History shows that this is a person who we, as a country, cherish. We want to watch them succeed in their lives. “America’s Sweetheart” has to appear genuine. They have to be happy, and charitable; they have to look like they belong on the better side of a Disney princess movie. Our society paves the way for these socialites, giving them the fame they need in order to show how Cinderella-esque they are. We put them on a pedestal, valuing their looks and their ideas.
“America’s sweetheart” has to be female. Even though many will argue and say that a man can be a sweetheart, in our culture’s eyes, this is untrue. We don’t care as much if a man has a scandal than if a woman does. Kristen Stewart recently was caught cheating on Robert Pattinson with the director, Rupert Sanders, of one of her latest films, Snow White and the Huntsman. Even though this man was a father and a husband, he was able to hide from the scandal more easily than Kristen. It was labeled the “Kristen Stewart scandal” as if she somehow managed to cheat by herself. As soon as we see a crack in their stature, we tear these “sweethearts” down and seem to enjoy doing so. Society has proven that we would rather build them up so we can help them fall.
Some might say that these patriotic belles are the product of childhood fame. Over the years, Disney has cranked out numerous role models for young people, but has seen their audience become disappointed when their star takes a turn for the worse. Engraved in everybody’s minds is the fall of Britney Spears, the former Mickey Mouse Club House star and 90’s sensation. A little into the new century, Spears’ sudden decline began and society was watching with their popcorn and crackling candy wrappers. After marrying Jason Alexander for 55 hours, she went on to cancel her tour for an injury-related incident and needed weeks of rehabilitation. Soon after that, she became engaged to Kevin Federline (who had recently broken up with his pregnant girlfriend). Spears and Federline had two children, and in 2005, Britney began trying to get back into the music scene. However, when a picture of her son, Sean, sitting on her lap while driving went public, things began to go downhill fast.
Speed up to 2007, Spears has a second child, but is in the process of divorcing Federline. After the sudden death of her close aunt, she goes into a drug rehabilitation program. That same day, she checked herself out of rehab, shaved her head, and lost custody of her children. After trying to visit them, she was forced away and caught by photographers. However, what society saw was a crazy, hairless woman swinging a bat into a paparazzi’s car.
People would be lying if they say they do not remember this. Countless television programs, both reality and fiction, parodied these events. No one got Britney the help she needed, which made her clueless as to how to cope with her life in the spotlight. Instead, paparazzi stalked her, took pictures of her, and then put her on every magazine cover across the world. They waited until she was at her worst to make sure she would fall even further.
Today, Spears has released music, has regained custody of her children, and has had successful relationships – all of which seem to be functional. However, she has never sold more magazines than she did during the week of her breakdown. She was our favorite in the 90s, and our favorite in the 2000s, but for completely different reasons.
Although devilishly entertaining, what happens when we take this “sweetheart” and turn on them without any reason? Only a few years ago, “Our Song” was blasting through teenagers’ car windows as they drove home from school, making Taylor Swift the new person to love. A quiet, quirky “southern” belle from Pennsylvania was taking her curls and guitar and quickly appearing on every magazine cover and entertainment report for her songs that speak to everyone’s breakup (everyone, that is, under the age of 17). Her songs supposedly tell the true meaning behind hating someone, to have a crush, or to not be “the one”. Although appropriately fitting in with the awkward middle school girls, Swift was also capable of taking the world by storm. Now, at age 23, she brought home countless music awards and released a handful of albums.
However, with all of this fame that we gave her, society is quickly realizing that it’s more fun to hate her. Because she has this Glinda-the-Good Witch image nailed onto her, Taylor has to be careful with what she makes public. But this hasn’t stopped her from singing about every issue that she finds important.
Over the past couple of years we have learned that she dates (and she dates hard). It seems that with every flirtatious wink of the opposite sex, Taylor Swift has to release a statement that she is involved with someone. And, probably when this other person realizes that the world’s most clingy socialite has her eyes on him, they break up. Taylor also has won Grammys, therefore, she can sing? Taylor has become the center of public ridicule, making America no better than the center table in the middle of a high school cafeteria.
However, we put her here, right? We banded together and loved her songs. We decided she was awesome and electronically lined up to get her concert tickets. It was only a few years ago that we applauded her on every step she made and now we criticize her for breathing near another human being. Why? Because it’s fun.
Disney channel is no stranger to the P.R. catastrophes of their stars gone strange. Miley Cyrus failed at living a reality double-life when she suddenly discovered that she was a teenager. After ditching the blonde wig and the 6-year-old fans, she found people her own age and the stereotypes that come with them. Stupidly, Miley allowed herself to be recorded why taking a hit of Salvia. Although this might be common among the rich and famous, putting up a video for the world to see when you are both Miley Cyrus and Hannah Montanna might not have been the best decision. She went on to cut her hair drastically and dye it. Also, she managed to get engaged to Liam Hemsworth. Now, if this is a good or bad decision to become engaged to a gorgeous Australian at 19 years old is anyone’s guess.
Why do we love to watch our celebrities fail? Maybe it’s derived from the basic need to gossip. Chatting at other people’s expense is something that everyone does, even though they might not admit it. Either fictional or real, the lives of others are suddenly more interesting than our own. Somehow, society needs to know everyone else’s business even though it might not want to be known. And when we hear about it we need to spread it, fast. With the adaption to Twitter and Facebook, suddenly a single movement can be spread across the world with the click of a button. From miniscule schoolyard gossip to celebrity breakdowns, we have developed sites to see what others are doing. Gossip is a business and employs many across the globe. Human beings actually depend on celebrities messing up, whether it’s the public relations side to it or the paparazzi.
Maybe it’s because this is our nature. We see someone who has it all and we need to tear him or her down to feel better about ourselves. Magazines, television shows, reports, and stores are shoving fashion down our throats in order for us to feel better because we look like the stars. Putting on the belted skirt that we saw on the latest episode of Gossip Girl makes us feel like we belong in that show. Jennifer Lawrence wears a sweater that makes her look amazing, so why can’t it do the same for us? But then it doesn’t. Then we’re reminded that we are not the celebrities and most of us might never be remotely close to their status. So let’s hate them. Let’s hate them more than we hated the last person. They seem to be recovering, so let’s move on to the next victim. And who better to stick our foot out and trip than the people who have it all, and the people we give it all to.
Thumbnail image credited to Coldbread. All photos licensed via Creative Commons.