, with a better celebrity couple portmanteau (c’mon, it ends in “yay,” so it is self-celebrating). Even if Brad and Angie hadn’t completely imploded, there’s no way they could have efficiently and swiftly dismantled the Taylor Swift machine the way Kimye did. In fact, I’m not sure any couple could. Which is why Kimye is not only our best celeb power couple, but also, maybe, our best heroes.

Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys

Jason Gallagher: The timing couldn’t be more perfect for Russell and Rhys to intercept our hearts. Everything about this couple is absolutely perfect. We’re talking The Wine Show, Felicity, The Americans, and every charming AF interview they’ve conducted as a couple that’s available on the internet. But really their claim to power-couple supremacy centers on these two very important facts:

1. Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys play the most badass couple in television history:

2. Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys are all of us:

Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn

Katie Baker: There’s no need to anoint a new Hollywood power couple, because the true king and queen have walked among us for decades. When Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell became an item in 1983, on the set of the movie Swing Shift, both were major stars: She had been nominated for an Oscar two years earlier, and he was a leading man who had once supposedly dominated Walt Disney’s dying thoughts. Their chemistry crackled in Overboard — one of history’s great films — and even as their careers cooled a bit, their partnership never did. “They have the best relationship of any people I know,” remarked Cher in 1990. However you choose to describe the still-proudly-unmarried Hawn and Russell — in 2012, the Daily Mail opted to call him “her toyboy for nearly 30 years” — there’s no denying that their long-term love is real, ceremony or not.

“I’ve been married twice,” Hawn explained to a BBC talk show host last October. “The reality of ‘Oh oh oh!’ in Beyoncé’s ‘Single Ladies’ can turn into a — ” (here, Hawn turned her voice into one approximating Eeyore) “‘ — oh, oh, oh.’ … Any ring will not define that truth.” That she’s even being asked about rings and marriage these days is noteworthy. In a world where so many celebrities fall off the radar as soon as they hit middle age, being a septuagenarian whose relationship is still being closely observed, dissected, and adored is the surest sign of power. Long may they reign.

Taylor Swift and Anyone

Claire McNear: What do we talk about when we talk about celebrity power couples? You want fame, sure, and red-carpet couplings and the kinds of faces that get insurance policies taken out on them and wow how did the paparazzi know exactly where their vacation villa was?!? But what you really want, what just the suggestion that “Name-You’ve-Heard-Of is porking Other-Name-You’ve-Heard-Of” does not satisfy, is prurience. Is a celebrity power couple even a power couple if it can’t move tabloids? If the inevitable conscious un-porking produces no gasps whatsoever, were any porks really porked?

Getty Images
Getty Images

No. So let’s just acknowledge what we all came here for, and admit that while there are many beautiful stars who coil into bed and rub their foundation on each other, exactly none of them have the tabloid-moving, gasp-inducing power of Taylor Swift and Literally Whomever She Walks Down A Beach With. Is Tom Hiddleston a good actor? Yes. Is Harry Styles a superb teen idol? Certainly. Is [Googles] Calvin Harris good at whatever it is that he does? Uhh, maybe, sure. Did any of us know or care which particular bland-ass white dude she was batting her bangs at? No. It didn’t matter. T-Swift’s beaus are one and the same, which is to say they are all Taylor Swift’s Boyfriends, and as such they are famous and glamorous and contentious and — from the moment they first appear until the 12- to 16-day mark at which a fully incubated Taylor Swift bursts out of their chests and skitters out the door — half of this planet’s greatest celebrity power couple of all.

Liev Schrieber and Naomi Watts

Jason Concepcion: I walk across the Brooklyn Bridge maybe three or four times a year. It’s the best thing you can do in New York City that’s free. Walking a structure completed in 1883, while gazing at the jagged, futuristic profile of lower Manhattan’s buildings pressing into the sky, and as ferries and tugboats chug along the river in slow motion. It’s like stepping out of time. Anyway, roughly 25 percent of the occasions I’ve taken that walk, I’ve seen Liev Schreiber, Naomi Watts, and their kids. Long may they stroll.

