Thursday, July 26, 2012

Do Famous Women Always Cheat for Love?

"There is a huge gender double standard when it comes to cheating. If you ask me (and you didn't, I realize), it all comes down to the general perception of how men and women have sex. I'm stereotyping and generalizing here, but men need a physical connection. Women need an emotional connection. There's a reason that there's no such thing as Viagra for women. (Well, save for dark chocolate. That might count.) So, perhaps we find it easier to forgive someone who is 'in love' rather than 'in lust' because lust is more fleeting than love."

That's the intelligent and provocative response of one of my favorite bloggers, a woman, to my recent post "What 'Fatal Attraction' Taught Me About Love, Cheating and the Battle of the Sexes 25 Years Later." When I wrote that post, I was referring to men and women in film, not venturing into the realm of reality, in Hollywood or beyond. But today, it's hard not to. Not with Kristen Stewart, 22, ending her long silence about the nature of her relationship with her Twilight costar Robert Pattinson, 26, by announcing to the entire world that she cheated on him.

I mean, what straight celebrity comes out like this? Who finally acknowledges that she has indeed been involved with a costar for several years by issuing an official statement apologizing for cheating on him (in Stewart's case, with Rupert Sanders, 41, the married director of her recent film Snow White & the Huntsman)? I would have put my money on a tryst with her Snow White costar Chris Hemsworth, as most of the tabloids previously had, which adds to the intrigue.

Was her intention to protect her public image while humiliating Pattinson even further? Or perhaps she felt she had no other choice since Us Weekly -- a magazine for which I was a senior editor for two years -- slapped her and Sanders on the cover and ran pictures of them engaging in something far more intimate than acceptable boss-employee rapport.

"I'm deeply sorry for the hurt and embarrassment I've caused to those close to me and everyone this has affected. This momentary indiscretion has jeopardized the most important thing in my life, the person I love and respect the most, Rob. I love him, I love him, I'm so sorry."

So wrote Stewart in her statement, and she's not the first famous woman to feel that way. Women in Hollywood have been not standing my their men for decades, as I pointed out two years ago in the post "Do Famous Women Cheat?". In 1949, when Ingrid Bergman, then married to Petter Lindstrom, had an affair with director Roberto Rossellini (and got pregnant, too!), she became persona non grata in Hollywood and went into self-imposed exile for seven years. Upon her return, she won the second of three Oscars, Best Actress for 1956's Anastasia, and was greeted like a homecoming queen.

When Elizabeth Taylor dumped Eddie Fischer for Richard Burton after an affair on the set of the 1963 film Cleopatra, she launched one of Hollywood's greatest love stories ever told (onscreen or off), somehow managing to sidestep any major professional repercussions. Times had changed in Hollywood.

Meg Ryan's career nosedived following her fling with Russell Crowe on the set of 2000's Proof of Life, but that had more to do with poor professional choices on her part than bad choices in her marriage to Dennis Quaid. In 2002, Jennifer Lopez upgraded from hubby Cris Judd to Ben Affleck and became an even bigger superstar. More recently, Tori Spelling and LeAnn Rimes have found that there is indeed life after cheating on their husbands with married men. Spelling even got her own short-lived reality TV series, 2006's So NoTORIous, out of it.

Though Rimes did receive some flack when Self magazine put her on the October 2010 cover (How dare they after Rimes left her husband for actor Eddie Cibrian, a married man?), prompting the editor-in-chief to apologize in an email to subscribers, none of these women had to/will have to spend the rest of their careers wearing a scarlet letter (A is for Adulteress). And as far as I know, none of them went into damage-control mode by issuing a public mea culpa as quickly as Stewart did.

I'm ashamed to admit it, but from where I'm sitting (and typing), Stewart actually isn't looking so bad. Not that I'm condoning on-the-set affairs (though I must wonder, what do Hollywood couples expect when actors and actresses spend so much time on movie sets, away from significant others, in close quarters with temptation?), but for the first time ever, I actually find Stewart kind of interesting. Not only because she's human like the rest of us, but because I'm not 100 percent convinced that her public apology was entirely well-intentioned. (Poor Rob!) She's not so snow white, after all!

As I pondered my reaction, it hit me: Oh my God, I'm doing it, too! Would my reaction to this story be the same if Pattinson had been the one caught on camera with his hands in another woman's goodies jar? I doubt that this will have much of a negative effect on Stewart's career. She'll get tons of coverage in the weekly tabloid magazines, and by extension her next films, On the Road and Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn -- Part 2, will get a huge profile boost. Not that the latter needed one.

I'm fairly certain that if Pattinson were walking in Stewart's stilettos, he'd be in a far worse place professionally. Any actor would be. Perhaps it's because when men cheat, they tend to do it so much more flagrantly and tastelessly (see Jude Law and the nanny, Sandra Bullock's ex, Tiger Woods, John Edwards, and too many others to list). Women tend to go about their indiscretions less shamelessly, though I'm not sure why Stewart and Sanders didn't just get a room -- and stay in it! -- and why attached Hollywood women almost always seem to go for married men.

But does Stewart deserve the pardon that fictional female cheaters always seem to get? From the coverage I've seen thus far (and from her carefully worded statement, if we are to take it at face value), there is nothing that would indicate that Stewart and Sanders' "momentary indiscretion" -- her words, not mine -- was about much more than sex.

At least Bergman, Taylor, Spelling and Rimes married the guys with whom they cheated. If Stewart is not in love with Sanders, did she wreck her relationship with one of the most desirable guys in movies -- and, presumably, Sanders' marriage -- just for sex? And will the public forgive her for cheating if it wasn't all about love? Stay tuned. Hollywood's battle of the sexes is about to get a lot more interesting.

"Can You Forgive Her?" Pet Shop Boys

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