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Plus Ça Change: What Can Carla Bruni Teach Us?

News of new adulteries in Hollywood is not shocking. It is the opposite of shocking; it is confirmation. Yet what has been confirmed, exactly? The Daily Beast’s Nicole La Porte considers the implications of the end of Sandra Bullock’s (perfect) marriage—not on her film career but, more broadly, on the illusion that the power dynamic between men and women has changed. Meanwhile, rumors of infidelity in France have not caused anyone to move out of the Elysée Palace. If Carla Bruni doesn’t care about alleged infidelities, is it worth asking why and whether we might learn something from her classically Gallic cool? 


There are myriad American variations on Standing By Your Man (leave him, love him, take a lover yourself: see Elin; see Hillary; see most everyone else), but Bruni’s unique poise seems so separate from the roar and judgment we see more commonly in the U.S. This does not make it preferable; it simply makes it intriguing.

LaPorte quotes celebrated divorce lawyer Raoul Felder:

“Money equals sex equals masculinity,” said New York divorce lawyer Raoul Felder, who says, more or less, that the Cave Man culture still prevails. “Many men find it demeaning and emasculating when they’re outdone by their spouse. It doesn’t play well at the bowling alley to be second to the wife.”

The situation is worse, he said, for stars, because “celebrities have very fragile egos.” Compounding the problem is that “they live for whatever shows up in the news—that’s their reality.”

I doubt French President Nicholas Sarkozy spends time at the bowling alley, but still. We will see how his marriage evolves, and in time we will know the rest. The exception continues to prove the rule, and the rules in France have never been the same as the rules in Hollywood—or America, more broadly. 

Evidence mounts as we wait for the feminists to weigh in: men maintain they find strong women sexy, but as they settle in for the long winter’s night of a marriage, most continue to want women beside—or behind—them. Whether or not this fragility is the cause of Bullock’s challenges, we may never know, but it’s clear the media came quickly and easily to this conclusion. It is the simplest. It is the oldest. It remains the most likely. Let her please prove us wrong.

It’s hard to normalize the celebrity marriage and divorce for the rest of us.  After all, we’re highly unlikely to end up married to an immigrant ex-bodybuilder, mega-Hollywood action star turned Governor who impregnates a member of our full-time housekeeping staff. These divorces should be consigned to the marriage equivalent of a Special Victims Unit.  

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