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Oscar love curse: Male actors’ divorce rates up after nomination, win

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Gillian Smith

The 91st Academy Awards will take place this Sunday, Feb. 24. As the guessing games begin, a Cornell University expert weighs in on the ultimate Oscar superstition.  


Heeyon Kim

Heeyon Kim

Assistant Professor of Strategy at the School of Hotel Administration, management and organization area faculty member in the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business

Heeyon Kim, assistant professor of strategy and management and organization at Cornell University, studies how social status, reputation and market identity affect the behavior of people in creative industries. In her research, Kim found that the Hollywood myth of the Oscar curse – that careers of actors or their personal lives can be negatively impacted by winning the Oscar – actually existed, but just for men.

Kim says:

"By comparing the professional careers and personal lives of actors from 1930 to 2005, there was no evidence of a professional curse: both male and female actors had longer and more successful careers after being nominated for or winning the Oscar compared to those never nominated.

"We did find evidence of a personal curse: only for male actors, their divorce rate increased following both nominations and wins. For female actors, their divorce rate only increased when they were married to male actors and the female wins or gets nominated. In other words, the female becomes higher status compared to the male partner. 

"This suggests that male actors are more susceptible to the negative consequences of Oscar nominations/wins, perhaps because males tend to be more affected by work-related events and deviations from traditional gender roles.

"Given the changes in gender roles recently, perhaps the Hollywood myth of the Oscar curse will be different for the more recent cohort of Oscar nominees and winners."


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