Our culture is hooked on celebrity downfall -- read on to learn why.
On Monday night, Amy Winehouse was rushed to a London emergency room after undergoing convulsions, which her father Mitch attributed to Amy allegedly -- and accidentally -- taking a double dose of a drug replacement opiate. He asked the public for their support, saying, "She is doing the decent thing by trying to help herself and get off hard drugs. She doesn't seem to be getting the recognition and credit she deserves."
However, sources recently discovered the British singer had collapsed after mixing her medication with large quantities of alcohol during a four-hour drinking binge. Amy, 24, is said to have chugged rum and taken all her pills at once. A source told Britain's Daily Mirror newspaper: "The problems started when she then took her medication -- all 11 tablets -- and all hell broke loose. She clutched her stomach and was in such agony that everyone genuinely feared the worst."
With each fumble, the world watches Amy with bated breath. And whether it's Lindsay Lohan's stints in rehab and rumored lesbian trysts, Britney Spears' custody battle, or Khloe Kardashian's clash with the law, one thread remains constant: People seem to love watching stars flail, and ultimately fail.
"The phenomenon of celebrity is a wealth of contradictions," says Jane Greer, Ph.D., a family therapist in New York City. "On the one hand, we admire stars for their talent, beauty, and wealth because we want something to aspire to. And when we become attached to their lives, it can feel like we are similar just by association."
"But when celebrities make mistakes (like everyone else), we glean satisfaction from their downfall. But it's not malicious -- the pleasure people get from watching their idols fall down sends a signal that celebrities are just like us. Their mistakes humanize them and make them relatable."
We're quick to forgive celebrities because pop culture is so ingrained in our lives and we can't help but look up to them. So we give them chance after chance to redeem themselves.
But should we feel sorry for celebrities? "Imagine living your life under a microscope where every fumble or mistake is analyzed and misinterpreted," Greer says. "Add to that impossible standards of perfection and extreme wealth and you're almost asking a person to fail. No one can withstand all that pressure."
The bottom line is, celebrities may seem like they have it all, but for everything they have going for them, something has to fall short.
So how can we channel our celebrity obsession in a positive way? Must we curtail our star obsession and -- gasp -- form our own fashion trends? "You can still cheer for your favorite stars, however, it's crucial to keep your admiration in perspective," Greer says. "Try to look at celebrities as role models -- not beacons of perfection. When you use their accomplishments to motivate your own successes, you'll only enrich your life, not pollute it."