Just as the Tom Cruise and Katie Homes divorcing and juggling parenting duties saga was pushing ahead at full steam, news that actress Kristen Stewart cheated on her boyfriend, Twilight costar Robert Pattinson, with a married man and father of two during the filming of Snow White and the Huntsman hit the airwaves like a rocket. My knowledge of who Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson are is limited to the reports of the popularity of the Twilight movie series. Having never seen or read any of the Twilight movies or books, I didn’t particularly feel anything beyond my usual “How sad that another Hollywood couple is facing issues” response to this romantic breakdown. And while I get, but don’t like, that there is a market for this sort of news, where this news was once dedicated to entertainment and gossip productions like Entertainment Tonight and TMZ, today, celebrity couplings and turmoil have inched their way into nightly news broadcasts. Nowadays, it is not peculiar to see stories of rising unemployment, violent attacks, and of political unrest on the nightly news being chased by the latest celebrity debacle.
Reality shows, celebrity Twitter and Facebook statuses, along with the stories of whose breaking up in the celebrity world, have steadily usurped attention away from non- Hollywood stories that are unfolding in the U.S. and abroad. In case anyone has forgotten, many countries in the world are facing devastating economic crisis, more and more people are unable to find work, student loan debt is rising, and healthcare costs keep soaring. These are but a few issues that seem to perpetually fight against the Cruise/Holmes and Stewart/Pattinson like dramas for attention in the media. Let’s face it, individuals making You Tube videos about the rising cost of housing in cities like New York have not garnered anything near what the videos made by distraught Twilight fans have in just the past few days. Yet, this lopsided distribution of attention is not solely the byproduct of what network executives deem is worthy of network time, it is the fruit of what viewers time and again have proven they will consume in large quantities. Society’s insatiable lust to lose itself in the world of celebrity has created an avenue for its reporting on the nightly news. In our celebrity obsessed culture, reports of economic woes and healthcare crisis hardly stand a chance against the vastly unattainable, glossy, and perfectly unrealistic world of celebrity. Only the stories of these airbrushed images of perfection toppling over seem to grip our attention as much as the glitz and glamour that drives our fascination with celebrity. For some, the news that what they’ve esteemed as perfect is in reality human and thus prone to making mistakes is almost too much to bear. But for others, the news that those who seemingly have it all are not as perfect as society paints is motive to celebrate; these individuals find pleasure in discovering that the celebrities they outwardly (or secretly) envy make decisions they believe they would never be foolish enough to make.
Along with offering a way to escape from the stress of daily life, from dreams unrealized and hopes left unfulfilled, concentrating on the failures of those who seemingly have it all provides some with a way to feel good about their lives. Aside from being a wretched way to feel good about one’s life, enjoying the failures and mishaps of others merely reveals how insecure one feels about his or her life. Feeling strong, healthy and secure about ones lot in life typically negates the false feelings of superiority and enjoyment that come from other people’s bad turns. When one is completely content with their life, rather than take pleasure in the demise of others, they are simply grateful for the choices they have made, the opportunities they have been given, and the lives they are leading. I must admit to taking solace in the fact that, in some areas of my life, I have been “smart” enough not to have made the mistakes that some celebrities and non-celebrities alike have made. I know that the pride in my ability to have steered clear of various life choices is nothing more than an attempt to mask the pockets of insecurity I feel regarding some of the other areas of my life. This is not to say that one shouldn’t be grateful that they have had the wherewithal to make good decisions. It is when we become arrogant about the fact that our lives have respectively taken better turns than others that we lose sight of the fact that we too are prone to making bad choices. And what better and more pronounced way than delving into the lives of celebrities can we elect to divert attention away from ourselves and let loose the arrogance we feel over the fact that we have not made bad choices. However, it’s not really about what celebrity is at the receiving end of our criticism and scrutiny, for what this type of reaction ultimately reveals is the condition of our hearts.
It’s important to check where our response to people’s (celebrity and non- celebrity) mistakes and foolish decisions is coming from. Is it coming from a place of arrogance? Are we moved to criticize and belittle the mistakes and foolish decisions of others, or do others wrong turns lead us to a place of gratitude and possible compassion for others unfortunate situations? Examination of this type aids in not only curbing our desire to react in a negative and arrogant fashion to others flawed decisions, it may also lead to the development of a greater sense of empathy and compassion for others.