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 January 14

by Carolina

Are you sick of hearing and reading about Novak Djokovic’s court tribulations?

Or are you enjoying every minute of the saga that has unfolded over the last week?

It’s not just the tennis star’s case that has captured the public’s imagination — in recent times, we’ve also seen stories about Britney Spears and Prince Andrew’s trial dominate headlines.

You either love them or hate them

Our obsession with celebrity culture is nothing new, according to Lauren Rosewarne, a senior lecturer in the School of Social and Political Sciences at Melbourne University. 

She says people have been turning their attention to famous people and their troubles long before even social media came along.

“I think it gives a sense of the universe reordering itself and some semblance of fairness happening, where these people are getting their comeuppance,” Dr Rosewarne explains. 

Katharina Wolf is an associate professor in the School of Management and Marketing at Curtin University and agrees with Dr Rosewarne, saying it’s human nature to enjoy watching a divisive figure in trouble. 

“People take an enormous amount of pleasure in seeing someone stumble and fall, especially if they’re very high up and quite well known,” Dr Wolf says. 

“We take a little bit of pleasure out of that. And I think that’s quite human.” 

A group of protesters on court steps holding 'Free Britney' signs

People protest in support of pop star Britney Spears on the day of a conservatorship case hearing in Los Angeles last year.(Reuters: Mario Anzuoni)

A by-product of the pandemic

Seeking distraction from the fear and stress that has been brought on by the global pandemic has also driven our obsession with celebrities, says Dr Wolf.

“A lot of people are looking for things to distract them and famous people are quite a good distraction,” she explains.

“Especially within this context where you have someone who always gets their way, versus a tennis tournament in the most locked-down city in the world.

“It’s kind of like a community-versus-Goliath kind of battle where that discontent comes in.”

Prince Andrew speaks to press during an interview in Windsor, England, in April 2021.

Prince Andrew has been stripped of his honorary military titles as he defends a civil sexual assault case in the United States.(AP: Steve Parsons/Pool/File photo)

Entertainment and envy

We have a long history of obsession over celebrities in court (think OJ Simpson and more recently Britney Spears) and social media now gives us an easier way to keep up to date with these cases. 

Prince Andrew and his legal battles have ramped up again, and Dr Rosewarne says he falls into the category of people disliking the wealthy and entitled sector of society.

“I think that that type of case is very much in the line of sort of upward envy of rich and famous people, but also the fact that sometimes celebrities can be their own worst enemies,” she says.

“Prince Andrew doing that BBC interview and saying he doesn’t sweat adds an element of intrigue to this story, in the sense of it’s both ridiculous, but also takes us along that journey where it feels like we’re watching almost a television show.

Djokovic fans raise their fists and chant in solidarity with the tennis player outside Park Hotel, January 10, 2022.

Fans of Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic show their support for his legal battle over his visa to enter the country and play in the Australian Open.(Reuters: Sandra Sanders)

What impact do these public court cases have on reputation?

Dr Wolf says the interest in Djokovic’s could have ripple-on effects.

“The public was basically told to trust the process, but we can’t tell you what happened or why he’s got an exemption.

“I think a lot of travellers will actually ask themselves ‘if I ended up at the Australian border, can I get in? Is there a risk associated with it, do I really want to travel there or go rather somewhere else’?”

As far as the top-ranking tennis player is concerned?

“I think initially he was doing quite well,” Dr Wolf says.

“Because it certainly gave him a lot of attention and he’s got a huge number of supporters behind him.

“But now that some of the other details are emerging, the fact that he didn’t actually isolate [after contracting COVID-19], this is most likely going to come back and haunt him.” 

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Original posted at www.abc.net.au

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