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Train wrecks are passive entertainment for us


On Sept. 30, actress Amanda Bynes checked herself out of UCLA Medical Center and into Malibu Rehab Center. Tabloids say that she might have made this move to save money. The troubled star might have lost her $4 million fortune during her drug-induced outburst this year.
Do I care? Absolutely. Watching people crash and burn happens to be a fun American pastime. We watch cheesy movies such as “Napoleon Dynamite” just to critique the terrible production. We purposely follow people we dislike on Instagram and Facebook just to lurk their photos, or at least I do. I hope you’re all with me on this one. But why do we do these things? Last week I found myself watching a Latin soap opera, and I don’t even speak Spanish. Why? Because the music, drama and horrific acting are hilarious in any language.
I consider myself to be a decently nice person when I’m not hungry. I’m sure that there are a lot of really nice people in this world. Yet I’m stumped on the reasons we have these hateful thoughts.
“I suspect that if people ‘hate watch,’ they do it because it vindicates their own feelings that they aren’t a total mess,” said Brian Dunst, professor of philosophy of human communication. “They may feel that celebrities are, by default, in a class of people better than the rest of us. So when a celebrity shows that they struggle with the same, or worse, problems as people like the rest of us, it makes us feel like we’re not doing so bad by comparison.”
At first, I thought hating was a generational trend, like kids who wear Silly Bands or middle schoolers who think that they’re good at skateboarding, but maybe it’s not just us young’ns who thrive on this type of entertainment.
“I think this is something humans have always done. With the Internet, it is much easier to track larger swaths of humanity and to document a person’s demise (from far away) much easier. With the rise of “comments sections” on many web pages, the scale of these kinds of attitudes, and the rate at which discussion settles on hate conversation is much larger, and faster, respectively,” said Dunst. Bynes, along with other train-wrecked stars such as Miley Cyrus, give us something to talk about. They’re like an embarrassing family member that the whole world shares — and who wouldn’t enjoy talking about them?

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