Magazine article Reason

Is Schadenfreude a Good Thing?

Magazine article Reason

Is Schadenfreude a Good Thing?

Article excerpt

HAS THERE EVER been a defendant as thoroughly unsympathetic as this month's cover gal, Martha Stewart, currently in trouble for selling stock in the pharmaceutical company ImClone?

I suspect that on some level we're all rooting for the doyenne of domesticity to get sent to the slammer--and not just to see how she'd accessorize prison grays. Long before the Department of Justice criminally indicted Stewart for securities fraud and obstruction of justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission charged her with insider trading, the American public had already convicted her of a long list of particulars.

These include setting impossibly high standards for everyday home living (including the making of such horrors as cranberry flower frogs and marzipan turkeys) and overexposing herself through an endless stream of self-branded products ranging from magazines to TV shows to furniture. Stewart has even spawned cottage industry of parodies, such as the "completely unauthorized autobiography" Martha, Really and Cruelly.

Perhaps her ultimate crime was letting the public learn of the gulf between her cloying public persona and the tough-as-nails private person who has become a massively successful CEO (it hasn't helped that she's a woman). As tell-alls such as Jerry Oppenheimer's Just Desserts and Christopher Byron's Martha, Inc. have made clear, Stewart is a driven entrepreneur who can and will turn off the charm whenever she needs to. The most memorable scene in the TV movie based on Byron's book comes when Stewart, played by Cybill Shepherd with Mommie Dearest overtones, screams to a woman she thinks is sleeping with her eventual ex-husband, "Hey slut, I'm sending your parents a letter and telling them you're a whore! …

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