Jennifer and Justin get married (we think), and photographers are eager to look for signs of a baby bump. The beloved movie critic Roger Ebert dies of cancer. Heidi reportedly takes a heroic turn in Hawaii, while Ellen and Portia declare they do not want children. These are just some of the headlines in celebrity news magazines and on websites where celebrity watchers can get their fix, daily or hourly if they like, of movie, TV, and music star gossip.
Why the Fascination?
Why do ordinary people in regular jobs and typical homes love to know what the stars are doing? Babies, weddings, divorces, and death are usual aspects of life. They affect everyone, so what’s special about them touching famous people’s lives?
Perhaps it is the fact that we go through so many of these things but don’t always talk about them enough that makes celebrity struggles so meaningful. How often do people pass friends or acquaintances on the street, knowing one of them has been through something terrible, yet failing to even mention the issue? We are often afraid of opening wounds, seeing other people’s emotions, or are unwilling to spend time hearing the details. When a celebrity is willing to share her feelings about an event, this gives her fans someone to relate to during their times of strife.
Sometimes the news is genuine and news-worthy. For instance, Heidi Klum spoke about her son and nannies being pulled out to sea. Her and her boyfriend’s efforts saved the day. This kind of story always brings out older stories of stars’ heroic efforts to help. Our interest in the acting or singing ability (or looks and body) of an individual is justified by his or her human qualities. These make us like them even more, and even remind us that they are human beings, not 3D cut-outs.
A lot of celebrity news, however, enjoys only a faint resemblance to truth. How many times has the public read that Jennifer Aniston was pregnant? What about Angelina Jolie: if she had been pregnant as many times as the newspapers say she has been, she would have given birth to enough children for a baseball team by now.
Some items fill space such as the constantly yo-yoing body shapes of Kirsty Alley and other celebrities. Their battles were news once, but they no longer come as a surprise. Pictures of bony stars or stars showing fatty thighs are not newsy pieces: just ones that make us, as regular people, feel normal. If Leanne Rimes is too thin, it feels okay to be a few pounds overweight. If celebrities have cellulite, that makes our cellulite look natural.
Meanwhile, is it really “news” when two stars are seen at a restaurant together? What if they give each other a peck on the cheek? These events are exaggerated to gain reader interest, which they do successfully. Like pictures of the Loch Ness Monster, if a photo is grainy or distant, it is open to interpretation. Readers place the spin on it which they like best.