‘The Sandra Bullock trade’

| Staff Columnist

In a recent issue of The New York Times, columnist David Brooks wonders whether people would willingly accept what he calls “the Sandra Bullock trade”—that is, winning an Academy Award one minute, discovering that your husband is “an adulterous jerk” the next.

More generally, Brooks mused about the comparative values of career and personal life. Is there some inverse relationship between the two? Can any woman who has reached the pinnacle of her career expect to suffer a colossal blow to her marriage? Does one cancel the other in some cosmic tendency toward equilibrium? Does one cause the other? Does it matter?

We cannot assume that Sandra Bullock’s immense professional achievements contributed to the downfall of her marriage. (Perhaps her husband is simply a terrible person and there was nothing to be done.) Nor can we assume that she has an obligation to address the problems in her marriage at the expense of the numerous career opportunities that are sure to be flooding in following this latest Hollywood awards season.

What we can assume, however, is that she will be judged negatively by both the media and her fans if her future actions appear to place career aspirations ahead of family relations. Therefore, we can also assume that she will appear to step back from the movie business in order to address her marital troubles. Her publicist will make sure of that.

As a culture, we implicitly place an overwhelming emphasis on financial interests while outwardly preaching that family values are vastly more meaningful. Taking the time and energy to deal with her shaky marriage will surely detract from Bullock’s post-Oscar momentum in the film industry, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. We praise Bullock for the accomplishment, but she will be crucified if her family crumbles in the wake of her success.

Something doesn’t match up. The experts say tritely that money can’t buy happiness. In fact, they’ve proven statistically that money can’t buy happiness. So why do Americans spend such a disproportionately large amount of time at work? Why does our education system teach the skills required to develop careers rather than social relationships? Why do we sneer at housewives who don’t have real jobs?

Because it’s not all about the money. While success in this country is indeed defined largely by wealth, careers can provide other forms of success, too. The ambition and passion that fuel one’s work can provide individual fulfillment, contributing to the success and longevity of a happy partnership. Unhappy and unfulfilled people do not make happy and fulfilled spouses.

In his column, Brooks argues for a realignment of social values: family over career, and not just in the painfully pedantic, superficial way. Teach people to develop meaningful relationships that will endure any career failure, because that is what makes people happy.

I argue something different. Yes, we should place the utmost importance on developing relationships. Yes, we should avoid sacrificing the integrity of a personal relationship for an ambitious career move. But no, we should never sacrifice personal fulfillment for either end; no, we should never have a relationship for relationship’s sake. And no, we should never assume that placing all our hopes in a relationship, while relinquishing all other ambition, will make us happy.

Sandra Bullock, you are more than your Oscar, and you are more than your husband.

Kate is a freshman in Arts & Sciences. She can be reached via e-mail at kemarcal@artsci.wustl.edu.

  • http://brittannytaylor.com/ Brittanny

    Since Sandra has no children of her own, she should just focus on her career. What family does she have to save? He showed no respect to her and their relationship so she should do what’s best for her and if that means throwing herself into work, then let her do it.

  • Pam Solich

    I wish Sandra the BEST. I feel for those kids as they will grow up not knowing what a stable life could have been like. It seems as though she was close to them and this is very sad for the kids. But kids grow up and move on.
    Wish I could give her a hug and be able to talk to her.
    I was married 43years and he decided to be alone. No other woman—thank god –in some small way. It’s hard but at least she has a life………….mine was his…..
    Keep on doing what you do best Sandra because I’ve seen all you’re movies and you ARE THE BEST

  • Geri Greene

    If you write the column from the opposite perspective, no one criticizes a man for taking plum parts after celebrating success. Anything Sandra does from here she needs only look at her own loife and move on. Her dream of having a family was stolen as Jesse James had his own individual plans for his life. Since Sandra is not related by birth, and while it may upset the younger children, with the history of JJ’s wives and girls, the best thing Sandra can possibly do it keep on running,…. and don’t look back.

  • Redheaded_TX_Girl

    And why must Sandra Bullock step back from her career to deal with her marriage? Sandras’ marriage was over the first time he cheated on her, so…. Sandra is not in the wrong. If she chooses to immerse herself in work, who could blame her? Sandra is a gorgeous, talented, obviously kind and warm hearted woman. (I say obviously, because of Sunny) Sandra did everything right, as far as we can tell, and I am sure we will hear just that in the future. In my opinion, whatever Sandra decides to do, what she decides is right for her, is what she should do….. who gives a damn what anyone else thinks. Sandra has just suffered the worst type of blow, and in front of the world. Whether it was one affair or twenty, it was one too many! Kick ass Sandra, and when all is said and done, Know that every single one of your fans, love the work you do, and hope that you as a person and actress recover from this appalling ordeal.

  • rtbrooks

    i agree with you…sandra is very eloquent and polished…she does not need a dirt bag likened to HIM!!!!I wish her the very best she deserves sooooooooo much more!!!

  • Andrea

    Well put!