Why we love to hate celebrities

WINNIE SALAMON
Last updated 13:53 20/03/2014

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There's nothing more cringe-worthy than Gwyneth Paltrow telling the story about the first time she met celebrity fitness guru Tracy Anderson.

"I met Tracy and she was this force from the second I met her. She pulled my pants off. I'll never forget it. She was like, 'Oh, my God, wow, I just am so surprised, because you look so good in clothes. I wasn't expecting this.' "

A force, all right. Of vomit-inducing body hatred that makes me want to devour an entire Costco-sized bag of chocolate-coated macadamia nuts in an act of sheer rebellion.

Gwyn and Tracy aren't the only celebrities I have trouble with. There's Nicole Richie, of course, who I can tell is simply NOT A NICE PERSON. Oh, and Miranda Kerr. Yes you are good-looking, but please keep your unqualified opinions on health, nutrition and baby raising to yourself. Plus I'm pretty sure Madonna's heart is made of granite. And let's not forget the entire Kardashian family. What a superficial bunch of attention-hungry narcissists.

Even though I could easily add several more names to my personal celebrity loathe list, I don't think that makes me a bitter and twisted woman oozing darkness from every pore. On the contrary, a certain degree of celebrity-loathing animosity is good for the soul. Here's why:

First of all, celebrities are not real people. I mean, they are of course, but not in the way most of us know them. Rather, they are like abstract humans, acting out the role of living a life without letting us ordinary folk in on what is really going on.

Some celebrities even openly refer to themselves as a brand, while others prefer to parade around in skinny jeans holding giant cups of Starbucks. Many have walk-in-wardrobes dedicated solely to their shoe collection. As individuals paid to lie for a living they are not to be trusted, but we watch their every move, curious as to what they'll do next.

They're a 24/7 reality TV show.

Just last month, the academic journal Psychological Science published an article that explored the nature of gossip and ostracism only to discover that such behaviours are valuable for the functioning of both small groups and for society as a whole. Through gossip we learn about the behaviour of others and are able to make decisions about what we consider to be acceptable behaviour.

Hating on celebrities is the purist form of guilt-free gossip there is. When Gwyneth scores yet another No. 1 spot on a "most hated celebrity" list, it's not really personal. In real life she might very well be a lovely woman to have coffee with after school drop-off. No, what is so loathsome is her public persona and what it stands for.

The sense of entitlement she exudes. Her emphasis on thinness as bodily perfection, her inability to understand that being a multi-millionaire born into Hollywood royalty does not make her a "lifestyle" and cooking expert. Her seeming inability to take the mickey out of herself.

These are not qualities to be celebrated, we are essentially saying, when Gwyneth gets slammed yet again.

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The same, of course, goes for the Kardashians. As a family they represent greed, excess and self-involvement. Their conversations are so vapid that their show is disappointingly dull. They are all that is unfair in the world. You certainly don't see teachers or doctors or social workers living it up the way they do.

Sadly, even celebrities we like let us down. I always thought Michael J. Fox rocked out in Family Ties. He reminded me of a much funnier version of my conservative, right-wing uncle. Then a friend told me he'd read Michael's autobiography and that Michael is, in fact, an ego-driven narcissist. No! I screamed. Stop! I don't want to hear it. So I pretended that I didn't.

Another bonus in the world of the rich and famous. They are what we make them. It's not like we'll ever get a chance to truly find out.

- Sydney Morning Herald

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