evolutionary psychology / Gender / Infidelity / Long Term Relationships / Marriage / media / Sex in the news

#TBT: What Causes the Best Actress Relationship Curse?

Hey friends, The Academy Awards are this weekend. I’m re-running this piece from 2010 for ThrowBack Thursday and at the very end I add a couple updates since this was first written. Thankfully this year we have a couple actors of color nominated (unlike 2011 where we literally had none in any of the major categories), but things are not moving forward at nearly a fast enough clip.

I didn’t watch more than an hour of that self-congratulatory masturbationthon that is the Oscars. But what I did see was that in the front row of the Academy Fucking Awards was reality tv motor cycle guy, Jesse James. You might as well have predicted it be Flavor Flav for the likelihood of that seating arrangement. Yet, there he was, seated next to his beautiful wife, Sandra Bullock, as she waited to get handed the biggest award of her career.

Little did we know, at that time, that she probably already knew that he’d been cheating on her for nearly a year with a tattoo-covered model. The model, who might be an awful person, despite what her friends say, sold the sordid details of the affair for $30,000 payday.

The fall out of James’ infidelity is a probable messy third divorce for him and a stomach-churning custody battle for the kids from a previous marriage in addition to whatever professional awfulness befalls their careers.

The other result: further confirmation of the Best Actress Relationship Curse. You see, in the last ten years, nearly all the winners of the Academy Award for Best Actress have split with their boyfriend or husband within a year or so. And when you take out the women who are senior citizens (Helen Mirren, 2007, who doesn’t “believe in marriage,”  and whose husband didn’t want to kiss her when she won; Jessica Lange, 1995; Kathy Bates, 1991; Jessica Tandy, 1990) or lesbians (Jodie Foster, 1992, 1989) , the trend is painfully visible in the decade before.

8 of the last 12 winners have suffered the curse. In nearly every case the winning actress celebrated her victory shortly before experiencing the dissolution of her relationship with a male partner whose career was not doing quite as well as hers. And to add to the intrigue, most of the splits were caused because the guy was cheating with an even less famous other woman.

Take a look:

Year Actress Partner Result
2010 Sandra Bullock Jesse James, reality tv Divorcing, he cheated with model
2009 Kate Winslet Sam Mendes, director Divorcing, he cheated with actress
2008 Marion Cotillard Guillaume Canet, actor fine- he just got divorced from wife Diane Kruger who got too successful
2007 Helen Mirren Taylor Hackford, director still married- “still don’t believe in marriage
2006 Reese Witherspoon Ryan Phillippe, actor Divorced, he cheated with actress
2005 &2000 Hilary Swank Chad Lowe, actor divorced, blamed his career
2004 Charlize Theron Stuart Townsend, actor split, in 2010 after 9 years
2003 Nicole Kidman Tom Cruise, actor Divorce just prior to her win
2002 Halle Berry Eric Benet, singer Divorced, he cheated with everybody, cites “sex addiction”
2001 Julia Roberts Benjamin Bratt, actor split within months, he marries less famous woman
1999 Gwyneth Paltrow Ben Affleck, actor split within months
1998 Helen Hunt Hank Azaria, actor divorced within a year
1993 Emma Thompson Kenneth Branagh, actor he cheated with actress

So perhaps the effect of success is too much. The nature of the job, the long hours away from each other, the constantly being surrounded with hot celebs, the overwhelming media scrutiny of every move, etc, all were too much for something as sweet and pure as love. So, why, then is the same effect not seen in the winners of Best Actor?

The only divorce that occurred anywhere near the big win for these men in the last 10 years was for Sean Penn, whose spouse was also a successful actress, Robin Wright. This article claims things are just as bad for the male winners, but the argument is a real stretch and includes in their count that when Russel Crowe won, he was splitting up Meg Ryan’s marriage to Dennis Quaid.

A study a few years ago found that Golden Globe winners suffer a slightly higher divorce rate than the rest of the country. But their odds are 1.9 to 1 of divorce versus the average 1.3 to 1. But even if you tow  the line that 50% of marriages end in divorce (that DOESN’T mean 50% of married people divorce, most are repeat divorcees), the breakup rate among Best Actress winners is too outrageous to be chalked up to coincidence.

So what are we to take from this? Is this just the emasculating effect of successful women on their less successful men? Maybe it’s our prurient interest into celebs’ personal lives is to blame for their destruction. Think about how having your personal business out on Facebook has impacted your relationships, now multiply that by eleventybilliontymillion. Not fun.

But I’d like to point out another pattern that distinguishes the male and female winners of the Oscar’s top honors. The women listed here, without exception, dated men in the entertainment industry. Successful male actors, while they are also prone to dating co-stars, are more likely to date real women with jobs outside of acting.

Couples (and even friends) do better when they excel in slightly different spheres and aren’t competing directly with each other. Perhaps the only failing of these talented women was that they didn’t look outside the Hollywood incest-fest for partners. While I extend my earnest condolences to Sandra, I extend my advice to everyone else: be good at something separate from your partner and you’ll be better off.

2010 saw Natalie Portman win for Black Swan– she was engaged at the time (to a much less famous man who is not primarily an actor) to whom she is now married. Since both her win and giving birth to their child, her career has been decidedly less high profile.

2011: Merryl Streep won yet another Oscar for Iron Lady, showing that she is seemingly immune to the Best Actress curse. It is worth noting that her long time husband is also not an actor, nor nearly as famous as she is. 

2012: Jennifer Lawrence wins for Silver Linings Playbook. While she has been rumored to be linked to many in the industry, Jennifer has not publicly acknowledged any romantic relationship.

What does this mean about the curse? It looks like the spirit of the Best Actress curse is ultimately about famous actresses being able to maintain relationships with men in their own industry, rather than relationships at all. Perhaps this speaks more about actors than anyone else.

Questions? Comments? Violent reactions? Email sexwithtimaree@gmail.com or tweet @timaree_leigh See more at http://www.facebook.com/sexwithtimaree and http://tinyurl.com/swtpod

6 thoughts on “#TBT: What Causes the Best Actress Relationship Curse?

  1. Pingback: FRIIIIIIIIIDAY Sex Links! « Sex with Timaree

  2. Crowe did not split up Ryan and Quaid. Dennis Quaid’s constant cheating over a period of 5 years did that trick. Stop spreading untrue gossip next time.

    • You sound like you’re pretty knowledgeable about the situation, so I’ll assume you’re right. I was merely referencing the article (to which I linked) which included Russel Crowe as an example of Best Actors and marriage dissolution- even though they were talking about Meg Ryan’s marriage, not his.

  3. Pingback: Would a Gender-Swapped ‘A Star is Born’ Work? | Sex with Timaree

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