The first thing you need to know about “The Arrangement” ― E!’s new Hollywood-centric drama about a television actress who signs a contract to marry a movie star ― is that it’s definitely not, in no way, inspired by Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes and Scientology. At least that’s what the show’s cast and creators claim.
We’ve all heard the rumors that the Church of Scientology allegedly auditioned actresses to become Cruise’s girlfriend before Holmes snagged the “role” and married him. That’s why comparisons between the show’s Kyle West (Josh Henderson) and Megan Morrison (Christine Evangelista) — the aforementioned movie star who belongs to a suspicious organization called The Institute of the Higher Mind and the struggling actress who is contracted to play his girlfriend — and their suspected real-life counterparts are so hard to resist.
“The Arrangement” may seem very much inspired by Cruise and Holmes’ relationship on the surface, but the show is more about the machinations of the Hollywood PR machine and every over-the-top relationship rumor tabloid addicts read over the years.
The concept of the Hollywood contract relationship, otherwise known as a “fauxmance” or “promance,” dates back to the studio system of the early 20th century. Actor Rock Hudson’s 1955 marriage to secretary Phyllis Gates was famously arranged by the actor’s agent, Henry Wilson, in an effort to hide Hudson’s sexual orientation from the public. Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn had audiences convinced of their love both on- and off-screen, but a 2012 memoir by Hollywood fixer Scotty Bowers claims their 26-year relationship was a decoy to distract from the same-sex relationships they both reportedly enjoyed.
Today, while Hollywood has become a friendlier place to openly queer actors, it’s possible there are relationships that are arranged to conceal a star’s true sexual orientation; however, it’s far more plausible that a fauxmance might be concocted to promote a shared project or raise a couple’s collective profile.
Take Kaley Cuoco and Henry Cavill’s fleeting 12-day fling back in the summer of 2013, which was widely believed to be a fauxmance ― not that anyone could officially prove it, of course. There just seemed to be something curious about the fact that the two started dating right around the time Cavill was promoting “Man of Steel,” and that somehow the paparazzi seemed on-hand to document every single one of their dates. The fact that their “relationship” ended just as quickly as it started, combined with a suspiciously short timeline between Cuoco and Cavill’s breakup and her new romance with soon-to-be fiancé Ryan Sweeting, added to suspicions their romance was less than authentic. Their coupling reeked of a PR-set up. Cuoco even admitted to Cosmopolitan that it brought her more attention than she ever received before.
“I had no one following me until I met Superman. I’ve been in this business for 20 years, and my whole life, I could go anywhere, do anything. There had not been one paparazzi photo of me until like seven months ago. The recognition has been crazy,” she told the magazine in a 2014 cover story.
The problem with Cuoco’s statement is that while it used to be commonplace for the paparazzi to be out in full force following celebrities around town, hunting for that perfect picture, that happens far less often today unless you occupy the A-list.
Thanks to the tabloid boom in the early 2000s, being a paparazzo was a lucrative job. There seemed to be a heightened interest in seeing celebs doing mundane things, sparked in part by Us Weekly’s “Stars — They’re Just Like Us!” feature. In the mid-2000s, the right photo could fetch hundreds of thousands of dollars, but that kind of payout has dried up since the introduction of social media, allowing celebrities more control over their own image.
And for someone like Cuoco, who was able to keep her relationship with her “Big Bang Theory” co-star Johnny Galecki secret for two years without anyone finding out, it’s difficult to believe the paparazzi were suddenly able to capture intimate moments of her 12-day romance with Cavill ― unless, of course, they were specifically tipped off.
For all we know, Cuoco and Cavill’s brief dalliance with one another could have been real, but it’s hard to deny the overwhelming professional benefits they both enjoyed from the blink-and-you-missed-it affair. Such is the case with what is probably the most-discussed alleged fauxmance in recent history ― Hiddleswift.
From their humble beginnings born out of totally not staged photos on the rocky shores of Rhode Island, Taylor Swift and Tom Hiddleston’s extremely camera-ready relationship simply did not ring true for many fans. Hiddleston has gone on record claiming that “of course [the relationship] was real,” but believing that means ignoring aspects of their relationship that feel orchestrated.
The Hiddleswift relationship materialized seemingly out of nowhere, becoming public knowledge a mere day before Kim Kardashian accused Swift of lying about having approved lyrics to Kanye West’s song “Famous.” From a PR perspective, a new, showy relationship not only distracted from the allegations, but also drew focus from Swift’s recent breakup with Calvin Harris.
If Swift benefited by trying to distract from negative attention, then Hiddleston, who was then known as a respected British actor, soaked up more attention ― both good and bad ― than he’d ever experienced up to that point.
Though he took some flak for some of the more attention-grabbing moments of the relationship, like wearing an “I ♥ T.S.” tank top at the beach, becoming fodder for tabloid gossip seems to have proven beneficial for his career. During the time Hiddleston and Swift dated, the actor capitalized on his newly raised profile by growing his Twitter following from 2.8 million to 3.8 million, and he took the opportunity to join Instagram, where he amassed 1.1 million followers in a matter of weeks, according to Refinery 29.
Hiddleston wasn’t an unknown before he dated Swift. In fact, he has two blockbuster movies ― “Kong: Skull Island” and “Thor: Ragnarok” ― due out this year. But every little bit of recognition helps when it comes to promotion and landing that next coveted role.
Observers of celebrity culture can only speculate over the authenticity of relationships like Hiddleswift and others that set off our collective bullshit detectors. That’s why gossip addicts will relish “The Arrangement” for painting Hollywood the way we assume it really is ― calculating and manipulative. From the specifics laid out in Kyle and Megan’s relationship contract, to staged interactions with celebrity exes, and the overreaching publicists and managers who pull all the strings, “The Arrangement” is rich in detail and probably more reflective of Hollywood than it would like to admit.
“The Arrangement” premieres Sunday, March 5, at 10 p.m. ET.