Salma Hayek and Francois-Henri Pinault

Sam Schube: In the “celebrity power couple” formulation, the first word gets the bulk of our attention. That’s fine: It’s really fun to talk about movie stars. But we’d do well to pay a little more attention to the couples that really put the “power” into “celebrity power couple.” And there’s only one place to start: with Wild Wild West star Salma Hayek and her husband, French businessbro Francois-Henri Pinault. The bride is a tremendous actress, a stouthearted activist, and former dater of Edward Norton. The groom is worth nearly $14 billion and owns Gucci (and also Volcom). SalCois could win an Oscar; SalCois could buy an island. Get you a celebrity couple that can do both.

Ben Affleck and Nicotine

Kate Knibbs: The “celebrity power couple” is dead. Bey & Jay and Kim & Kanye are celebrity power co-brandings, and they don’t really care who knows it.

I’ve seen too many of my beloved power couples crumble. Arnett-Poehler. Lohan-Ronson. Hamm-Westfeldt. SARANDON-ROBBINS.

When will it end? Did you know Bradley Whitford and Jane Kaczmarek got divorced? I’ve wised up. Love is a precarious quagmire, no couple is safe, and also, we should not invest our emotional energy in the romantic well-being of good-looking strangers.

The only honest celebrity power couple in Hollywood is Ben Affleck and his various nicotine delivery methods. His relationship with nicotine is unhealthy, but it represents unhealthiness out in the open. There are no secrets between Ben and his vape.

Ben Affleck has survived two Jennifer-based celebrity power couples. He is finished with charade, pageantry, and subterfuge. Affleck stands alone with his legal stimulants, and he shows us what it looks like when the fairy tale narrative crumbles.

Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendes

David Shoemaker: To be honest, I don’t know anything about Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendes’s relationship. Wikipedia says they have two daughters, the youngest born earlier this year, but aside from that I don’t even know if they’re a couple, really. And that’s why they’re the new power couple. Because they’re living a semi-normal life in celebrity-adjusted total obscurity. There are parallels to Brangelina, sure: Eva’s got her charities, Ryan has his Brad Pittiness, and both couples got together after playing couples on the big screen. But the power that Brad and Angelina had over us was their inscrutability. Gosling and Mendes have them beat: They’re practically invisible.

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler

Rob Harvilla: It might be that what dooms most power couples is the romance, and/or lust, and/or children for whom you are mutually responsible. These are just distractions, complications. And as Henry David Thoreau wrote — and Jolie has perhaps screamed recently across an opulent marble kitchen island — “Simplify, simplify.”

That Tina Fey and Amy Poehler keep making movies together that aren’t very good only underscores how bulletproof and pure their real-world (or at least TV-world) bond is. Not even Hollywood magic can replicate it, and not even Hollywood rancor can destroy it. I am never more cheered by the sight of two people onstage, enjoying themselves. Via the Golden Globes, they were the hottest couple of 2013, and 2014, and 2015; the high five that transpires at around 5:00 in ’13 is the most chastely pornographic thing ever aired on television. May they never, ever, ever write mean, best-selling, bridge-burning memoirs about one another. They are proof that love exists, and only truly thrives when it looks nothing like what you’d imagined.

Dwyane Wade and Gabrielle Union

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Getty Images

Haley O’Shaughnessy: Look in the mirror and ask yourself (after telling yourself, “Good afternoon, I like that shirt, by the way”) what it takes to be the most powerful power couple. Gabrielle Union asked herself that exact question before deciding to date and marry Dwyane Wade — or at least I like to think she did — and said versatility. Or maybe she cheer-spelled it. Either way, she knew: Two actors is so early 2000s.

But an actress and an NBA player? That’s Carmelo and La La Anthony–approved.

