independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

Don't rush to judge – perhaps Helena just doesn't give a damn

Let's stop jumping to conclusions about the Bonham Carter and Burton relationship, writes Julia Molony

ECCENTRIC: Actress Helena Bonham Carter was immediately cast as the humiliated woman in the tabloids

HELENA Bonham Carter is a woman of many talents. Chief among them, obviously, is acting. But a close second is Not Giving A Fuck.

How else to explain her regular appearances on the red carpet dressed like a toilet-roll doll? Or the times she's been photographed schlumping around London in moth-eaten cashmere, sunglasses and Uggs.

You can pretty much take it for granted that this is not a woman who wastes a great deal of time losing sleep over what the curtain-twitching neighbours might think.

And yet, the UK's favourite hedge-haired eccentric has found herself in the middle of a moral thicket after pictures emerged of her partner, director Tim Burton, apparently smooching a "mystery blonde" after a night out at the cinema. Of course it was a mystery blonde. The Other Woman as a tabloid construct only comes in three different variations – the mystery blonde, the mystery brunette or the mystery redhead. The authors of these female rivalry narratives generally prefer it when wife and mistress can be conveniently distinguished by their contrasting dye jobs, so in this case they must be especially pleased. Word to the wise, one should always be suspicious of stories in which the women are organised by hair colour.

Helena was immediately cast as the humiliated wife. Pictured getting out of her car in London and labelled with all the predictable humiliated- wife adjectives; "downbeat", "pale", "tired and dishevelled". Look, the stories implied, see the evidence of how poor, rejected Helena has been wailing herself to sleep every night.

This seems to me like an almighty projection – the assumption that he cheated and she's devastated, made before we have any more details of the story.

Why does no one consider that, perhaps, in this, like in many other things, she actually doesn't give a fuck? Maybe they've got an arrangement. Maybe Tim came home last month to find Helena in flagrante with a beautiful young Brazilian male underwear model and the blonde outside the cinema was his way of trying to salve the wound in his broken, cuckolded heart. Perhaps she's just better versed than him in the art of discretion.

My point is, the assumption that Tim the hound dog goes out chasing tail while Helena sits mourning at home like Penelope is just one of any number of plausible back stories behind those pictures.

Marriage is long and hard. Yes, there are vows. But in reality, and in modern life, there's very little standard practice. There are infinite variations of how people do it, and millions of different compromises that those involved in the marriage accept. Maybe, like a lot of couples, Tim and Helena have decided by mutual agreement, that they'd like to pursue a little bit of sexual adventure elsewhere. After all, they've a bunch of good years already behind them, and two kids. Or maybe they've actually been functionally separated for years, but keep up appearances because they work so well as professional collaborators and friends. This after all, is a couple who live in two separate, but neighbouring houses. So one might assume that they've got their eyes open about the challenges of long-term intimacy, and the benefits of giving each other a bit of wiggle room.

The assumption that we've rushed to, that the husband must necessarily be the cheater and wife the wounded party, is an overly simplistic assessment, and a cliche. Not only that, it doesn't measure up to any version of real life that I've seen, where relationships are complicated and messy, involve endless trade-offs, power plays and compromises, and wherein women tend to struggle to reconcile themselves with the whole one-partner-for-life thing just as much (if not more!) than men.

Apparently a representative for Helena has dismissed it all as "absolute nonsense" anyway. So it also remains a possibility that in fact we've got it all wrong, their sexual exclusivity is perfectly intact, and they send each other love notes and roses over the breakfast table every morning.

If, however, that doesn't turn out to be the case, let's all calm down and stop being so indignant and shocked. Frankly, where the creative and avant-garde Burton-Bonham Carters are concerned, I personally am much more devastated about the fact that they seem to be insisting on maintaining their embarrassing friendship with David and Samantha Cameron – an image which to my mind is much more damaging to their reputation as a couple than some grainy pictures of Tim (apparently) getting a cheeky snog in a car park.

Sunday Independent

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