The Pleasure of Life By Proxy: The Question is Serious

The question is serious: why are people interested in celebrities? I must miss the gene that makes you inclined to watch TV shows and buy celebrity magazines or wonder what’s going on between Brad and Angelina since I never understood it. No, celebrities don’t really interest me, on the other hand, I would really like to know why people are so passionate about them. A brief overview of the most interesting theories.

The pleasure of life by proxy

The most obvious explanation: we human beings like to live by proxy; identity with richer, more famous, more beautiful, and more desirable specimens than the rest of our species. Whether framed in terms of jealousy, admiration, or derision, celebrity fascination is, first of all, a projection: we try to imagine what it would be like to live a simpler, more enjoyable life.

So Charlie Sheen’s life of debauchery corresponds to the fantasies of many of us, who dream of breaking free from bourgeois conventions. Go on vacation to the Bahamas on a private jet surrounded by pretty porn stars, fill a suitcase with bricks of cocaine, send your boss to graze: in the face of such behavior, the “what a shame!” is never very far from “if only it was me”.

A Slight Case of Sadism

The other side of the coin of this fantasy of extravagant irresponsibility: the Schadenfreude – the pleasure we derive from the misadventures of others. In recent years, the tabloid press has taken more and more interest in celebrities who lose control. Charlie Sheen’s madness follows the setbacks of Britney Spears, Mel Gibson, Tiger Woods, and many others who have covered themselves with shame in the pages of the tabloids.

When a rich and famous person crashes, then we feel superior – or at least, a little less inferior. Is your life hell? Sure, but that’s probably nothing compared to what Lindsay Lohan or Brett Favre are going through. And since the invention of reality TV, a lot of celebrities can’t even boast of looking better than you.

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