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Why We Rejoice when Famous People Fail

Why do we enjoy watching others—especially rich, powerful, famous people—"fall from grace"? Joseph Epstein commented on our need to know and discuss stories about prominent people who have failed:

How delightful to those of us living out our modest lives, to witness, if only through the media, such ego-filled balloons getting popped .… When we see someone mightier than we divested of his dignity, stripped of his pretentions, humiliated in public, we feel comforted by having retained our own dignity, pretensions, good name. Perhaps after all, we conclude, it is just as well that we are not so rich, powerful, beautiful, talented. Relishing in others humiliations is good for our ego …. Even when we know deep down that if [our local newspaper] knew everything about us, we might be on the cover too.

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