America’s Love of Celebrity Gossip Magazines

America is obsessed with celebrity – tabloid magazines with Britney, Angelina and Jennifer on the cover, proliferate. Tired of reading about the war, about the struggling economy, about the crimes committed, more and more Americans are subscribing to the tabloid or celebrity gossip magazine. Personally I wait with bated breath to receive my weekly subscriptions of People (I read it cover to cover), OK! Weekly, US Weekly, and Star Magazine. These gossipy magazines, filled with juicy details of stars’ private lives, allow me to leave the stresses of my own boring life and enter another world – albeit for a half hour interval. While I know that much of what I read is untrue (or at the very least possibly exaggerated), I don’t really care all that much. I want to see that Brad and Angelina are enjoying their children while taking a family day at a Parisian park. I cheer on singer Sheryl Crow as she fights breast cancer and feel upset with Lance Armstrong, one of my heroes, for leaving her. I pray that Jennifer Aniston will find peace with her new man, Vince. I smile at the antics of heiress Paris Hilton as she parties all night long, making more enemies each day. These gossip magazines take me on a journey into places that I, the average American, would never be able to enter. This dreamlike exploration is one of the reasons for the success of such magazines.

Let’s take a look at what appeared on the cover of these celebrity gossip magazines for the week of March 13, 2006:
Star Magazine: Proclaiming itself the mag that “breaks celebrity news first”, Star magazine’s cover exclaims that Angelina Jolie hates her new body; how Kevin Federline ruined wife Britney Spears and why she’s finally ready to divorce him; asks the question is Jennifer Aniston pregnant already; and wonders where’s Lance Armstrong now that ex fiancÃ?©e Sheryl Crow is fighting breast cancer.

US Weekly: US wonders if Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are secretly wed and promises to tell its readers the truth behind hot new pics of the couple’s gold bands; asks if Britney Spears has another baby on the way; tell us that Sheryl Crow is fighting breast cancer; and eludes to sexy Oscar style within.

People Magazine: A large, beautiful photo of Sheryl Crow with the headline “Sheryl Crow’s Ordeal: Battling Breast Cancer” takes up most of the front cover of America’s beloved glossy; a farewell to actor Don Knotts who died; behind the win of Dancing with the Stars participants Cheryl and Drew; and the arrival of Big & Rich singer Kenny’s new baby.

OK! Weekly: A huge picture of Jessica Simpson takes up this cover with the pronouncement that “Jessica gets her Revenge: Nick’s demands shocked and upset her. Now she’s having the last laugh.”; inside Jennifer Aniston’s $28m home; Brit’s break from Kevin; and, yes folks, Sheryl Crow’s brave battle with cancer.

See the theme here? Basically all of these magazines have the same headlines. However, once you open to the inside the stories tend to differ. Star Magazine tends to report stories that border on pure unadulterated gossip; the magazine reported with some certainty that Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes had ended their engagement even though the two have been seen cavorting around the world. OK! Weekly, a magazine that started in Britain (the tabloid capital of the world) features short pieces that are chatty in nature and even has celebrity interviews. US tend towards harder hitting celebrity pieces which do not obscure fact versus fiction. People, of course, is the queen of the celebrity oriented magazine and features stories about news, real people, and the hottest stars.

Are we celebrity worshippers? According to a recent survey by James Houran, a psychologist at the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, many Americans suffer from “celebrity worship syndrome”, a condition where one has an abnormal interest in the lives of stars. Houran’s study divided our interest in celebrities into three categories: entertainment social where we have a casual interest; intense personal where we feel a deep connection to one particular celebrity; and borderline pathological where we have become a celebrity stalker. Most Americans fall into the first category. On a whole we worship celebrity simply as a tool of escapism, as a way to dream and live another’s life. As a celebrity gossip magazine addict, I have to wonder – what’s so wrong with that?

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