Paparazzo: A Necessary Evil

(Courtesy of Flickr).

By Faustino Galante

On August 31, 1997, 36-year-old Princess Diana was killed after an automobile accident in Paris, France. The day following the tragedy, it was reported that Diana’s vehicle had allegedly been pursued by paparazzi motorcyclists seconds before the fatal crash. In the years following the Princess’ death, celebrities and their fans have ridiculed the paparazzi for disturbing the peace and intruding on the lives of stars and their families.

Though widely abhorred, the profession of the paparazzo is imperative to superstars and society in general. The paparazzi keeps the entertainment industry alive, ensure that celebrities obey societal standards and monitors the personal health of various stars. Though a level of unprofessionalism does exist within the profession, celebrities must recognize that they ultimately hold less privacy rights than the average citizen.

Celebrities have grown increasingly tired of being stalked and hounded by amateur photographers in the past few years. In 2008, fans of hip-hop artist Kanye West were stunned to hear that he faced up to two and a half years’ probation for confronting a paparazzo in Los Angeles. In a similar conflict, actor Shia LaBeouf was taped drenching a photographer with hot coffee in Washington two years later. Despite their hatred for the paparazzi, stars must recognize that these freelance photographers put money in their pockets. Celebrity careers depend on people caring about their personal lives.

Though fans love to see the glamorous lifestyles of their “heroes,” people yearn to see their human sides. By helping common folk get an insight into a star’s daily life, paparazzi allow celebrities to develop loyal fan bases, thus making them money.Many hate to believe it, but the majority of the actions that stars are caught doing on camera are pre-planned and driven by money. According to a Rolling Stone article by Stephen Rodrick entitled, “Attack of the Paparazzi,” in many cases, stars such as Lindsey Lohan and Ryan Reynolds share their location with the paparazzi in an effort to garner attention. A hidden agreement seems to exist between celebrities and the dreaded photographers. Fans must keep this in mind the next time a celebrity is victimized and a paparazzo is classified as a villain. The paparazzi, though discreetly, is undeniably serving the people of Hollywood.

Though the paparazzi often help celebrity careers, their photographs also have the potential to be detrimental to the celebrities images. Photos taken by paparazzi are meant to be controversial.

Though it may seem unethical to publish photos which have the potential to tarnish a person’s reputation, this specific aspect of paparazzi photography, if practiced properly, helps society as a whole by holding stars accountable for their actions. The paparazzi ensure that celebrities follow societal codes and standards.

One of the most notorious examples of celebrity malpractice “caught on camera” is the infamous picture of Britney Spears holding her infant child in the front seat of her car. The image spurred intense public backlash from the singer’s fans and brought the Los Angeles sheriff’s office to investigate her. Because they are famous, celebrities often hold the belief that they are above the law. Without paparazzi intervention, idolized stars like Spears may never face consequences for their shocking actions. Fortunately, the paparazzi has brought these people to be more courteous of the law and societal standards.

Drug use, domestic abuse, depression and mental disorders are rampant among Hollywood stars. As a result of the demands associated with their professions, stars often fall victim to poor mental and physical states. In many cases, fans are unaware of their favorite celebrity’s ill health.

In 2007, photos surfaced of a beaten up Amy Winehouse. Fans of the singer were alarmed after seeing the images. She, as a result, had to provide an explanation for the alleged abuse. Winehouse ultimately defended her boyfriend and explained that the beating was an effect of a drug-induced confrontation between the two. She was admitted into a rehabilitation center a year following the incident.

By keeping fans “in the know” about the lifestyles of their favorite stars, the paparazzi help us ensure that celebrities are leading healthy lives. Without the paparazzi, it is likely that society would fall victim to many more unexpected celebrity deaths and downfalls. Celebrities have voiced their opposition to the paparazzi on the basis that their photographs are an invasion of privacy. Stars suppose that fame does not constitute a lesser degree of privacy and believe that they deserve the same privacy rights as average individuals.

The unfortunate truth is that it is impossible for a person who makes money off publicity to hold the same amount of privacy as one who works a normal job. In an article for Newsweek, journalist Steve Tuttle ridicules stars for holding this sort of ideology. He specifically targets actor Neil Patrick Harris for a tweet which read, “So, get this: David and I are expecting twins this fall. We’re super excited/nervous/thrilled. Hoping the press can respect our privacy…” Tuttle’s notion that stars cannot live the best of both worlds is not only a fair one, but a realistic one.

Stars must recognize that their careers are based on sacrificing privacy and on the fact that they live in the public spotlight. Because of the nature of their professions, stars cannot expect a high level of privacy. The paparazzi is simply one of the side effects of being famous. They cannot “invade” on unmerited privacy.