Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper are most likely not involved romantically. It’s important to note this at the outset. But as soon as A Star Is Born opened last fall and displayed the pair’s pulsating natural chemistry, thousands of super-fans—I count myself among them—have been daydreaming otherwise.
In my opinion, we cannot be blamed for this. Ladley Gooper has been begging for us to think they’re an item for the entirety of their nearly yearlong global press tour. She fixes his tie, she kisses him, they hold hands—and that’s just on the red carpet. They compliment each other in interviews using phrases like “instant connection,” “passion like gasoline,” “plutonium,” and “illuminated by the sun.” In Las Vegas in January, she invited him onstage for a surprise performance of “Shallow” and fell at his feet in a performance of desperate adoration. Sure seems like they, or at least their movie’s publicists, have wanted us to think they’re doin’ it, and it’s been a blast.
During Sunday’s briskly paced Oscars ceremony, we “shippers” were awarded what was probably our last public document to overanalyze. There, the co-stars performed a duet so absurdly sensual that it could only be received as a gift. Cooper perched on a stool with a microphone and began singing, staring intensely at Gaga. Gaga stared back and took her seat at piano. Cooper strode over to join her, and they closed their eyes and nuzzled into each other as they sang. More staring, more nuzzling. All this time, keep in mind, they were singing “Shallow,” a song whose apex consists of Gaga moan-singing “Ayhhh-yah-ah-ah, aaaaahhhhhh.” Public displays of sexiness from both these stars are nothing special, but this was also a performance of total, mutual vulnerability. Gaga and Cooper’s act seemed meant to convince us not just that they’ve had sex, but that they do it while making unbroken eye contact.
The Internet responded to this display with an “Ayhhh-yah-ah-ah, aaaaahhhhhh” of its own. One tweet offered the pair an Oscar for “Best Intercourse, Sung”; “I think I finally understand heterosexuality,” Vulture writer E. Alex Jung wrote. A close-up shot of the duo snuggling at the piano quickly became a meme. The Washington Post offered a frame-by-frame breakdown of the performance’s “roller-coaster of emotions.” The Atlantic called it “supernaturally intimate.” A U.K. paper had a body language expert analyze the performance in what has to be the most pointless deployment of that already-pointless journalistic trope.
There have been hints of hope from the tabloid press. Gaga broke up with her fiancé recently, and Cooper and his longtime girlfriend, Irina Shayk, were rumored to be “miserable” last fall. It’s anyone’s guess as to whether Cooper and Shayk are happy together, but she did accompany him to the ceremony on Sunday. More to the point, she sat in the front row while her boyfriend and his co-worker eye-humped each other for more than three solid minutes on stage. This was the first chance Ladley Gooper’s fan base has had to analyze Shayk’s facial expressions and body language, and analyze it we did. (Disappointingly, she seemed supportive and chill.)
What is it about this imaginary affair that has captivated me so irresistibly? Maybe it’s the unlikeliness of any visible spark between this inscrutable, slightly uptight A-lister and this emotive, flamboyant pop star. Maybe it’s the dumb pleasure of watching two very good actors extend the spectacle of their on-screen passion for an entire promotional tour. Again, I do realize there’s never been any actual evidence these two are an item. If anything, their public displays of horniness suggest they’re not together IRL: People who are secretly having sex with each other do not ham it up like this as a rule, let alone onstage in front of millions of people during Hollywood’s Biggest Night. But take it from this Gooper shipper: It was delicious to believe otherwise, if only for a few months, capped off by three perfect minutes on Sunday night. If Cooper’s deeply satisfying remake of A Star Is Born taught us anything, it’s that melodrama doesn’t have to be “realistic” to be beautiful.