Belfast Telegraph

Friday 21 November 2014

Why an affair with Oscar means divorce is looming

Even lovely Sandra Bullock and lovelier Kate Winslet must be wondering if there actually is a curse attached to the Best Actress Oscar.

If they've caught a glimpse of a newspaper in the past week, they'll have seen the endless pics of those other actresses who've won the Oscar, but lost their man: Julia Roberts, Hilary Swank, Halle Berry, Susan Sarandon, that nice Reese Witherspoon.

Well, I'm sorry to point this out, especially when Jesse James (Mr Sandra Bullock) has just apologised so nicely and publicly for his affair with a tattooed lady, but I think it's worse than a curse.

A curse can be reversed. If it were just a curse, the contenders for best actress could make a pilgrimage up into the Hollywood hills and beg some shaman — Shirley MacLaine perhaps — to break the spell.

But what we're dealing with here is irreversible biology. The more you look at studies done on male brains, usually rat brains (pleasantly apt), the more obvious it becomes that, though evolution has equipped this awesome organ to triumph over many fearsome challenges, it just can't — and will never be able to — cope with having an Oscar-winning wife.

It's an underexplored field, celebrity neuroscience, but I think, perhaps, I'm on to a winner. Male brains, even the smaller ones preferred by celebrities, really do get most of their kicks from success.

A woman's brain is built to take pleasure from a variety of different things: work, family life, good friendships. So Sandra Bullock, though pleased with her Oscar, will also feel content if her husband's happy (though maybe not right now).

Not so Jesse James. A bloke's testosterone-filled brain compels him to get ahead — that's what makes him happy.

For a man, being married to an Oscar-winning actress is to be trapped as the underdog in a two-man hierarchy.

So pity the poor Hollywood love-rats. To add to their misery, there's the impossibility of ever being able to express it.

It's not as if Jesse can say to Sandra: well look, darling, it's your success that's making me suicidal — can you quit the day job and run a cake shop instead?

A woman's brain releases calming oxytocin during a nice heart-to-heart; a male brain relaxes only when switched off entirely.

A normal couple might reach an unspoken compromise — you babble away dear, while I pretend to listen — a male celeb always has other options. Any husband of an Oscar-level actress will be besieged by girls, all driven out of their monkey minds with desire to sleep with a more famous woman's man.

Sam, Jesse, Brad, Ryan, Chad, Benjamin — did you think it was just your personal appeal?

Perhaps celebrity neuroscience isn't such a good idea after all; it leads you too soon to the universal chemical truth behind what looks like individual decisions.

And also to the awful Catch-22s inherent in celebrity life: a chap may think he wants to bag one of the world's most beautiful and talented actresses, but marrying her will most likely drive him to despair.

An actress will inevitably want to be successful in work and in love, but the nearer that golden Oscar comes, the more compelled her husband will feel to stray.

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