Is the so-called Oscar curse for women real? Women who win Academy Awards for Best Actress are likely to divorce soon after that career high, or so the theory goes. Anecdotally, it’s hard to refute: Recent winners Sandra Bullock, Kate Winslet, Reese Witherspoon, Halle Berry, and Hilary Swank have all seen their relationship implode post-Oscar. In fact, researchers last year found the phenomenon was real; of the 265 married women who had been nominated for Best Actress between 1936 and 2011, a shocking 60% divorced, with winners significantly likelier to divorce than losers. The (depressing) theory is that a woman’s extreme professional success destabilizes her relationship. Now, a new formula helps lend more insight into which celebrity marriages are likeliest to end in divorce. Once again, the woman’s fame plays a huge role.
The new formula comes from New York Times columnist John Tierney and science writer Garth Sunden. Back in 2006, they came up with an equation predicting the probability of whether a celebrity marriage would last. Yesterday, the paper published a follow-up in which the duo checked up on their predictions, and refined the formula. This time, they focus on the kind of fame a celebrity has by comparing how many times they’re mentioned in the high-brow New York Times compared to the tabloid the National Enquirer; Tierney calls this the “NYT/ENQ ratio.”
“Garth’s new analysis shows that it’s the wife’s fame that really matters,” Tierney writes. “While the husband’s NYT/ENQ ratio is mildly predictive, the effect is so much weaker than the wife’s that it’s not included in the new equation. … Besides the wife’s tabloid fame, the crucial ones are the spouses’ combined age (younger couples divorce sooner), the length of the courtship (quicker to wed, quicker to split), and the sex-symbol factor (defined formally as the number of Google hits showing the wife ‘in clothing designed to elicit libidinous intent’).”
In other words, a celebrity wife’s tabloid fame and sexiness — fundamental measures of Hollywood success — can doom her marriage. Sigh. With that in mind, here are 10 couples and what the formula says about them.