I often marvel at the public’s obsession over the private lives of the rich and famous — the entertainment celebrities, the multimillionaires, the families of politicians, the socialites and the social climbers. I have always found it amazing how people can spend hours and hours everyday poring over their photos, tabloid gossip and even how their liaisons are discussed over cocktail drinks.
Read the papers (tabloids, especially), watch television, surf the Web and they’re everywhere. Celebrity-related web sites far outnumber those that deal with current political and social events. And readers flock to sites where the staple is who recently had a boob job, which celebrities divorced, who spent a a few hours in jail for drunk driving…
I mean, more people follow Britney Spears’ train wreck of a life story than those who try to make sense of the implications of the cheap Chinese goods flooding Southeast Asian markets. Truth be told, even the so-called political blogs (and many opinion columns, for that matter) are dishing out nothing but intrigues and gossip about the Who’s Who in the world of politics.
There was a time when I thought the craze was a modern-day phenomenon fed by a profit hungry media. But I did a post-mortem on my own attitude while reading The Other Boleyn Girl and I wonder. I’d like to think that there is a world of difference. Henry VIII brought on the Age of Reformation (in England, at least) and this did not happen as a matter of reason nor pure intentions. The rift between the Bluebeard of English history and the Holy See was sparked by the lust of one man and his own obsession over producing a male heir to the English throne. Henry wanted to discard an aging queen and marry a young courtier in the hope that she would be able to give him what his queen could not — a son and a prince for England.
In that sense, it does seem that there is a point in poring over the life of Henry, his wives, his mistresses, and the corruption and immorality in the Tudor court. Henry VIII was an English king and everything he did changed the course of history. Can we say the same thing for the starlets and the social climbers? On the other hand, isn’t the study of the scandalous lives of long-dead monarchs just some high-brow version of the same obsession over celebrity scandals and gossip? Isn’t it an attempt to inject relevance to the same hunger?
Considering how we dissect the lives of royal families from hundreds of years ago (referred to, ironically, as part of the study of history), the obsession over the lifestyle of the rich and famous might be based on something deeper and more sinister. Perhaps, a twisted sense of envy. Some look at the rich and famous as people to emulate and whose lifestyles they aspire to; others maliciously watch and wait for them to make mistakes and fall from their pedestals. Whatever the reason, we watch them — alive or long-dead, we watch them.