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Public obsession with celebrity: Envy or the appeal of a human car wreck?

We’re obsessed with celebrities. Don’t deny it. We love seeing them on the red carpet, all glitz and glamour, but we also love following all the juicy gossip when they are caught up in deceit and scandal.

If you doubt this, consider the non-stop coverage of Amy Winehouse’s death? A lot of people were watching those reports on a celebrity more famous for partying than singing, and quite a few of us were discussing it as though she was someone we knew. People made comments like “no surprise that happened,” as though they knew personally about her lifestyle.

With tabloid magazines and online websites that boast daily circulations reaching into the multi-millions, it’s obvious we crave celebrity news. Britain’s The Sun sells almost 3 million papers daily, and Star Magazine’s weekly subscription reaches almost a million. Online sites like TMZ and dlisted offer daily banter focusing mainly on the messed-up lives of celebrities and their most recent photos – preferably without makeup and sitting on a beach somewhere with an ill-fitting bathing suit. The worse they look, the more highly paid the photographer.

But why do we crave junk food news on their personal lives? They’re only people who happen to be on television or the big screen. Maybe it’s because we perceive them as just like us––only better in some ways. They are richer, have better skin and hair. They are fashion icons embroiled in wild, sometimes scandalous  lifestyles – everything our alter egos may wish for. They have nannies to take care of their kids while they jet off to exotic locations to hang out on beaches or hit high-end casinos, where they gamble their fortunes with flash and frivolity.

Couldn’t we all be highly regarded as parents if we had an army of nannies and personal assistants?

We most likely will never achieve the status, fame, power and fortune of the likes of Brangelina (Angelina Jolie/Brad Pitt) or TomKat (Tom Cruise / Katie Holmes) but we watch them in the hopes that we’ll find similarities between us. We relate to celebrities that we see covered in newspapers, magazines and television shows. Often they become more familiar to us than friends and family. Could our closest peer group actually be the cast from a reality show?

Even those of us with celebrity worship syndrome (an obsessive-addictive disorder in which a person becomes overly involved with the details of a celebrity’s personal life) recognize that fame is not a cure-all. There are too many celebrities on shows like Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew. From former movie and television stars to sports legends and those of reality TV fame, people once iconic in our eyes we come to see as human with the same struggles we face.

Unfortunately, when things go bad for a celebrity, the millions at their disposal can lead to epic meltdowns and rampages. If you were as crazy as Charlie Sheen, would anybody but your spouse or work crew even notice?

Celebrities like Amy Winehouse, whose soulful voice was permanently lost to the world over the weekend likely due to drug and alcohol problems, can teach us life lessons. We mess up, try to clean up, and then mess up again. Sometimes rehab works, as in the life of Robert Downey, Jr. who worked for years to overcome drug addiction. Sometimes, as with Winehouse, it doesn’t work.

Life is an endless cycle of trying to do the right thing. And celebrities – those beautiful, rich, glamorous people we love to fantasize over – are really just like us. They emulate the good and bad in all of us on a larger scale.

Besides, total perfection is worse than off-putting – it’s boring. And no one wants to be boring.

 

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