Winona Ryder served 15 years in exile for shoplifting but men escape unscathed
The actress is the darling of Hollywood again but she was punished more than male stars who stray, writes Sophie Donaldson
In recent years Netflix has emerged as a hotbed of talent, nurturing up-and-coming actors as well as reigniting the careers of established stars such as Winona Ryder (46).
The career of the former 1990s pin-up girl, who starred in critically acclaimed films and took home the Golden Globe in 1994 for Best Supporting Actress, came to a halt after her arrest in 2001 for shoplifting from Saks department store on Fifth Avenue. The ensuing court case was one of the most scrutinised of the decade and Ryder was ultimately found guilty of two counts of shoplifting. She was sentenced to three years of probation and community service.
The fallout from Ryder's conviction spanned a decade and half, during which she fell into relative obscurity. Thanks to Netflix hit Stranger Things, Ryder is enjoying what many believe to be the comeback of the year. Hollywood has welcomed her back with open arms and she is feted once again as a fashion darling. Ryder has arrived in spectacular style on the back of a big, preening elephant that nobody wants to talk about.
Shoplifting is hardly a victimless crime. In 2016, Forbes reported that shoplifting cost US retailers $60bn a year, citing a report from Retail Knowledge, the world's largest risk and prevention loss conference.
A crime is a crime, no doubt, but there is a reason some carry heftier punishments than others. Shoplifting is usually considered less serious than, say, assault, drug possession or drink driving.
It is a crime that is often associated with the reckless behaviour of teenage girls, not one that has the potential to ruin an established Hollywood career. As we know well now, even far more serious crimes committed over and over again are not enough to end an established career in Tinseltown. If you're a man, anyway.
Charlie Sheen was the highest paid actor on US television, despite the fact that his career was littered with incidents of drug abuse and violence. In 2010, he was found guilty of assaulting his wife, Brooke Mueller, and was sent to rehab, not prison.
Charlie Sheen never had to make a comeback - because he was never in exile. His most recent film was released this year, the critically panned 9/11.
In 1995, when Hugh Grant was on the cusp of making it big, he was arrested in Los Angeles while receiving oral sex in his car from a prostitute working under the name of Divine Brown.
As well as criminally reprehensible, Grant's actions were morally culpable, too; at the time he was in a long-term relationship with Liz Hurley. Grant was fined $1,000 and told to attend an AIDs education programme. He quickly got back to the business of rebuilding his reputation by hopping on the chat show circuit, where he was met with raucous laughter and applause. Grant was awfully sorry, Hurley took him back and a few years later he was nominated for a Golden Globe.
Kiefer Sutherland has been arrested for drink driving several times over the course of his career. The most recent arrest was in 2007, while still on probation for a 2004 incident, and resulted in him spending 48 days in prison. While on probation for his 2007 arrest, in 2009 Sutherland was arrested for allegedly head-butting fashion designer Jack McCollough in a hotel bar, and the charges were later dropped. Sutherland continued to star in hit show 24.
Forget about shoplifting, if you're a man in Hollywood, you could be arrested on suspicion of possession of marijuana while dancing around naked playing the bongos and not come away with so much of a scrape on your reputation, just like Matthew McConaughey in 1999. His arrest and nine-hour stay in prison is now the type of anecdote he might tell at a dinner party rather than a career-halting incident. Two years later, he was enjoying box office success with the likes of The Wedding Planner and How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days.
Winona Ryder has painted her absence from Hollywood as some sort of sabbatical she embarked upon when the demands of fame became too much. It's understandable Ryder may have wanted to take time away from the limelight, but it's difficult to believe that her absence was entirely self-imposed. The expectations placed on women to behave in a certain way are never matched by what we expect of men. Boys will be boys, but women will be judged.
As her lawyer Mark Geragos said at the time of her sentencing, "she is going to carry the scarlet letter of S for shoplifting for the rest of her life". While that life sentence turned out to only be 15 years, it seems an unduly harsh punishment compared to that of her male counterparts.