The couple has been waiting for this precious moment of ascension ever since the union that made Union a Union-Wade. She’s constantly keeping him humble and he’s constantly keeping her afloat. And I get it, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt cared about more than just fame. Of course they did. But do I have news for you: Wade and Union also speak out about what they care about. I guess you could say it’s a match made in heaven, except D-Wade would never leave South Beach long enough to explore heaven. Wait, he went where?

Iman Shumpert and Teyana Taylor

Sam Fortier: OK, so Teyana Taylor and Iman Shumpert aren’t actually the celebrity power couple. Yet. But we’re thinking long term, and if this summer is any indication, Shump and Teyana are both on their way up.

In June, Shump went from a player best known for his high-top fade to an NBA champion, and Taylor collaborated with Chris Brown for a single off her second album with Kanye West’s label. The Q scores are on the rise, and if that weren’t enough then OH YEAH: Shump and Teyana delivered their own child in their own bathtub. Shump even sacrificed a pair of red headphones by tying them around the umbilical cord until the ambulance got there. If you want to “get a man who can do both” — and the two things are “be a wing who plays excellent on-ball defense in a lucrative sport with new TV money” and “be your own midwife” — then Shump is there for it. And they’re not going away: This fall, Shump begins an NBA title defense and Teyana’s new album drops.

Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher

Tate Frazier: This is a major blow to the A-list “celebrity date night” scene. Maybe if Maleficent 2 would have begun production, we wouldn’t be here, but never fear, there’s an opportunity awaiting for the greatest child-actor love story ever. Yes — ever. Jackie and Kelso defied logic, going from the stereotypical high school jock–popular girl fling on That ’70s Show, to dating more seasoned Hollywood types in real life (Demi Moore and Macaulay Culkin), to somehow — miraculously, even — ending up together in real life. That’s one hell of a romantic comedy.

The signs are there for why Kunis and Kutcher deserve a shot at this. They attend Lakers and Dodgers games consistently enough to show they care about celebrity-civilian social contracts. Mila played a younger version of Jolie in Gia, so she’s ready to reprise her role. Ashton once asked Brad Pitt if he could take Jennifer Aniston on a date to win a bet, and Brad said, “YES” (!) No wonder we’re here. And finally, Kutcher once picked Jolie over Kunis in a game of “bang, marry, kill” on network TV. Who knows what dramatic turn is around the corner for these two. It’s time for Kunis and Kutcher to have their chance to be on top of the celeb dating world.

Felicity Huffman and William H. Macy

Caitlin Blosser: Instead of determining a celebrity power couple based on looks and money, why don’t we do it based on actual love, respect, and talent? After the Emmys this past weekend, I couldn’t help but be charmed by husband and wife nominees Felicity Huffman and William H. Macy. The way they look at each other and interact, you know their love is real!

Both are immensely talented, having been nominated for Oscars, Golden Globes, and Emmys. Macy is the star of the criminally underrated Shameless, and Huffman stars in the anthology series American Crime. Their equal talent level keeps feelings of inadequacy and jealousy at bay, strengthening their love and respect. We’re all ready for a couple we can actually root for, so let’s root for Felicity and William!

Drake and Rihanna

Carl Brooks Jr.: As the resident West Indian, I am here to cape for Robyn Fenty and honorary yardie Aubrey. Haters will say this is Bey-Jay lite, but Rihanna and Drake have established themselves as a celebrity couple with a different approach to making headlines. The two of them have more or less grown up before our eyes, from struggle singles “Pon De Replay” and “Replacement Girl” to dominating the Billboard Hot 100 together. The two becoming a celebrity power couple has loomed since their famed trip to Lucky Strike. There was a sense of “finally!” when they came together after years of speculation, and now we onlookers are dreaming up outcomes. They dominate pop culture with their music, and we can’t help but watch their movements (even though they are hella corny sometimes).