Is There Really An Oscar Love Curse?

Does winning an Oscar really lose you a husband? Or is this just another case of blaming women for success?

Oscar Love Curse

by Guy Pewsey |

It's the most wonderful time of the year. No, not Christmas. The Academy Awards are here, and we can't wait to watch the cream of the film world descend on Hollywood to see if they are going to win the famous little gold man that could prove the cherry on top to a successful season, or take their career to the next level.

The women nominated in acting categories - Jessica Chastain, Olivia Colman, Nicole Kidman, Penélope Cruz, Kristen Stewart, Kirsten Dunst, Ariana DeBose, Judi Dench, Jessie Buckley and Aunjanue Ellis - will surely be approaching this weekend with nerves and excitement. And with any luck, they're not thinking about the Oscar Love Curse.

Humour us for a second. The so-called Oscar Love Curse refers to the fact that those who win the Best Actress or Best Supporting Actress Academy Awards often follow this professional peak with an emotional trough: the end of their romantic relationship in the form of a split or divorce. It may sound completely bonkers, and we can pull the concept apart shortly, but let's look at the facts first.

In the history of the Oscars, 41 Best Actress winners have experienced the break-up of a long-term relationship shortly after their victory. In the last two decades, they include Halle Berry, Sandra Bullock, Hilary Swank, Reese Witherspoon, Kate Winslet, Charlize Theron. This is the case for 23 Best Supporting Actress winners, including Jennifer Hudson and Rachel Weisz. Looking through the long list of names feels quite persuasive. Faced with such a block of text, it's easy to see why you might give the curse some credence, or carry on with your day thinking 'spooky!' But give it a second thought and the absurdity of the Oscar Love Curse becomes clear.

First of all, the statistics don't really bear scrutiny. 18 women stayed with their significant others beyond their Best Actress wins. They include Meryl Streep, who really counts as three exceptions to the 'curse' due to her three wins, Natalie Portman and two-time winner Frances McDormand. There are 26 exceptions in the Best Supporting Actress category: more than in the 'cursed' column. Can one really cite a curse where there are so many women, happy with their partners, proving that it's fallacy? We also question the timing: can you really blame a curse for the breakdown of a marriage a year after the win? Is there a statute of limitations on curses?

Separate from that, this so-called curse reeks of misogyny. While the aforementioned list of women is easily found via Google, you have a much harder time quantifying the relationship history of the male winners. A curse is less fun, it seems, when it doesn't accompany pictures of women in sparkly dresses. It also lays the blame for the split firmly at the door of the woman: the actress won the prize, and lost the man. There is an implication that she made her choice, and that choice was career over love.

In actual fact, the end of these relationships stemmed from the same circumstances that cause the end of any relationship in the real world. Those of our friends, our colleagues or even our own. These women aren't cursed. No woman is. Their husbands have cheated, or fallen out of love. They may have mutually agreed that the relationship had run its course. The woman's work - on film sets, on worldwide press tours - may have taken her away from her partner, leading to strain. Some men, watching their girlfriend, fiancee or wife held aloft as the most acclaimed actress in the world, would begin to question their place in her life, due to a societal focus on male power and female submission. It's simply a more public version of when some men struggle emotionally when their wife earns more than they do.

A curse is mystical. Claiming that women gain a prize and lose a beau is hokey at best, misogynistic at worst. Like the Strictly Curse and Glee Curse of recent times, such talk trivialises the pain of a break-up, and enforces anti-feminist ideals of a woman's place. We all love a Hollywood fairytale, but let's not pity or scorn those who don't get their happily ever after.

READ MORE: Everything You Need To Know About This Year's Oscars

READ MORE: Why Do We Call The Academy Awards The Oscars?

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Cher, 1986 Oscars
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Cher, 1986 Oscars

Cher wore this Bob Mackie two-piece - and monumental plumed headpiece - to the 1986 ceremony. Snubbed by the Academy for her role in Mask, this look said: 'Who cares? I'm Cher!'

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