(due to lack of imagination for a better title) The Oscar Curse...

Friday, February 25, 2011

Everyone interested in either movies or Oscars is familiar with the so-called Oscar Curse. I have to say, I've always been skeptical about this superstitious idea of an actress being doomed to divorce once she has won the Academy Award for Best Actress. I actually wanted to do this article about the ridiculousness of it. But while doing research, I started to have doubts. The main reason I didn't find this curse plausible, is that few Hollywood marriages make it anyway. But the research has rightly only included comparisons between marriages in Hollywood; and the percentages are notable. After all, numbers don't lie.

Recent Canadian research has studied more than 751 Oscar nominees from 1936 to 2010. The researchers from the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management and Carnegie Mellon University concluded that the marriages of Best Actress winners were significantly shorter than those of their fellow nominees. Of the 265 married nominees, 159 (or 60%) eventually divorced. From Katharine Hepburn, who divorced her husband a year after winning her first Oscar in 1933, to Sandra Bullock, who split from Jesse James within days of winning 2010's Best Actress award.

My question (which no article could accurately answer) is: what is the cause of these divorces?

First thing that comes to mind; the cliché assumtion of men having the professional superiority over women. Most people that believe in the Oscar Curse, think it's because the significant other feels threatened by the woman's success. Especially since the divorce rates for both Best Actor winners and Best Actor nominees are about the same.
Going back to the very start, men were always expected to bring home the bacon and secure the economical situation. Is this theory still accurate in 2011? Of course it is. No matter how much feminists fight against it, this double standard will always reign. It may dwindle here and there, but you'll never live to the day that it's considered normal that the woman goes out to work in the morning, while the husband stays home to cook and watch the kids. I suppose it's inevitable that this basic theory has an effect on the more advanced events such as great success at an award ceremony. Besides being proud and happy, men might feel slightly insignificant and inferior when seeing his wife taking the stage and receiving praise. This can lead to discomfort on both sides, all due to the ancient double standard of men, women and their respective professional success.

Not only could this lead to problems between the two people and in the marriage itself; the "insignificant" husband could feel insecure and therefore may need a reassurance. And that's where cheating begins and marriages end.

On the other hand, marriages initially occured to secure a woman's social and economical standard. Once married, women felt more secure of their being. Divorce was considered shameful and could cost a woman her position in society, which is why few women risked to do so. These days, women no longer get married for social standard (with exceptions of course), but a divorce is still something for only the strongest among us. Supposedly after winning the most important movie award, she gets a sense of strength and independance. Especially winners who were stuck in mediocre marriages and only endured it for mentioned reasons might have been empowered by their success to file for divorce. In this case, the Oscar Curse is more of a blessing than anything else.

Another way to look at it is plain coincidence. People often tend to seek too much behind things. I mean, science can observe and analyse everything from here to Timboektoe; sometimes things just are because they are. Not everything is explainable.

Conclusion: Maybe. The Oscar Curse could be true; numbers have shown that Best Actress winners are indeed more likely to divorce. But then again it's not really a "curse", is it? Merely an outcome of ancient clichés which could work out for the better. Or it could be fiction; just a mere coincidence that has led to people over-thinking and over-analyzing everything.
Maybe I'm being stubborn, but I personally still think it's rubbish. If a man and woman have a healthy marriage containing mutual respect and understanding, I don't see how a little statue can get in the way of that.

A few of the notable actresses who have been struck by "the curse":
  • Bette Davis - Dangerous (1936)
  • Joan Crawford - Mildred Pierce (1946)
  • Elizabeth Taylor - Butterfield (1961)
  • Elizbeth Taylor - Who's afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1967)
  • Julie Andrews - Mary Poppins (1965)
  • Barbra Streisand - Funny girl (1969)
  • Maggie Smith - The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1970
  • Jane Fonda - Klute (1972)
  • Liza Minnelli - Cabaret (1973)
  • Faye Dunaway - Network (1977)
  • Emma Thompson - Howard's end (1993)
  • Halle Berry - Monster's ball (2002)
  • Hilary Swank - Boys don't cry (2000)
  • Reese Whiterspoon - Walk the line (2006)
  • Kate Winslet - The Reader (2009)
  • Sandra Bullock - The Blind Side (2010)

This year's nominees:
* Annette Bening (married to Warren Beatty)
* Nicole Kidman (married to Keith Urban)
* Jennifer Lawrence (single)
* Natalie Portman (engaged to Benjamin Millepied)
* Michelle Williams (single)

I just hope (pregnant) Natalie Portman won't be struck by "the curse".


Lesya Khyzhnyak said...

Interesting article! I agree with you, it's just a superstition. If we take as example Taylor, that was her temperament and her life, she divorced many times, so... Not to blame awards :)

Anonymous said...

I'd like to think it is just coincidence, I can't believe any man would be fragile enough to feel threatened by his wife having an Oscar.Then again looking at some of the egos in the movie business there might be something in the curse.
I hope you enjoy the ceremony tomorrow Chelsea.

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