The Myth Of The Oscar Curse: Gossips Struggle To Make Sense Of Bullock And Winslet Dramas


There’s gotta be a way for the press to combine coinciding news of Kate Winslet’s impending divorce with rumors of Sandra Bullock’s marital woes. Oh! “Is the ultimate honor for women in Hollywood the ultimate castration for men?” Blame Oscar.

On the surface of it, the existence of the so-called Oscar curse, in which Best Actresses win but lose their less-successful mates, seems convincing. (And, indeed, how could you not be persuaded by the scads of articles out there working so hard to prove it?) There’s Winslet, maybe Bullock, Hilary Swank and Chad Lowe, Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Philippe, Julia Roberts and Benjamin Bratt, Halle Berry and Eric Benet — all of whom split soon after Best Actress Oscars.

But The New York Post is really reaching when it wedges in Charlize Theron, who won an Oscar in 2004 and broke up with her boyfriend… six years later. Damn that Oscar curse!

Actually, looks like “reaching” is actually the operative term here — that is to say, everyone seems awfully quick to diagnose these marriages as being universally about a powerful woman and the man who can’t take it. The Daily Beast quotes a prominent divorce lawyer, Raoul Felder:

“Money equals sex equals masculinity. Many men find it demeaning and emasculating when they’re outdone by their spouse. It doesn’t play well at the bowling alley to be second to the wife.”

Many men might, and do. But do we really know that this is what happened here? Or even that this is just about actresses? Jessica Grose points out that these women are hardly alone in their romantic volatility:

if you take one look at the list of best actor nominees and winners, you’ll see that their relationship track-records are not much better: 2008 winner Sean Penn’s relationship with Robin Wright broke up about seven times; when Russell Crowe won in 2000, he was busy breaking up Meg Ryan’s marriage to Dennis Quaid. Though he’s never won, George Clooney’s love life is pretty checkered-ditto fellow best actor nominees Bill Murray and Mickey Rourke. Hollywood relationships are notoriously hard to maintain independent of Oscar wins, and the notion that Sandra Bullock’s success is related to her husband’s alleged affair is pure, gross speculation.

In other words, lots of people cheat, and marriages break up — especially under Hollywood-style pressure. So why would everyone be so eager to focus on the women’s breakups, beyond the search for a news peg? It’s almost as if everyone is eager to find proof that even when a woman wins (a top professional honor) she still always loses (her husband, which implicitly matters more). Or, as The New York Post says of Hilary Swank, “All that success couldn’t help her personal life.”

That’s what you get, is the implication, for trying to have it all. But it’s not our fault if the husbands are insecure about their wives’ success, or that men in general can’t handle a successful woman! That, I imagine, would be the defense of such rationales. Actually, we only have the barest composite of hearsay and speculation and PR on the reasons any of these marriages ended, or if a man is more likely to cheat on his wife if she wins an Oscar or otherwise kicks ass. But when has that ever actually stopped anyone from explaining it all in such convenient terms?

There’s No Such Thing As The Best Actress Curse [Slate]
How Oscars Ruin A Marriage [The Daily Beast]
Oscar Love Curse [NYP]

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