01/17/2013 03:55 pm ET Updated Mar 19, 2013

What Makes Us Love Celebrity Gossip

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OK, so I admit it. I read US Weekly and People -- and not just when I'm waiting in the checkout line. Halle Berry and her latest relationship drama were among the latest to draw my attention; someone is clearly lying about who started the brawl, and personally I think Gabriel Aubry was the victim there. In fact, it appeared to be a fight between his pretty face and Olivier Martinez's fist. In case you haven't seen the pictures of Aubry's bruises, the fist clearly won.

Along with millions of my fellow celebrity gossip mongers, I have been transfixed as Berry has moved from one dysfunctional romance to the next for over a decade. Presumably, these poor choices have something to do with her absent and abusive father Jerome, from whom Berry was estranged all of her adult life. First, major leaguer husband David Justice was rumored to have physicaly abused Berry. Next, she was married to musician Eric Benét who cheated on her
dozens of times, owing to what appeared to be sex addiction.

It actually seemed like things could work with boyfriend Gabriel Aubry, with whom Berry hit it off at a Versace photo shoot. There was nothing particularly dramatic at all and Berry seemed in bloom as a new mom. Even the breakup was low key until Aubry took Berry to court for parental rights of their then 2-year-old Nahla, and then things began to get ugly. And now she is engaged to Olivier Martinez, with whom she appears happy -- but his recent violent episode is ominously reminiscent of Berry's past. And the American public eats it up, clamoring for more. Why can't we simply call Halle Berry human and a little screwed up like the rest of us and call it a day?

And why, despite being a reasonable person, was I pouring myself over pics of Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel's exclusive nuptials while simultaneously laying odds on the amount of time their marriage would survive? Frankly, most of us were amazed they even made it to the alter, amidst rumors of JT's indiscretions (the most noteworthy cheating accusation coming from LiLo).

Why do we worship these celebrities like American royals, while impatiently waiting for fresh drama to ensue?

It turns out that Freud may have been right -- at least about a few things. He argued that humans are driven to worship those we designate as "gods" in order to channel our ambivalent emotions towards the parent figures we depend on. Because we both love and hate these gods we construct, we are driven both to idealize and pick them apart rather savagely. Translation: the American public manages to hoist its public figures onto the highest pedestals, only to watch with a mixture of horror and pleasure as their idols fall to pieces owing to very human folly.

Celebrity gossip is also a big ego booster, as it makes us feel less shame and guilt and for being imperfect. If Jessica Simpson struggles with her weight and blows up to the size of a blimp with her pregnancy, then what's 10 extra pounds on me? When she's huge we cheer
her on, but when she's finally skinny again we secretly hate her, telling ourselves we could be that buff too if we worked out with Jillian Michaels six days a week. I even find myself buying the National Enquirer's "Best and Worst Beach Bodies" issue every year. Of course, I hide it at home because it offends several of my so-called feminist values. Sequestered in the bathroom, I hurry past the perfect Blake Lively bikini-clad-bodies to study the images of Fergie's cellulite. And somehow, I end up feeling friendlier towards my own jiggling thighs.

Let's face it -- we'd still admire Halle Berry if she were happily married for 20 years, but we adore her all the more as her dysfunctional romantic life is strewn across the media. We'd be happy for Jessica and JT if they make it for the long haul, but we'll feel more gratified somehow if they blow to smitherines by 2014. We fell in love with Jessica Simpson when we realized she could be an ill-mannered ditz who thought Chicken of the Sea was chicken. We guiltily enjoyed her getting dissed by John Mayer who called her "sexual napalm" in the press. Whether we project this curiously intense mix of emotions onto the celebrity idols we place above us or
simply level them against ourselves, the line between love and hate remains oh-so fine.