"You're My Celebrity Soulmate"

Why do celebrities attract stalkers?

Posted Oct 05, 2016

used with permission from iclipart.com
Source: used with permission from iclipart.com

“I will cut you up into little pieces and feed you to my dog.”  Communication to Catherine Zeta Jones from Dawnette Knight, Michael Douglas stalker.

“I want to cut the sin out of you with God’s scalpel.” Said by Dante Michael Soiu, Gwyneth Paltrow’s stalker.

“I still can marry you tomorrow. I can kill you tomorrow too. Cause I simply like and love you as you live life. Aly ... It doesn't end. Even after death." Written to Alyson Hannigan by her stalker, John Hobbs.

Definition of the word “fan;” an enthusiastic devotee, follower, or admirer of a sport, pastime, or celebrity.   Here are words often associated with “fan – “admirer, devotee, groupie, supporter.”  None of these words commonly used to describe or define a celebrity fan seems anything less than positive and, in fact, most celebrity fans engage in prosocial behaviors such as joining fan clubs, following their favorite celebrity online and chatting about them with similarly enthusiastic followers, and attending their concerts.

 However, according to the thesaurus, another word associated with “fan” is “addict.”  And anyone who follows the news knows that there’s a dark side to celebrity fandom that can lead to an obsessive preoccupation, obsessive and intrusive behaviors, and violence.  Over the past three years, the list of celebrities who’ve had terrifying encounters with a delusional follower reads like a seating chart for the next Academy Awards – Gwyneth Paltrow, Sandra Bullock,Taylor Swift, Ellen Page, Brooke Shields, Justin Bieber, and on and on.  Most recently, Voice singer Christina Grimmie was shot and killed by a fan who reportedly was so obsessed with her that he lost 50 pounds, got hair transplants and lasik surgery, and converted to Christianity for her. 

Are Celebrity Stalkers Different from Other Stalkers?

Yes and no.  Yes, in that the initial relationship (or lack thereof) between the celebrity and the stalker is unlike that of the typical pursuer.  Over 90 percent of “regular” stalking victims are stalked by someone they know, either a former lover, an acquaintance or a family member.   In contrast, the vast majority of celebrity stalkers have never met the object of their obsession; the relationship is entirely based on either delusion (we’re secretly married) or fantasy (if you just met me, you’d realize we were meant to be together). 

This may be a reflection of the fact that, unlike stalkers who pursue us common folks, the majority of celebrity stalkers tend to suffer from a major mental illness such as schizophrenia or erotomania.  Thus, the stalking of a celebrity is typically a behavioral reflection of the distorted thinking that accompanies it.  Unlike the stalker who refuses to accept the end of a romantic relationship or is bent on revenge after a painful breakup, any mutuality between the celebrity and the stalker is solely in the mind of the latter.  Often, the celebrity stalker misperceives common occurrences as filled with personal meaning; a celebrity’s tweet to a fan base is perceived as a personal message to the stalker.  A celebrity’s new girlfriend sparks rage and humiliation as the celebrity stalker views the relationship as a personal betrayal.   

What is not different is the terror and fear celebrity stalkers inspire in their victims.  For years, celebrities were reluctant to use formal avenues to confront their stalkers, worried about the media storm that would ensue.  However, as more celebrities speak out about the psychological toll being a stalking target has taken – the depression, anxiety, insomnia, paranoia, the chronic sense of helplessness – it’s clear that they share a lot in common with all stalking victims.   Peace of mind is something money can’t buy.

 The Bottom Line

Today’s celebrities are often caught between a rock and a hard place.  The social engagement with the public that is increasingly expected as part of their promotion of productions and projects can fuel the flames of a disturbed psyche.  This is especially true in the pseudo-intimacy of cyberspace. 

While it’s hard to get statistics on celebrity stalking, it appears to be on the rise; in an interview with L.A. Management Unit detective Mary Lopez, she revealed that 20% of her current stalking caseload involves celebrities, in comparison to 10% in 2008.  And more than 90% are internet-related.  There’s no denying the perks that fame and money bring; but for those who are pursued by a relentless fan, celebritydom can feel like a suffocating castle sieged by an enemy.