Fame, fortune, adoring fans -- celebrities seem to have it all. But when one of the esteemed elite experiences a hard and fast fall from grace, society can't seem to get enough of the voyeuristic details. Celebrity gossip has now become absorbed into mainstream news coverage and the obsession with celebrity breakdowns extends far beyond the tabloids.
Oprah has coined a term for this obsession: fallen celebrity syndrome. As she explains in the above video from "Super Soul Sunday," we as a society seem to delight in other people's suffering. The big question is, why?
Philosopher and poet Mark Nepo says fallen celebrity syndrome is simply filling a void for something more meaningful.
"We have a culture that is obsessed with celebrity when we're quietly aching for things to celebrate," he says. "Carl Jung spoke about this in terms of alcoholism -- he said it was the right spiritual thirst, [but] the wrong drink."
For Reverend Ed Bacon, part of the obsession has to do with avoiding one's own life. "It's easier to live somebody else's life," he says simply.
Yet there may also be a hopeful element motivating the obsession. Explains Rev. Bacon, "Sometimes our obsession with the fallen celebrities is that, 'My life has fallen and I want to know if somebody is going to bounce back or have some kind of resurrection… It just may be that they would inspire me to become unsinkable.'"
Elizabeth Lesser, author and cofounder of the Omega Institute, adds that there is a universal human connection we experience when we see celebrities hit rock bottom.
"When a celebrity falls, we take some sort of comfort in it because it proves… everyone suffers in life," she says. "When they fall, it's like, 'See? My life is important too.'"