How Celebrity Gawking Reveals Our Deepest Fears
I read with great interest Jordana Horn’s Sisterhood post about the public fascination with high-profile downfalls. That’s partly because I approach scandal from the opposite direction. I don’t think it’s helpful to quash talk about a topic that clearly interests people. I think it’s more helpful to ask why we — the public and the media — are so incredibly seduced by Anthony Weiner and the like, and the tawdry circumstances they’ve created.
Jordana, one of the things that piqued my interest about your post is the way that your opening argument, effectively, spreads potential gossip. While you don’t name the famous man “everyone knows” is guilty of philandering, you share news of his illicit behavior anyway. Being the naturally curious person I am, I’m still trying to figure out the protagonist of your story. So instead of diminishing our interest in gossip and scandal, you are in fact cultivating it.
That brings me to my second point. Why are we so interested in these sordid tales of people who have nothing to do with us? The thing is, these people — whether it’s the man Jordana alludes to, Weiner, Arnold Schwarzenegger or John Edwards — have everything to do with us.
Their stories become our fears. As a news-consuming public, we connect our anxiety over betrayal (physical, emotional, sexual) to the unfolding sex scandals before us. After all, if this nightmare could happen to Huma Abedin, Weiner’s smart, successful and statuesque wife, then it could surely happen to me.
So the next time we’re all wrapped-up with the scandal du jour, I suggest asking “Why are we so interested in this?” and “What does it say about us and our culture?” That seems like a better solution than does crushing the kind of talk that clearly reveals our broader fears.