Tuesday, 3 July 2012

After three divorces, will Tom ever find happiness?

In the interests of not getting sued, the italics section of this post is made up in my imagination.

The news shocked the showbiz world as it ricocheted across the globe. After a year of seemingly living separately, TomKat was no more. This weekend, Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes announced they had split up.

Now the inevitable speculation has started, with fans and supporters wondering what this means for one of Hollywood’s most famed power couples. But here at BS, the question on all of our lips has been, what does this mean for Tom?

After three failed marriages and an increasingly erratic public profile, Tom must be starting to wonder whether he will ever find love again. After all, he’s no longer as young as he was when he met Mimi, Nicole and Kate. He must be feeling concerned that after another divorce, his chances of lasting romance and happiness are slipping through his fingers. 

Close pals of the star told us exclusively: ‘Tom is really down. We’re all worried about him. He’s wondering if he can bounce back from this. He’s getting older, and he’s wondering if Katie was his last chance at happiness. It’s so sad.’

Of course, Tom isn’t alone. Johnny Depp, a contemporary in age if not career, has also just very publicly broken up with long-term partner Vanessa Paradis. Johnny has had a string of rocky relationships with women, including Winona Ryder and Kate Moss. 

BS’ sources told us: ‘You do start to wonder, why is it these handsome and talented men are failing to keep their relationships together. It’s ok for Vanessa and Katie, they’re a lot younger than their now ex partners. But as Tom and Johnny approach middle age…well, it’s no wonder they’re worried. The heartache is of course, also taking a toll on their movie-star looks. It’s so sad’. 

Of course, I just made all of the above up. I actually care very little about these two break ups (beyond the fact that Depp is now single and has a house in the West Country – hello!). But I wanted to do a little experiment to see how the break-up narrative we so often see in women’s mags worked with the genders in reverse. 

Every week we see these terrible headlines, informing us how broken and sad women in the public eye are. We hear how, years after divorcing Brad, ‘Jen’ is still searching for love. We hear how ‘Demi’ is ‘desperate’ and ‘Cheryl’ is ‘in crisis over Ashley. The lip-sucking magazine editors turn to their dubious sources, anonymous so-called friends who endlessly write ‘it’s so sad’. Seriously. That’s like the anonymous source mantra. ‘It’s so sad’. But the men? It’s never their ‘last chance of happiness’. They’re never portrayed as being scared that they’re ‘too old to find true love’. They’re never pictured fretting over the ‘mistakes’ they made, free from speculation over the ‘toll’ the ‘heartache’ is taking on their ‘looks’. Men, in media world, bounce back from relationship break-ups, blameless, fancy free and ready to take the next bonny lady into their arms. The women are doomed to loneliness, sadness, despair. 

Back in 2009 I did some research for the Representation of Women in the Media project on positive and negative news stories in weekly women’s mags. I found that across Heat, Grazia, Closer, Now, New, Star and OK front covers over five days, 27 of the headlines about women were negative, whereas three headlines about men were negative. There were seven positive stories about women, all relating to babies and weight loss. There were three positive stories about men. I think the stats about men are mainly representative of how men don’t really feature in women’s magazines, unless they’re attached to a woman. Peter Andre is, of course, the honourable exception. 

When we talk about the representation of women in the media, we’re not just talking about absence or objectification. We’re also talking about how women are so often denigrated and degraded by the way we are talked about in a press that is designed for women. How we’re told we’re a mess, how we’re desperate for love and marriage. How women are weak, in crisis, crying and suffering. We’re not successful, unless we’re in bridal wear and have lost weight to fit into it. We’re certainly failures if that ring comes off our fingers. 

In women’s magazine world, it doesn’t matter that Jennifer Aniston was one of the funniest actresses in one of the most successful comedy series of all time. It doesn’t matter that Cheryl is one of the most successful girl groups of all time. It doesn’t matter that Demi Moore’s career has been longer and far more successful than Ashton’s. Because in women’s magazine world, all that matters is that woman’s marriage and divorce. 

This double standard of reporting men and women when it comes to relationship break down is just one area where women’s mags are harmful. But right now it’s the one that pisses me off the most. So when you read the inevitable headlines about how it was probably Katie’s fault that Tom left her (with a nod to how he was controlling) and now she’s scared that she’ll never find love again, spare a thought for Tom. Because they won’t be writing those sentences about him. After all, men’s successes aren’t measured by a ring on the finger. It’s measured by what they do. 

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