How to solve the celebrity/paparazzi conflict
by Gary Huerta
I’ve never given a rat’s ass about celebrity. As a writer, it’s not something I am striving for, and as a reader, it is not a topic I seek out. How Matthew McConaughey trains his rock-hard abs and what people think of them could not possibly interest me less. Do I care if Brad Pitt and Sean Penn are respectively helping to rebuild New Orleans and Haiti? Of course I do. That kind of celebrity news is different.
As far as celebrities with no redeeming talent like Paris Hilton, Kim Kardashian and The Situation: They’ve already sucked too much of planet Earth’s energy with their self-absorbed, insipid views on life, liberty and the pursuit of the perfect spray tan. Frankly, I wish “Vapid” were a crime punishable by law. Unfortunately, in today’s world, it is rewarded with preposterous fees just for showing up at a hot nightclub and drinking Dom Perignon to the point of “near-incoherence”.
For the record: It is my humble opinion that “near- incoherence” is a celebrity wannabe’s natural state of being.
Personally, I think the bigger problem is what celebrity worship does to society. We rabidly hang on every one of Charlie Sheen’s catch phrases while virtually ignoring educators, economists, scientists and public servants who are actually providing something of value on a daily basis. We regularly push important world issues down in our broadcast news to report on the likes of Jessica Simpson giving birth. Not that the birth of another celebrity baby isn’t vital to our existence.
I think the general rule is: Celebrities without talent require cameras to follow their every move in order to justify their existence, while celebrities with talent have no real need to be followed around and let their work do the talking.
The obsession with celebrity has gotten so bad that USA Today once revealed that in a survey of top life goals, 51% of the individuals polled ranked “being famous” as their number one priority. Sadly, this was their choice over being community leaders, helping others and becoming more spiritual. I don’t know what I’d do if my daughter walked up to me and said, “When I grow up I want to be a Housewife of New Jersey!” Most likely, I’d remedy my own failings as a parent by inserting a shotgun into my mouth and pulling the trigger.
So who’s to blame for our collective descent towards an existence where style rules over substance? I believe there’s a cart before the horse scenario going on here. People tune into retarded reality shows and read idiotic tabloids in larger numbers than ever (And yes. I realize it was an insult to individuals who are retarded by associating them with reality TV) because they are there.
The sad truth is this: The positive cash flow of reporting celebrity tweets and young starlet’s nipple slips only reinforces the media’s desire to feed hungry fans more and more and more. And more.
In other words, the public consumes mass quantities of celebrity like Beldar Conehead does beer and fried eggs. People like Rupert Murdoch are merely the providers. It’s nothing more than the byproduct of a free market society where supply and demand rules. There are a whole lot of junkies out there jittery for their next hit of “Celebrity Cellulite Photos”. And the National Enquirer, TMZ and a host of other pushers have the fix – namely images, sound bites and video clips that can be instantly shot into the users vein via a high-speed Internet connection.
And while I may loathe celebrity gossip, because like any other drug, it often distracts us from reality, I do understand the notion of free will. As I said at the very beginning, even though it doesn’t mean jack shit to me, I get that hoards of others are addicted to it.
But I wonder if most people would be so chronically hooked on celebrity gossip if their every move was documented and they were followed to the toilet by a mob of people holding cameras? It’s one thing to fantasize about being famous, but it’s another to have the trappings of fame hit you like a fire hose to the face. My guess is most people would either crumble under the spotlight or begin randomly firing their concealed weapons like Yosemite Sam.
So why should celebrities give up their rights to privacy simply because there is a demand to watch them drink a soda, get a paper or walk their dog? And frankly, is all this day-to-day crap really that engaging? If you ask me, the media is just grasping for anything it can in order to keep the customers hooked on the drug.
Think about the increasingly large number of celebrities who brawl with paparazzi. Over the years, there have been some epic confrontations. Sean Penn, Woody Harrelson, Justin Timberlake and Kanye West come to mind. More recently, Justin Bieber and regular paparazzi arch-enemy Alec Baldwin have made headlines for allegedly punching intrusive photographers. As a reward for wanting to maintain their privacy, both stars will most likely end up settling out of court by paying some compensatory amount simply to make the matter disappear. And why? Because they just wanted to be left alone to conduct the mundane business of their own lives.
Hypothetically speaking, I wonder what it would be like if celebrities had the legal right to strike back at over intrusive paparazzi? I’m not talking about marshal law or condoning full-on violent confrontation. But what if there was legislation on the books whereby stars could defend their privacy by throwing non-lethal foodstuff at photographers like Hugh Grant allegedly did in 2007 when he tossed a container of baked beans at an obnoxious photographer?
On second thought, it might get too complicated regulating which foods could be used as paparazzi deterrent. We’d end up with pages of rules like, “You can pelt paparazzi with mint jelly but you cannot pummel them with a bone-in leg of lamb.” It would be an impossible list of do’s and don’ts to regulate. We’ve got enough red tape as it is.
Perhaps it would be best to arm celebrities with a private-label SAG/AFTRA certified slop, which they can hurl at persistent paparazzi. A celebrity would first be required to provide a verbal warning that their space or chakras or whatever is being violated. If the stalking individual refuses to heed the warning, the celebrity is then free to heave the pre-approved slop as a defense mechanism, much like a squid releases ink to disguise his getaway from a potential predator.
I think this type of justice could prove effective at solving a few problems with celebrity, paparazzi stalkers and society’s obsession with gossip.
First, it would drastically reduce the number of violent outbursts of celebrities who are otherwise tempted to throw punches or worse. With a legal, benign method at their disposal, there’d be no need for law enforcement to waste their time filing charges or the courts to become clogged with more frivolous lawsuits.
Second, it levels the playing field between celebrity and dirt-seeking media outlets. If the media wants to root around looking for trash, the celebrity should be able to cover them in it, proverbially speaking.
Third, it might help reduce the sheer volume of insipid celebrity gossip. From the celebrity point of view, they are not going to be shooing away the media if they have something to talk about or a cause to promote. From the media point of view, the legal and negative consequence of having slop thrown at them will discourage them from following celebrities around in order to get a picture of them getting a latte. Hence, the quality of celebrity coverage goes up.
Finally and most importantly, the drop in moronic celebrity news may finally help society break the addiction to gossip, which in turn might force the media to deliver more important global stories of relevance. Remember the laws of capitalism: No audience equals no revenue equals no coverage. That may raise awareness of other things in the world that truly need fixing.
So… by allowing celebrities to legally retaliate against paparazzi with certified slop, we might just make this a better world. Or we’ll just create a gaping void in our lives that we will fill with something even dumber.