It’s easy to name stars who won the Oscar for Best Actress and went on to see their relationships go belly up—Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Halle Berry, Hilary Swank, Reese Witherspoon, Kate Winslet, and of course last year’s winner, Sandra Bullock. There sure seems to be some sort of Oscar Curse going on. But scientists from the University of Toronto wanted to see if was scientifically legit or just paranoia. After crunching the numbers, they found that of the 265 married women who have been nominated for Best Actress from the beginning of the modern Oscars in 1936 to the present, 159 of them got divorced. That’s a whopping 60 percent. They compared the divorce rate of women who were nominated for Best Actress but didn’t win against those who did take home the gold, and found that the winners were 1.68 times more likely to head to divorce court and have a 63 percent chance of having a shorter marriage than their fellow nominees. And while they didn’t have the data to compare, it’s anecdotely much, much higher than the divorce rate at large. Also interesting, the scientists compared the divorce rate for Best Actor winners and Best Actor nominees and they found there was virtually no difference there. In other words, the same effect isn’t happening for men.
So, uh, what’s going on?
“Winning an Oscar can be construed as a big jump in professional status that an actor or actress has in their world and in the eyes of the broader audience. … You are never the same after you’ve secured an Oscar for Best actor or Best Actress,” explained Tiziana Casciaro, one of the scientists behind the study. “The general social norm kind of requires a man to have higher professional and economic status over the wife. So whenever that social norm is violated, both husband and wife may feel discomfort–could be either one of them.”
Wow, that’s pretty disconcerting. And Casciaro suspects the same effect would be found for women who become CEOs, if there were enough of them to study. Eek!
I guess this gives the women who don’t win Best Actress this year something of a consolation prize?