That makes K-Fed and Bobby easy targets for those who make a sport of apportioning blame when a relationship ends. “Typically, in traditional media, women are the ones who look at entertainment and relationship stories and get invested in them,” says Harvey Levin, the managing editor of the celebrity-gossip site TMZ. “Women tend to root for women in bad relationships. If women are the ones who caused the problems, [the female readers] just don’t root.”

Most guys have been mired in a similar sinkhole at some point in their lives: blamed by a partner’s friends and family for her failure to get a promotion, finish grad school, or lose her saddlebags; slandered during girls’ nights out (“He just didn’t support her when she switched careers from law to astrology”).

But few men have faced this much condemnation over a split. In less time than it took Brit to annul her marriage to her first husband (55 hours—and even he’s publicly on the K-Fed-Ruined-Britney’s-Life Express), crackerjack publicists and finger-pointing commentators spun the story that these two guys single-handedly brought down two Top 40 singers. Substance-fueled Whitney and talent-poor Britney, the slant was, were clean-living, devoted professionals at heart; their lives were simply derailed by slacker spouses. They were just pretending to enjoy eating McGriddles, chain-smoking, and frittering away money.

Whatever the explanation, consumers of celebrity gossip seem eager to buy it. Perhaps they’re clinging to the idea that Whitney and Britney are infallible “I Will Survive” types who just went down the aisle with the wrong guys. But if Britney’s descent into trashiness was really all her husband’s fault, why then, shortly after her much-publicized cleanup, was she out pantyless, dancing with that paragon of classiness Paris Hilton? And why has Whitney, whose rumored comeback album remains unconfirmed, already begun to look like her bedraggled self again? No doubt publicists, talk-show hosts, and fans have their response to those questions primed and ready: “Poor thing, she’s still distraught over her divorce.”