Why we love celebrity slip-ups

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The sad truth is that gossip magazines and celebrity news make up one of the largest portions of American media today. While we all feel that twinge of embarrassment picking up the latest issue of US Weekly while checking out at the grocery store or skimming PerezHilton.com, it’s a compulsion that almost can’t be stopped.

Why do we love celebrity gossip so much? While some of that love stems from a genuine, innocent and curiosity-driven interest in the goings-on of the lives of the beautiful, rich and famous, there is another, more malicious side of that love.

Oftentimes, it seems we’re just waiting on news of the next celebrity screw up. From the little things like seeing pictures of celebrities’ faces without make-up or the solitary mark of cellulite on their otherwise perfect butt, to the darker stories of falling stars’ drug abuse and the subsequent trips to rehab, the focus on celebrity news seems to never wane.

Jessica Simpson’s famous “Chicken of the Sea” debacle is an oldie, but still a goodie as far as simple celebrity mishaps go. It was television gold and stands as a testament to the innocent kind of preoccupation with celebrities messing things up. The way she confused tuna with poultry was almost endearing.

Lindsay Lohan, though, quite obviously embodies the darker side of America’s celebrity addiction. Drug use, erratic behavior and run-ins with the law are the kinds of dramatic moments of her personal life that exist as general knowledge. One would be hard pressed to find someone-–especially anyone college-aged-–who didn’t know about Lindsay’s hard times.

Whether what’s happening is just funny or something serious and grim, there’s an ever-present desire to know what’s going with famous people we’ll never know personally. It could come from an (essentially imagined) personal connection with a particular celebrity (how many celebs do YOU follow on Twitter?), or from the wider social tendency to know what’s happening in the human community. Wherever it comes from, most of us can’t help but gossip about the people around us and, by extension, the people both known and unknown to all of us.

Looking over the following list of celebrities’ not-so-bright moments might give some insight into this curious element of our culture.  Did I miss any?

10. Ashlee Simpson’s “Performance” on SNL, 2004

9. Sarah Palin’s Disastrous Katie Couric Interview, 2008

8. David Hasselhoff’s Drunken Burger Binge, 2007

7. Miley Cyrus Doing “Drugs,” 2010

6. Kanye West's Outburst during Taylor Swift's Acceptance Speech, 2009

5. When Charlie Sheen Was Winning, 2011

4. Kim Kardashian’s “Marriage,” 2011

3. Tiger Woods', cough cough, situation

2. Bill Clinton Not Having “Sexual Relations with That Woman,” 1998

1. Any celebrity sex tape, ever. (That means you, Kim K., Paris, and the O.G. sex tape starlet, Pamela Anderson)

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