Why We Boo Celebrities Like Justin Bieber

Poor Justin Bieber. Over the weekend, everyone's favorite punching bag was audibly booed at the Juno Awards, and in his very own home country of Canada no less. (Harsh, eh?) Poor Juan Pablo, too. The sexy Bachelor villain also confronted vicious boos—and a drink in the face—while hosting an Atlantic City party this weekend.

In this—somewhat–civilized society, it's always surprising to hear about people booing. This primal, visceral expression of extreme displeasure has roots in the jeering of ancient Rome and gladiatorial games. The word itself traces back to the early 19th century and the lowing sound made by oxen.

You'd think by now we'd have moved on from this crude noise tied to cattle and death matches, and yet there it is, confronting Charlie Sheen during his panned comic tour; Ashlee Simpson following her SNL lip-synch fiasco; Amy Winehouse for falling apart during a live show; and countless other examples in the course of recent history.

And it's not just celebs who must deal with hateful booing. The practice is very common in the sporting arena, where just this past weekend—at the same time Juan Pablo and Bieber were being jeered—New York mayor and Boston Red Sox fan Bill De Blasio was booed for throwing the first pitch at a Mets game.

Booing makes more sense with sports, though—they are, after all, our closest ancestor to the gladiatorial games. But why boo celebrities?

Perhaps it has something to do with our tortured and rather intense love/hate relationship with those in the spotlight. These people are so exalted, and benefit so richly from this pedigree, that we are keen to watch them fall. Their mistakes bring us closer to them, while righting the perceived wrongs of how much they've been given compared to us.

For these reasons, when a celeb gets a DUI, is shamed on reality TV, or flubs in a performance, we are all too ready to show them how we really feel. And the most effective way to do this is with the most simple, effective, barbaric sound we can muster: Boooooooo!

Image: Wikimedia Commons

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