If Helen of Troy is the face that launched a thousand ships, then Coleen Rooney and Rebekah Vardy are the faces that launched a thousand memes (and a collection of novelty phone cases, socks, T-shirts and bath mats, too). This Shakespearean tale of warring houses erupted into the public consciousness when Rooney, wife of the footballer Wayne, and one of the first “wives and girlfriends” (Wags) to achieve national celebrity, informed the world she had foiled a dastardly plot against her – the culmination of several years sleuthing. Observing that tabloid stories about her could only have been sourced from her private Instagram, Rooney set a trap. She already had an idea of who the culprit might be, so she blocked everyone but the suspect and began to seed juicy but fake stories about her life on the platform. (One such included Rooney’s basement being flooded, a story so perceptive of the “pointless, yet intriguing because they’re rich” fodder that fills the tabloids that it can only be described as genius.) Like clockwork, the stories that could only be seen by one account – the mole’s – made their way into the media. Rooney had her evidence and now it was the grand reveal as she went on Twitter to announce: “It’s …..”(how she held the whole nation’s breath in those ellipses) “..... Rebekah Vardy’s account.”
Mic drop. Plot twist. Fire and police siren emojis. It was the real-life story the internet had been waiting for all these years. It had it all: the trappings of a messy, wealthy people drama (see also the Cut’s viral story on Caroline Calloway), but without the underlying sorrow, and with a distinctly British twist – a story in the great tradition of whodunnit mystery tales from Sherlock to Poirot. Rooney’s new name, Wagatha Christie, was born, alongside numerous requests from the nation to put her to work solving other tricky cases. “Can we get Coleen Rooney to find the ‘source’ in No 10?” asked the broadcaster Krishan Guru Murthy. “Get Coleen to solve Brexit,” suggested the comedian Nish Kumar.
Wag-gate was a welcome reprieve in a season of news that seemed to bring nothing but dread. So much so that various interpretations of it became the go-to costume for Halloween 2019 – people dressed as Sherlock Holmes with “It’s …….... Rebekah Vardy’s account” placards became the look of the season. Harper Collins even slated a book on the saga: And Then There Was ... One: The Story of Wagatha Christie, but a spokesperson tells the Guardian that “the book is no longer happening” because it became “unfeasible” to get it into shops before Christmas.
Vardy denies all the accusations, and has withdrawn from public life to conduct her own investigation into whether her account was misused. But whatever the verdict, it does not matter. What matters is that, for a brief moment in several years of national fracture, we could all agree, it’s …….... a bloody good story.