Friday, July 01, 2005

'Bout Damn Time

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I read this article today.

From Reuters News: By Jesse Hiestand
LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - A bill has been introduced in the California Legislature that would make paparazzi photographers liable when they engage in assaultive behavior during the pursuit of celebrities.
AB 381, from Assemblywoman Cindy Montanez, D-San Fernando, would subject a photographer to civil damages if an assault is committed during the pursuit of a photograph. In addition, the photographer would have to forfeit any compensation for the picture, some of which can be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"I fully support a free press, but putting people in harm's way for a photograph cannot be tolerated," Montanez said. "We will not let paparazzi profit from their dangerous behavior."

It's about time we as a general public start to have a little respect for one another and start treating people equally...that also includes not objectifying those who are deemed "celebrity".

I wrote a paper several years ago on this subject...I'm going to post part of it here as it's really long, and I don't know how many people really care to read it in the first place. The examples used definitely date it (I wrote it in early 2001, when I was still working security) but the concept holds true...

Celebrities Are People Too

“You don’t have to buy it;
then they won’t glorify it.
But to read it sanctifies it” (Jackson).

Today’s American society glorifies and magnifies every minute aspect of the lives of our movie and rock stars. Whether it be the birth of a child, the death of a loved one, a scandal or simply the location of a favorite eatery, the things most of us consider our private lives are in the case of “celebrities” fair game to be broadcast across the nation for all to see. Some people argue that it is the public’s right to know what goes on in the lives of the people we idolize and those who are in positions of governing the country. I, on the other hand, believe that celebrities are normal people and should have the right to privacy just like any other human being.

Imagine that every time you got into or ended a relationship, it was broadcast on the evening news. No matter where you go, you had cameras flashing in your face and fans asking for autographs while you’re trying to eat, enjoy a movie or spend time with your family (Burton 1). Imagine that not only are your moves broadcast in black and white, but your family and friends are also scrutinized. Imagine that beyond being “hounded” in public, people even follow you to your home, tail your car and wait on your block just in hopes of catching one glimpse of you coming or going.

Does this seem like some sort of alternate universe? I know if I had that happening to me, the first call I would be making was the police station to get a stack of injunctions and restraining orders. In several ways it is; unfortunately many human beings who have been termed: celebrities live this strange reality day in and day out. I have seen firsthand the harrowing reality musical performers must deal with, all as part of the price of “fame”. While it is true that “public figures have much less expectation of privacy than do ordinary citizens” (Durham 2) I don’t think this should necessarily have to be the case. Celebrities have the same right to privacy, in regards to their personal lives, as any other U.S. citizen.

I want to clarify what I mean when I use the words “fame” and “celebrity.” To me, fame is nothing more than my perception of someone else’s reality, meaning that I consider a person to be famous based on how I view the life he leads when I only know a small portion of his life making my basis for judgment limited and skewed. I don’t really care for the word “celebrity” either. For me the word holds the connotation of referring to a person held in high, almost god-like esteem based on his occupation and lifestyle. However, right now for convenience’s sake, I will use celebrity to refer to actors and rock stars as it is normally used.

While I want to acknowledge that actors and actresses deal with these issues just as much, I want to focus on the musician side since that is where my personal experience lies. Quickly, I do want to say that I have fewer problems with the full disclosure attitude of this country when it comes to politicians than with rock stars. I do believe that it is important to be aware of what kind of people we are putting into positions of power in this country. Since they will be making the laws we have to abide by, I want to understand where they are coming from and what I can expect from them in regards to the policies they make. I do not however, believe this to be necessary in the case of rock stars.

I admit that there are times when I too am curious about the lives of the actors in Hollywood or the musicians whose music I listen to. I don’t think that there is anything wrong with wanting to know more about the people I admire and look up to. There is nothing inherently wrong about the curiosity that we as a society feel in regards to public figures whether they are artists or politicians. This curiosity becomes a problem when, “Our society makes such a big deal over people who have accomplished things we admire that we claim their lives as public property” (Burton 1).

More often than not, we remember celebrities not for their professional accomplishments, but for the events in their personal lives. Industries like the tabloids make a living off of the public’s interest in other peoples' private lives (Burton 2). “Many people have damned the paparazzi and the publications that print their photos. How dare these people hound, hunt, and harass celebrities? There ought to be a law” (Magid 1). Tabloids produce material that many of us consider disgusting and downright vile. But, time and time again they’ve proven, “Paparazzi peddle a product many people want. The supermarket tabloids wouldn’t pay big bucks for celebrity photos if the photos didn’t sell papers” (Magid 2).

See the problem is that people have the right to print and read garbage if that is what they choose to do. The line between legitimate journalism and tabloid journalism is more blurred today than ever before. The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to freedom of the press. That means all press, not just the ones we deem to be legitimate. That means that unless the story is obviously fabricated, no one can stop a publication from publishing it, even if it is an invasion of privacy for the subject.

Often even the untrue stories are printed for the world to see, the worst that happens to the publication is that they have to issue a retraction and apology to the star wronged. By that time however, the damage has been done. For example, I don’t read the tabloid papers, but I can clearly recall the stories from several years ago regarding actor Richard Gere and the infamous gerbils. None of those rumors were true and a retraction was printed sometime later, but I still remember the original story, as I’m sure many others do as well. That is exactly my point; Mr. Gere has had countless professional successes, but that isn’t the first thing people remember about him.The same is true for rock stars. Although, for rockers, the issue of privacy doesn’t concern rumors as much as it deals with overzealous fans and photographers trying to get closer to them.

If anyone is interested in reading the rest of it, leave me a comment or an email and I will post the rest of it. ;-)