What does the Rob Ford scandal say about our celeb-obsessed culture?

Given the royal treatment they receive from the media and the adoring public, it can become easy to forget that celebrities are real people. That may sound cliche, but actually take a moment to consider what that entails. Celebrities are subject to the same highs and lows as us. You know, the things that make all of us human.

Among those lows is the capacity to screw up massively. I don’t know anyone, myself included, who has never done something they have instantly regretted. Normally, we meet these mistakes with understanding because compassion and empathy are also innate human characteristics.

But when our beloved public figures do something embarrassing, we are unable to do anything but turn their names into punch lines. When Mayor of Toronto Rob Ford recently admitted to smoking crack cocaine after months of denial, it only unleashed a torrent of new jokes at his expense.

Never mind that Ford, who comes from a family with a history of addiction and shows signs of alcoholism himself, is clearly in need of help. Instead, because he is constantly in the public eye, we need him to be a beacon of unimpeachable character. Any other person in his shoes would have people rushing to help him. Instead, Ford gets to turn on the news and watch people make fun of him.

In the case of former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner, he could have handled himself with more grace in his reaction to his sexting scandal. Furthermore, he should not have been sending those messages given the fact that he’s married and has a child. Criticizing him for either of those things would be valid. Instead, what we got were people making fun of the actual messages.

I’m not going to defend Weiner, but the fact that the public gets off on making fun of someone’s private messages is pathetic, not to mention lazy. Chances are you or someone you know has sexted before, whether it was with a significant other or a casual acquaintance.

If you were to read those conversations back, it would sound ridiculous. That is why those conversations are typically kept private. You wouldn’t ask your friends to share their sexts with you because that is a breach of privacy.

In our celebrity-obsessed culture, however, the public feels entitled to access every facet of celebrities’ private lives. When we find something that is the least bit vulnerable or potentially compromising, we latch on to it like vultures that feed off of the embarrassment of others.

The humor of these circumstances lies in the disparity between one’s public and private persona. But again, what makes that different from any one of us? Celebrities serve the public, just as you might serve your boss. You wouldn’t act the same way in front of your boss and your close friends.

These different personas are what make people functional members of society. The ability to assess a situation and act accordingly is a pretty fundamental human trait.

This brings me back to my original point. Celebrities are just people. Imagine how jarring it would be to live under the assumption that your every move is watched by millions of people. It is so incredibly dehumanizing. So the next time a politician or a singer has some sort of “scandal,” ask yourself how egregious it really is.