Jul 12, 2008

Privacy, or the lack thereof: our invasive society

Brangelina are awaiting twins at a French hospital. A headline assures us that no one can peek inside the windows because they have been papered over.

The Brinkley/Cook divorce case was opened to the public because Christie, who wasn't born yesterday, knew that the press would sensationalize the lurid details even more if the proceedings were kept private.

Celebrities and public figures are photographed at all hours on the red carpet, at a private outing with friends, and during a casual stroll through Target (Kirsten Dunst probably felt like one when a photographer pounced on her to take this photo). Regardless of the setting, celebrities are rated on how well they look.

So, should the price of fame include this enormous invasion of privacy? Are we really owed a glimpse into celebrities' private moments when they are not on a publicity tour or promoting their products? Every day the boundaries of good taste and privacy are shoved back to the point where the concepts themselves are becoming almost non existent. In regard to the Brangelina twins, even the Boston Globe joined in the hysteria, posting a photo of Brad inside a limo after visiting his caro sposo and speculating about the birth. The photographer who sells the first photo of the twins stands to make a bundle of money ( a reputed 24 million dollars). If we can go by past experience, Brangelina will probably sell off the rights to a chosen photographer and donate the money to a good cause. What a smart strategy: fighting fire with fire. As for me, all the hoopla surrounding these multi-millionaire celebrities makes even cynical me feel sorry for them. Other celebrities choose to reveal their private moments to the public (see Colin Firth post), which then makes them fair game as far as that story is concerned.

Lest we minions think we are escaping Big Brother's invasive eye: think again. Our daily movements are monitored through cell phone calls, Website visits, and credit card purchases, and as we pass security cameras and traffic junctions. If someone elects to take our photo while we are in public, they can legally (without our permission) post our image on the Web.

Any time we make a comment or share a photo on the blogosphere, someone with the right search words will be able to download it. My blog's sitemeter stats will tell me the I.P. address of the individual who came to visit, how long they stayed, where they're from, and what posts they clicked on. On WordPress, if you leave a comment you leave your email address as well.

The word "privacy" has become a relative term. 1984 has long come and gone, but the specter of Big Brother watching us has arrived on so many levels that the enormous scope of invasion would boggle even George Orwell were he still alive.

What intrigues me even more is our casual acceptance of this invasion. Moments after hearing of Heath Ledger's death, his family showed up in front of the cameras to share their grief with the world. In times past this would have been a supremely private moment, and reporters and the public would have honored their need for privacy. Except during the aftermath of Princess Diana's death, there is no huge public outcry against paparazzi who follow celebrities at wild speeds, endangering them and their families. Bottom feeders like Perez Hilton make hefty incomes from stalking their famous prey, and then writing scathing comments that overstep the bounds of propriety, but that also enter the gray areas of defamation of character.

If this is progress, quick, put me in a time machine and deposit me in an era where boundaries were respected and people were allowed to live out their lives of quiet desperation away from an ever present eye.


Doralong said...

Might there be room for one more in that time machine of yours??

(Nice to see you back from your break- I had hoped the new season of PR might get you to drop a line once in a while)

frogboots said...

i agree. i really think there ought to be a LAW about photographing celebs & their children. if you ever see an unedited, uncropped photo of, say, Angelina and Maddox or Shiloh, you can see how jampacked-surrounded they are by cameras, flashes, microphones and pushy paparazzi. and yes - celebs are celebs, but why can't we restrict the picturetaking to when they are doing their jobs - red-carpeting, promoting a film, in some other kind of public appearance?? i feel terrible for these little kids who can't go out for ice cream with their parents without a million cameras going off.

i also have to say, in defense of Perez Hilton (my guilty pleasure) - he doesn't stalk. he collects images and gossip, and relays it. i also have to say that he is not nearly as snarky as I thought he would be; he is often more of a fan gossiper (like, OMG! I met Rue McLanahan at starbucks! wow! she's fab!). He also routinely posts links to various charities and encourages donations. This doesn't make him a saint by any means, but he is using his powers for good as well as evil.

Anonymous said...

i agree, it is deeply troubling to think that people belive that having a camera constanlty being shoved in your face is an occupational harzard for celebrities, i doubt the average person even considers this at all invasive everyone is so busy reading the usaually exagerrated if not completed fabricated caption they dont even stop to look at the picture put themselves in the celebrities shoes and realise that they aren't actually doing anything extra ordinary, have our lives becocme so boring that we would obsesively look to other to make our days exciting, maybe celebrity hounds should asks themselves how their lives would change if the had thier most unflattering moments plastered on the internet for all to see and judge???