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Expert explains why the Oscars curse is a real thing

Expert explains why the Oscars curse is a real thing

One university academic says it's legit but only for specific nominees and winners

The Oscars is the pinnacle of the film industry, with it top of the bucket list for most actors. But it comes with a cost for some, according to one academic.

We're talking about the ominous sounding Oscars Curse, which has been the topic of debate for years.

For those who don't know what it is, the Oscars Curse focuses on a superstition that those who win big at the Academy Awards go on to suffer a downturn in their career or personal life (sometimes both if you're incredibly unlucky).

We're talking about a career or lifestyle flatlining in comparison to the heights of winning the golden statue, whether that box office bombs or break ups.

The idea of the 'curse' goes back to 1939, when Hattie McDaniel won Best Supporting Actress for her role in Gone with the Wind. Following her success many of her film roles were smaller in nature and never reached the heights of being nominated for an Oscar, never mind winning one.

Another is Cuba Gooding Jr, who won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor following 1996's Jerry Maguire.

Many of his films since then have bombed with critics, including the controversial Boat Trip which legendary critic Roger Ebert described as 'so bad in so many different ways, not only does it offend gays, it offends everyone else'. The film, which gets 7% on Rotten Tomatoes, was criticised with many seeing it at homophobic.

Oscar trophies in all their glory.
Al Seib/A.M.P.A.S. via Getty Images

In 2015, a study from academic journal Organization Science looked at the Oscars Curse, examining 'the negative consequences of upward mobility following a sudden positive status shift'.

It rubbished any scientific backing that behind the claims of it being a real thing, with any individual cases being just that. For the study, the focus was on whether job opportunities dried up following a big Oscar win.

It found: "Building on sociological and social psychological research on status and happiness, we argue that status disruption and status deprivation provide different explanations of why sudden positive status shifts can have negative consequences for upwardly mobile social actors.

"We use the 'Oscar curse', the colourful belief that misfortune paradoxically befalls Academy Award winners, as our empirical context for studying the negative consequences of positive status shifts. We find no evidence of a professional Oscar curse; male and female Oscar winners and Oscar nominees appear in more films following their Oscar experiences than do other actors."

Statue of an Oscars trophy.
Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto via Getty Images

But in direct contrast, one assistant professor at Cornell University in the United States said there is reason to suspect a curse really does exist.

Heeyon Kim, assistant professor of strategy and management and organisation at the institution, studies how social status, reputation and market identity affect the behaviour 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.

The only catch? It is just for men.

Kim said: "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.

The Oscars is back this weekend.
Rodin Eckenroth/WireImage

"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."

Featured Image Credit: Al Seib/A.M.P.A.S. via Getty Images/AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images

Topics: Celebrity, Education, Oscars, Sex and Relationships, TV and Film, US News