In recent months, celebrity news has been fraught with stories of adulterous husbands and distressed wives, all of whom are struggling to deal with the ripple effect of a cheating spouse. In some high-profile cases, the cheaters are going to "rehab" to take a look at their behavior while their wives are attempting to pick up the pieces of their all-too-publicly disgraced lives. Other celebs are simply calling it quits and attempting to move out of the spotlight to grieve in private. It's a hard thing to watch happen and yet many of us are glued to the celebrity news watching these public train wrecks unfold.
Why are we so dialed in?
Celebrity marriages play a unique role in our society. They serve as public examples of what can happen when two people have everything that money can buy along with the freedom to create fabulous relationships. Their lives are theoretically exempt from the same day-to-day stressors that most of us have around resources. They buy things that most of us dream about and they take unlimited time off to spend with the ones they love.
Imagine what it would be like if you didn't have to worry about money? If you had all the time in the world to do whatever it is that your heart desires.
The truth is that most of us have limitations on our resources. That pool may be larger for some, but what we share in common is that very few of us have the ability to step off the grid and take unlimited time off. Celebrities can. In addition to things like Ferraris and Louis Vuitton handbags, their privilege also affords them the mental freedom to pay attention to questions like, "what makes me happy?" and "how can I live a better life?" Sure we think about our own happiness, but then we trudge off to work or deal with our kids and those thoughts are left for another day or another time or another New Year's resolution.
How does this extra time affect their behavior?
One likely conclusion is that with more time to think about their happiness also comes more time to think about what makes them unhappy. For people with unlimited resources, this seed of dissatisfaction is also accompanied by the time and money to do something about it.
For many, the ripple effect of this extra thinking is action, and not all of it is good. Some celebs channel their energy into causes like the earthquakes in Haiti or Chili. In the case of Tiger Woods and Jesse James, they both chose to channel their dissatisfaction into other women. And while many of us did watch the fund-raising concert for Haiti and even texted in our donations, many more of us read the daily gossip columns and can tell with great detail what's happening in the lives of our favorite celebs.
Perhaps we're all just voyeuristic on some level? Maybe. But I think the allure of celebrity gossip has more to do with how we look to celebrity lives as an example of what we wish we could have. Certainly not all of us want to become celebrities, but there is something about the financial freedom and the personal liberty over that is very enticing.
How many of us would like to be pampered, respected, admired and sought after for our thoughts, opinions or actions? Wouldn't life be easier if we were as talented as Tiger Woods? Or if we had the bank account of Jesse James?
I think one could even argue that the women Tiger and Jesse were unfaithful with were also looking for something from these men. Some might say it's because they had the unrealistic hope that they might be the next Mrs. Others may suggest that it's a lack of morals. I think those are certainly factors, but I would also add that the allure of the lives that these uber-privileged men enjoy draw women to them. The attraction to this privilege and freedom is so powerful at times that people are willing to compromise their very moral structure to get closer to it and ultimately they end up paying a very severe price for their choices.
So when we tune in, what are we really looking for?
What we're seeking is freedom, liberty, time, energy and health. We want a stress-free life and harmonious existence and we're looking for a break from the things that worry our minds, hearts and souls.
That's why celebrity gossip sells. For the few moments that it takes to read or watch their stories we're transported out of our own lives and into theirs. We get to experience what we think it would be like to walk in their shoes. That walk may take us down the red carpet or up to the podium to apologize for our transgressions. Either way, for those few moments we are free from our worries and we can fantasize what it would be like to live a stress-free existence.
At its best, celebrity gossip motivates us to work harder, reconnect with our loved ones and reminds us of the truth of who we are. We may look at Tiger Woods and think, "There by the grace of God go I." Or we may look at Jesse James and think, "What a fool" and be reminded of how special our spouse really is.
At its worst, celebrity gossip can drive us to be materialistic, greedy, petty, unrealistic and cruel. ??I know it brings motivations and thought provoking conversation to my life and marriage. So I ask you this:
- Why do you read celebrity news?
- What does it bring to your life in a positive or negative way?
- And how does it shape your expectations for love, material things and relationships?
Now I'm off to catch up with Celebrity Love!