Halle’s bad juju
As Lainey wrote yesterday, Halle Berry is once again getting divorced. I didn’t expect this to be much of a story because they weren’t married for very long, Olivier isn’t all that famous in North America and their child is together is much less visible than Nahla. Really, what has publicly marked this marriage is all the contentiousness with Nahla’s father, Gabriel.
Yes, it’s her 3rd marriage but in Hollywood that doesn’t mean that much. JLo has been married 3 times, and chalks it up to “loving love.” Tom Cruise has been married 3 times too. But Halle has a reputation for rocky relationships, something she used to discuss more openly (or maybe she just discussed it on Oprah and the show isn’t on anymore). This latest divorce seemed like it might pass by simply because there have been a lot of divorces to keep us occupied. And yet….
PEOPLE was first up with a comprehensive story, and the storyline seems to be that Halle works a lot, while Olivier is bored and has a very bad temper. He doesn’t understand why she is so focused on her career.
Well, Halle has been working on TV as of late, on Extant (which has been canceled). She’ll be working on future projects with CBS, but nothing concrete. So for the last while, her schedule has been TV. Grueling hours, I’m sure, but more consistent than film, right? And Halle has big responsibilities, one of them being massive child support payments to her ex for daughter, Nahla. Support he claims to need because Olivier beat him up (because they were fighting about Halle moving Nahla to France) and it affected his modeling career. Oh and Olivier and Halle are being sued over a car seat scuffle at LAX. It’s a violent jumble of really bad juju.
The PEOPLE sources mention a lot of fighting, and “feisty personalities.” Halle, the bigger star, comes out looking fine. Sure she works a lot, but that is preferable to Olivier being categorized as out of work and bumming around LA with friends and taking off to France every chance he gets. Maybe he hates the fact that she works “so much” because he has nothing to do all day and no one calling him for roles?
Over at TMZ, the stories were more straightforward, and slightly different. Halle filed first, under an alias, and handed him the papers (which, for legal reasons, is not allowed). Then Olivier filed. Sources tell TMZ that yes he has a temper, but isn’t dangerous, while “she goes nuts when she doesn’t get her way.” Later last night, PEOPLE again chimed in, with a story about conflicting claims for spousal support.
And just like that, the carefully worded “we move forward with love and respect” publicist statement (which went to PEOPLE first, by the way) is up in smoke. Part of the reason Halle’s breakups go so awry is because that “feisty personality” always seems to want the last word, which she really doesn’t have to fight so hard for. Olivier isn’t that famous, and neither is Gabriel (or Eric Benet), and Halle is very famous. This divorce could have been a non-story, a footnote on her Wiki page. There was no need for “sources” on either side.
I suspect that this is why Halle rubs some the wrong way: she has an inability to eat a bit of crow and play nice, at least publicly. Maybe we only expect that because we’ve been conditioned to think women should be benevolent and wise in the face of adversity, and wives in Hollywood seem to take all kinds of nonsense and humiliation with a smile on their face (see: Jennifer Garner).
It’s an interesting time in relationship-centered gossip because the breakup game has legitimately changed as we’ve entered the age of conscious uncoupling. The public has come to expect breakupmoons and family sushi dates. Our tolerance for dirty tactics is much lower. Now, we wonder why they can’t just go to Disneyland, no matter how much they secretly resent one another. We hold an inability to “play nice” against them, and in Halle’s case, the burden to be peaceful and cooperative will be on her, because she’s the only one we care about.
But there’s a lot that surfaces with these divorces. It’s a reminder of Gabriel’s pummeled face, and the LAX lawsuit, which are both tied into her, and her image. No, she wasn’t the one who got into a fistfight and she wasn’t the one who allegedly used a car seat to push an amateur paparazzo/LAX worker, but she is the only one we care about in this. If Olivier, on his own and with no association with Halle, got into a pushing scuffle at LAX, it wouldn’t have trended on Twitter.
A messy, dragged out divorce won’t go over well, and it could be a legitimate detriment to her career. Fair? Well, Terrence Howard has one of the hottest jobs in Hollywood right now and a batsh-t insane marital life, so no. But it’s her fourth major breakup, and this isn’t amateur hour. She basically made the world forget her hit-and-run when she was campaigning for an Oscar. Don’t tell me she is incapable of playing the game. And if she wants to play (big, giant if), there has been a playbook written for a situation like this.
She can come out of this refreshed and maybe even a little reborn, career wise, if it doesn’t get ugly. There have been strong, smart, successful women before her who have turned potential bad press into divorce empowerment (Gwyneth, Jennifer, Gwen, Miranda), so if you are going to corral the sources, why not put some energy to a girls’ night out or friendly brunch with an ex babydaddy? An Instagram shot with Oprah, a playdate with the LA mommy mafia.
One could argue that there is no fairness for women in this situation, and that a man wouldn’t be asked to kowtow to public opinion after a divorce, but who ever said Hollywood was fair to women? Whoever said we were fair to women? The concept of forgiveness is often thrown around in these stories, and if Jennifer Garner can go grocery shopping with Ben after he (allegedly) screwed the nanny, well, does that make her a doormat or a benevolent mom? Part of the reason Jennifer is revered is because she swallowed her pride and went to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter while Chrissy O was showing off her drop-top Lexie. I can tell you that women are constantly telling me how much they love Jennifer Garner. Halle doesn’t get that same kind of affection, and she clearly hasn’t tried to cultivate the same kind of public image.
Maybe Halle doesn’t care about being “loved” by everyone, but she cares about working. And to work, there has to be some demand on her services. If she can’t attract any sort of audience, eventually that will translate into her choices. (With Extant, it already has.)
It wouldn’t take much to turn public favor in her direction, but is she willing to grit her teeth and make those calls? With Halle, I really don’t know. At this stage in her career, she might be over trying to win public favour. But I can’t imagine anyone around her wants another messy, drawn out battle. What is her team telling her right now, and will she listen?