This is not a hot take on Nikki Reed and Ian Somerhalder’s podcast comments. I didn’t listen to the podcast because I’m not interested in the details of the conception of their child. I mean if it was Brange, I would be all over it. Or Bey and Jay, of course. This was not that.
It’s not the interview that interests me, but the reaction and their response to the reaction. When I first read an excerpt from the podcast, in which Nikki and Ian talked about him flushing her birth control pills down the toilet (she was present for the entire thing, and their friend was filming them), I had the same reaction as the wonderful Bobby Finger from Jezebel: “They appear to think this is cute”. It struck me as one of the stories newlyweds tell at a dinner party because they think it’s charming, while the rest of the guests are kicking each other under the table.
It also read as very ME ME ME on Ian’s part, but maybe that’s because I’ve always felt Ian has some Justin Timberlake DNA. He’s also the guy who was thirsty to play Christian Grey. Remember how badly he wanted it? And this is like a scene out of Fifty Shades, kind of – Christian throws out Anastasia’s birth control, while she bites her lip. Like he can’t stop auditioning for the role.
What they intended as a jokey anecdote instead turned into several variations on “Ian Somerhalder Threw Out Nikki Reed’s Birth Control” headlines played out on outlets including PEOPLE and US Weekly. The thinkpiece machine went into overdrive and an international outpost of Cosmo posted a very opinionated essay, calling his behavior “controlling,” “possessive” and “unconsented.” (I’m purposely not linking to it because I think it’s misleading, but it’s easy to find on Google with those key words.)
Nikki immediately clapped back with two tweets about “gossip.”
WOMEN'S RIGHTS MATTER, so please don't use false narratives to highlight issues that are truly important!— Nikki Reed (@NikkiReed_I_Am) September 22, 2017
We should be talking about these things,but using a funny interview between married ppl &twisting it to perpetuate gossip is irresponsible— Nikki Reed (@NikkiReed_I_Am) September 22, 2017
After seeing the first two tweets, I figured they were going to take the “please respect my privacy, worry about more important things, and keep liking my photos on Instagram” route. I’m not into the “worry about more important things” argument from celebrities, mainly because even the most devoted gossip hounds are not “worried” about celebrities in the same way they are worried about healthcare or their mortgage or child care costs etc. I think it’s a weak deflection.
She followed up those initial tweets with a heated note to the above-mentioned thinkpiece writer (considering the topic, that’s understandable). “Don’t you dare talk about consent to me."
Dear writer. Here's my note to you on irresponsible journalism. pic.twitter.com/eiS8M4y3D0— Nikki Reed (@NikkiReed_I_Am) September 22, 2017
Shots returned, right? (And one day will we figure out why Notes is the app choice for Celebrities With Something Serious to Say. When sh-t goes down, it always happens in Notes.)
A few hours later they both posted this apology.
A note from us... pic.twitter.com/3WNmrGYS7M— Nikki Reed (@NikkiReed_I_Am) September 23, 2017
Broken down, it reads as an apology, an explanation, and a defense, something that is very hard to pull off. A lot of people (me included) won’t take the time to listen to the podcast, so I can see why they chose to post this – the story had snowballed into something that, come Monday, could still be generating negative headlines.
PR-wise, it was a very tricky spot for them to be in because they were playing catch-up, and on a weekend. But social media doesn’t sleep. He has over 12 million followers on Instagram, she has 880k on Twitter (their chosen mediums). Instead of filtering the response through a publicist, then having that publicist track down editors (on a weekend) to get their statement out, they simply posted it. And the reason this works for them is because they are huge social media sharers with cohesive messaging.
Ian and Nikki are not rolling in the work, perhaps for family planning reasons. A quick scan of their IMDb pages tells me that he’s done one project since The Vampire Diaries wrapped, and she hasn’t worked since 2016. But they get a lot of coverage, much of it generated from their socials. By releasing this statement on their own time and in their own world, they were able to take back the narrative. Because of their joint statement, the outlets (even with a bare bones weekend staff) could easily pull together a story around it. I think a Planned Parenthood donation is in their near future (she has worked with them in the past), and that should be the end of this runaway story.
Altogether, they tackled an incredibly personal and emotional topic with level heads. Do I think they are sincere in that they never intended to make light of coerced conception? Yes. Do I think they are upset about being tied to stories that imply he tricked her into getting pregnant? Yes. Do I think they want to make the headlines go away? Yes. Do I think they genuinely care about women’s reproductive rights? Yes. All of these things can be true at the same time.
Oh and do I still think he wants to play Christian Grey? Definitely yes.
Here are Nikki and Ian at the EMA Awards on the weekend.