James Carroll, writing in the Boston Globe, wonders what drives our insatiable appetite for celebrity scandals.
Noting the transnational nature of the tabloid culture, he suggests the obsession may, in fact, have universal implications.
I knew Carroll when he was chaplain at Boston University's Newman Center. He later left the priesthood and became a full-time, and successful, author. His writing is animated and informed by a keen understanding of human nature.
"Every human must navigate the triple labyrinth of animal impulse, rational awareness, and moral choice," he writes. In other words, we revel in stories of great people cut down to size because we need morality tales to help us fight our own demons.
I've come to believe that we're hardwired to put ourselves at some people's feet, only to move to their throats when they inevitably falter.
That helps explain the modern industry of celebrity gilding and gelding. Celebrities -- and brands -- are the sometimes unwilling protagonists in their own morality play.
And, as in any morality play, the curtain will not fall until the protagonist has sinned and repented, i.e., admited guilt, resolved not to repeat the offense, and made an honest attempt at restitution.
The biggest difference today: the play's script is often coauthored by what Carroll calls a "vast, observing, empowered public."