by Mark Scheinbaum
April 1, 2010
Panama City, Panama
GIVE ME LIBERTY OR GIVE ME GOOGLE
DUMMERSTON, Vt -- The so-called "Curse of the Oscars" has very strong legs. At Google you'll find 2,660,000 possible sites to read about it in just 0.26 seconds.
What's the curse? Winning a Best Actress Academy Award might be the kiss of death for a relationship.
"Over the past 12 years, eight of the best-actress champs busted up with their lovers after winning," crowed the Los Angeles Times. "Kate Winslet (won for 2008), Reese Witherspoon (2005), Hillary Swank (1999, 2005), Charlize Theron (2003), Halle Berry (2001), Julia Roberts (2000), Gwyneth Paltrow (1998), Helen Hunt (1997). Five of the splits occurred less than a year after their Oscar triumphs."
And now America's sweetheart, the lovely Sandra Bullock, is lost in relationship hell.
Bullock, who won the 2010 Oscar for "The Blind Side," turned out to have a blind side of her own. In 2005, she married Jesse James, a custom motorcycle manufacturer, reality tv star and all-around tattooed hunk of bad boy. When she won the Golden Globe this year, she told James from the podium, "It is no surprise that my work got better when I met you, because I never knew before what it felt like for someone to have my back."
Thus it was excruciating when it turned out that James has been sleeping with a number of tattooed bad girls behind the back he was supposed to be guarding.
"It's because of my poor judgment that I deserve everything bad that is coming my way," James told People Magazine. Then, predictably, he entered rehab.
Naturally, the first person the press blamed wasn't James but Bullock. As former Us Weekly editor Bonnie Fuller said, "A lot of guys cannot handle a strong, successful woman, and the Oscar has to be one of the ultimate accolades one can receive."
Boo-hoo. It's the fault of all these ambitious women. One blogger mused, "Is it because victory goes to their heads and these women become impossible divas to live with? Or is it because their men are overly macho types who can't tolerate being upstaged by their female partners' success?"
We happen to be living in a time when successful and powerful women have risen to the top in many professions. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, for example - a woman with cojones of steel who is responsible for successfully guiding President Barack Obama's health care legislation into law, lives in Washington, D.C. while her husband, successful businessman Paul Pelosi, lives in San Francisco. They have been married for 43 years, have five children, and yet, wrote a reporter in 2006, "There is a definite electricity between them that conveys 'still best friends and lovers - after all these years.'"
Or look at Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who has spent the past few months negotiating the first successful nuclear arms treaty between the U.S. and Russia since 1991. For decades, her marriage has withstood everything that God or man can throw at it. Yet when Bill Clinton went into the hospital recently for emergency heart surgery, his wife rushed to his side.
Returning to actresses, look at the wonderful Helen Mirren and the stunning Marianne Cotillard. Both recently won Academy Awards and both remain with their longtime partners.
No one knows what goes on inside a marriage, where the fault lines are or what causes them to crack apart.
Besides ambition, being a movie star requires a rare set of character traits. You not only have to be born with some kind of natural grace and beauty, but you must also be willing to endure the plastic surgery that polishes these gifts to perfection.
You must be able to act, which requires an odd combination of sensitivity, vulnerability, talent and a deep-seated need to be the center of attention.
It's a competitive business - perhaps the most competitive there is, outside of politics. So add in a natural shrewdness and the ruthlessness to claw your way to the top - whether you sleep your way or just have the ability to throw your competitors under trains.
Your entire life - here's where the schadenfreude comes in - will be picked over; your broken hearts will be the fodder that feeds a thousand gossip columnists. And Hollywood is full of beautiful people - temptation is everywhere.
Finally, unlike political power, movie stardom - especially for women - has the shelf life of a head of lettuce. Sooner or later, every blemish and wrinkle will be revealed on a 30-foot screen. And if that isn't bad enough, you will forever be compared to the freshness and loveliness of your youth.
Success can bring enormous fame and wealth but also enormous sadness and insecurity. And it certainly doesn't allow for a lot of time or privacy to date and sort through potential partners. Even those of us who aren't movie stars usually go through one or two marriages before we settle into the one that makes us happy.
Bullock thought her husband had her back. That's what husbands and wives are supposed to do for each other. Her husband failed her. But Bullock is an accomplished, funny and talented woman. She will survive.
There is no curse. There's just sadness, as there must be when anyone discovers that the person in whom they put their trust does not deserve it.
Joyce Marcel (joycemarcel.com) is a journalist and columnist. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.