Last year, when Meg Ryan went gave an interview to coincide with the release of her latest film The Women, she made certain comments with respect to her ex-husband Dennis Quaid's indiscretions during their now-defunct marriage (which were actually appropriate considering that the film dealt with the topic of marital infidelity among other things). These comments were reported in a lot of media outlets as the bitter tirade of someone who hasn't gotten over something.
Now, if these comments were simply a recollection of her own experience in relation to her film or a backhanded swipe at her ex-husband, it's impossible to say. But granting that it was a dig at Quaid I can't really say I blame her; her much publicized roll-in-the-hay with co-star Russell Crowe on the set of the 2001 thriller Proof of Life effectively killed her career, though it had no perceptible effect on Crowe's. Her stature as Hollywood's girl-next-door, or, more aptly, America's Sweetheart, meant that extra-marital affairs were a no-no for her.
The thing is, her fall from grace wasn't even a matter of her being a woman; Angelina Jolie has been married and divorced twice and is perceived by many, rightly or wrongly, to be the reason why Brad Pitt left his ex-wife Jennifer Aniston, and yet she not only has post-"homewrecking" hits like Wanted under her belt; she garnered an Academy Award nomination for Changeling to boot. Apparently bad girls are more in fashion now than sweethearts.
Speaking of "bad people" such as the aforementioned Crowe, apparently there is a limit to what "bad boys" can get away with as Crowe learned when he gained some notoriety for reportedly injuring a hotel clerk with a telephone even though based on some accounts the clerk, who supposedly uttered "whatever" when Crowe complained about a malfunctioning phone service, may have at least partially deserved to get pummelled. Crowe's image took a beating especially considering that at the time he was trying to sell a movie where he played a downtrodden depression-era boxer. Not much chance of that happening if you're a real-life bully. Perhaps as a result, Cinderella Man tanked at the box-office.
Kobe Bryant's career was, less than two years after the fact, none the worse for wear after the woman who accused him of raping her settled out of court with him. His star was not dimmed in the least when he won Olympic gold last year or hoisted his first Shaq-free NBA title trophy over his head a few weeks ago. His multi-million dollar endorsement deals are still pretty much intact (though they admittedly were in jeopardy for awhile as was his public image). He took a hit, but ultimately bounced back.
Lest people argue that the case was settled and that Kobe should be regarded as innocent until proven guilty, one could look to the case of the late Michael Jackson for a sterling example of how allegations of sexual impropriety can be a real kiss of death for one's career. Now, I'm not even a Michael Jackson fan (as I've written elsewhere), and admittedly there's something about pedophilia that arguably makes it even more heinous than rape of an adult but the fact of the matter is that while the first case was settled, in the second instance Jackson was acquitted. That is to say, it was ruled that it had not been proven beyond a reasonable doubt that he had had sexual relations with his accuser. This was not some case of some shady out-of-court deal. And yet, the first case had already done enough to make sure his chances of selling new albums ere dead and gone, long before he was. In many people's minds, Michael died a pedophile, regardless of whether or not he was. Of course, he didn't do himself any favors by admitting he had little boys sleep in his bed, no matter how much he insisted that it wasn't sexual.
Scandal has different ways of affecting different people. For that matter, different things constitute scandal for different people. For Meg Ryan, scandal is having sex with a man other than her husband, while for other celebrities it involves DUI. But the thing about people who are well-known is that the effect of a scandal upon a person's career ultimately depends on what people have come to expect from that person.