When Kevin Federline’s and Bobby Brown’s marriages went up in mushroom clouds, Britney Spears and Whitney Houston emerged from the devastation like Botticelli’s Venus—coiffed, toned, and serene. Rosie O’Donnell gleefully unleashed confetti in Britney’s honor, and rumors flew about an imminent “I Will Always Love You”-grade comeback for Whitney. The celebrity-industrial complex hailed these long-suffering creatures for dumping the trashy men who kept them depressed, mocked, and on “worst dressed” lists—even after Britney repeatedly flashed her vagina for the paparazzi and Whitney’s house was repossessed.

Imagine, for a moment, being in a spot similar to K-Fed’s or Bobby’s. You get involved with a diva. You worship her. In the back of her giant white SUV limo, she tells you how special you are, how important you are to her, how you should come out with an album.

You get married.

A few years in, the diva begins to lose her shit. She becomes unkempt, unfocused; it’s been ages since she released a new album; maybe she does a stint or two in rehab. You patiently cart her loopy ass to sneaker promotions and recording studios, where she pretends to work on her greatest-hits dance-remix collection. You drive her to Starbucks for her 14th Mocha Frappuccino of the day. When she’s conspicuously on edge during a prime-time interview, you sit next to her and put your arm around her to keep her still.

It’s not as if you don’t have your faults—you show up drunk to meet your probation officer, you smoke too much pot and record a bad rap album about it—but you stand by your woman. You make remarks to reporters like “It’s me and her against the world, yo.” You show love.

Right about then—when you’ve just made an appearance on Conan and launched your website—wham, she files for divorce. You are instantly cast as the Bad Influence Who Was the Problem All Along. You read an article in a celebrity weekly in which your ex says she couldn’t deal with your constant clubbing. You think, Me?! What about her?! A few pages later, you see photos of Heath Ledger and Chris Martin pushing $700 Bugaboos. They are quoted as saying things like “She’s my life.” You want to puke. There’s also an item about how Jude Law finally broke it off with Sienna Miller because she “partied too much” and he just wants to focus on being a dad. Jude Law!? The guy had an affair with his kids’ nanny! Put a cute British guy in a suit and he’s got a get-out-of-damnation-free card. You, meanwhile, will be lucky to avoid getting castrated by those ladies from The View.

“The coverage is feminized,” says P. David Marshall, editor of The Celebrity Culture Reader. “The stories are patterned like Harlequin romances.”