If you’ll never forget Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding date (April 29, 2011) and refuse to believe that children cuter than Prince George and Princess Charlotte exist, you’re certainly a huge fan of the English royal family.
And while yes, they just so happen to literally be royalty and have indisputably near-perfect genes, there has got to be something about them that keeps you coming back for more, right?
To get to the bottom of our adoration for the royals, we turned to the pros for answers. According to Tara Emrani, Ph. D., a licensed clinical psychologist at NYU Langone Health, loving a glorified public figure is essentially human nature.
“According to many evolutionary biologists and anthropologists, we humans are social animals. We like to be socially interactive. We kind of like to grow as a group, and we survive better in the context of a group than by ourselves,” she explains. “And it is our nature to identify individuals in the group that are one-of-a-kind for skills and uniqueness that precedes our own.”
Emrani references hunters and elders in ancient villages, gladiators during the Roman Empire, and philosophers like Plato and Socrates as early examples of modern celebrities. But what’s so special about the royals?
“The British royal family has found a way to stay relevant and be present in the media. And the way that they portray the family is very relevant to people in that they have a family, they do normal stuff, they go to normal places, although they’re royal,” she says.
“The Duchess recently talked about mental health and hunger and Prince Harry does a lot of charity work and things that people can admire, are inspiring, and feel relevant.” Essentially, the fact that they often participate in events we can all participate in makes us feel as though we know them, as though we could be one of them.
Licensed clinical psychologist Donna Rockwell, who specializes in fame and celebrity counseling, shares a similar example. “For hundreds of years it’s been like a fairy tale,” she says of the public’s perception of the royals. “When Princess Diana became a princess, that allowed the royal family to burst into a level of celebrity they never experienced before ‘cause here was a commoner who got there.”
Emrani adds, “we as humans like to look at things that might possibly be better than us. It stimulates something in our brains that says, ‘how can I be that?’ They have the same tools as us, but how are they so distinguished compared to us?”
So is it possible to become too infatuated with a celebrity? According to Emrani, it is possible to become pathologically obsessed with celebrities, particularly if you have a history of depression, anxiety, and body image disorder.
Though it’s not an officially recognized disorder, those in the field refer to it as celebrity worship syndrome. As Emrani explains, it’s when “people get overly involved, kind of losing insight to their own lives, losing sight of their own work, their social lives, and losing touch with reality and what’s out there.”
Rockwell says adoring a celebrity can become harmful once you start to believe you actually know them. If you agree with this statement—“If my favorite celebrity asked me to do something illegal, I would absolutely do it”—then you may be obsessed, she says.
“A lot of people are using celebrities and the whole notion of celebrity glossies to escape from how scary life is and how scary the world is,” Rockwell says. “A lot of people subsume their consciousness in the lives of celebrities so that they can tolerate the pain of their own existence.”
The way to fix it? “Go to yoga class, call your children, your grandparents, your parents, and get involved in your own life. Talk to the celebrities in your own life,” she insists. “What means the most to us at the end of our lives are the connections we make and the love we share. You can’t share love with a celebrity.”