Entertainment Bollywood 06 Oct 2021 Why do we gloat whe ...

Why do we gloat when celebs fall?

Published Oct 6, 2021, 1:29 pm IST
Updated Oct 6, 2021, 1:29 pm IST
What is it about human nature that makes people voyeuristic, deriving pleasure at a celeb’s misfortune?
Aaryan Khan (Twitter)
 Aaryan Khan (Twitter)

A few hours after actor Shah Rukh Khan’s son Aryan got caught by the NCB for allegedly carrying narcotics on board Cordelia cruise ship, Empress, the Internet and social media have exploded with forwards and discussions on the matter, eclipsing even other news articles, including that of the son of the Union Minister of State for Home ploughing down of four protesting farmers while injuring 15 others in his SUV in Lakhimpur Kheri.

Not to forget the “the 3000-kg drug haul at the Mundra port” which finds no space in the media now!
Additionally, a couple of anchors blaring out news from their moralistic high chairs will continue with this so-called high-profile case for the next few days or weeks.


While the law must take its course as regards Aryan, this case has once again opened up the distressing and dark side of the public’s psyche. It’s as if the public cannot wait to celebrate a celeb’s fall — the more personal the matter for the celeb, the harder the public believes it must taunt!

A picture related to the case being forwarded might remain a classic motif to this behaviour. 23-year-old Aryan can be seen in what appears to be the confines of the NCB, looking distraught at a selfie being taken, most likely without permission, by a moustachioed, bald-headed man who displays a smug grin on his face. Is that grin the sign of victory for having captured the celeb-kid in his most vulnerable state? One wonders, because while eight others have been arrested in the case with Aryan Khan, the ‘lights, camera, and action’ treatment is only for the star-kid.


Psychology experts explain the public mind-set around cases involving celebrities or their kids, trying to make sense of why some people take such pleasure in gloating over celebs’ hardships.
Aryan’s case in particular seems like the case of a young, well-off man, who’s resorted to substance abuse probably due to circumstances — an upbringing that’s largely been abroad where certain drugs are legalised and peer pressure.

The vicarious pleasure in belittling others

According to Dr C Radhakant, professor of psychiatry at NRI Medical College and consultant at Apollo Hospital, a section of public with low self-esteem and inferiority complex derives vicarious pleasure by putting down others, especially if they happen to be celebrities assumed to lead a happy, upwardly mobile and luxurious life.


“Secondly, the upbringing of celeb kids clashes with the middle class idea of morality and parenting. A majority of the middle class public pride themselves on taking better care of their children and making them more disciplined as compared to celebs’ lenient parenting. Thirdly, the reaction formation is a defence mechanism. Certain people go out of the way to stay morally upright and rigid by repressing their immoral and illegal tendencies to the unconscious mind. When celebs get caught on the wrong foot, these people’s frustration and hatred come out as a defence mechanism, making them vent out against the celebs. Religious prejudices or hyper-religiosity also colour certain narratives and social media users’ repulsive reactions,” adds Dr C Radhakant.


The doctor also thinks the media behaviour and dramatic rendering by some news channels can be explained on the basis of the need for higher TRPs. “From holidays to haircuts, celebs’ moments are captured and highlighted by the media,” he adds. “So, they won’t lose a chance to amplify scandals in celeb lives to increase their channels’ viewership. Some even resort to politicising such celebrity-related incidents to belittle political opponents.”

Celebs are society’s role models, so follies aren’t forgiven


Dr Jini K Gopinath, chief psychology officer of ‘Your Dost’, a mental wellness platform, says, “By nature, the common public is curious about celebrities’ lives. And celebs and their kids have been publicising their life on various social media platforms, gaining them both followers and trolls, says Dr Jini. “They fail to see Aryan or any star kid as a normal human being who can be susceptible to follies and bad company. The social psyche envisions stars as role models with values. Their children are expected to be perfect, not perpetrators. When society’s preconceived notions crumble and people get a peek into celebrities’ private lives, they’re subjected to merciless trolling and criticism, and their failures magnified.”


The doctor also points out how the pandemic and its related hardships especially on commoners have also resulted in their aggressive outlook towards celebs.
“The public has been suffering from various limitations, losses, frustrations and failures — financial or otherwise,” Dr Jini adds. “They cannot tolerate seeing the rich and famous enjoying their high life, vacationing, posting pretty pictures of their happy life and then getting away with divorce or illegal activities like drugs. They become morally judgmental and vent out their frustration by trolling.”