The pop star opens up about the incessant coverage of her personal life in this fictional exploration of fame.
Oh I like this! Esp the fictional container, it just zaps the piece to life. I’d love to see an end to the paparazzi. I always tell people this is one reason I never wanna be famous, because you have your whole life blasted into the public sphere for everyone to pick apart. Not my cup of tea — I much prefer my little anonymous life, thank you very much.
It’s interesting too the way you trace the effects such a move might have on the general culture. I agree entirely that we’d be healthier and happier without this celebrity obsession. One problem tho! I’m not sure how meme culture would survive! (le gasp) No but really, if you dig into the particulars, it gets bumpy: laws enforced by fines are essentially only applicable to the poor, altho that could change if the fines levied were not flat but proportional as you suggested in a comment. I think such a change on a legal level could precipitate a cultural shift that would help complete the change, but irl the legal landscape often follows cultural shifts rather than the other way around...
In any case, definitely a cool thought experiment! I’d sign that petition so fast.
Hi Elle, this is a very interesting topic. I also wanted to point out that this also happens to anyone online. Someone took my profile picture on IG (I don’t have any “provocative” pictures online by the way) and used it to make a p*rn*graphic IG account. The person start following friends and family. So, I get to know about this account when people started texting me that they got a “friend request” from “me” to an adult entertainment account on IG. It was incredibly frustrating. I have to ask all my friends to reach IG and report the account. It took a long time before that account got closed.
Just wanted to share another example on how difficult and complex having a picture of ourselves online can be. - It doesn’t even have to be a “sexy” picture. Anything can be used against us or with bad intentions. Especially now that AI is out and is so good with recreating images.
I don’t think having yet another law would be really a solution because all it takes is to be well "connected" for that new shiny law not to apply to your person. But i LOVE, love, love this discussion. I felt my consciousness expand while reading this piece. Expand to include, care, consider several POVs that usually don’t get that much attention from me. We talk so much about privacy and security online but i love that through reading this piece i included the celebrities, the artists, the politicians just as much as i would regular people.
"ESPN has returned to reporting on the game—they have to—and any fans in attendance might catch a glimpse of Taylor in her box and even take a picture of her, but they won’t be shared online or profiled in a hundred media outlets the next day." Oh what a world it would be, Elle! (single happy tear rolls down face)
I like your take on this but I struggle with your portioning of accountability (at least somewhat). The institution is definitely the mechanism that creates the problem (American political system spitting out slimy politicians, for example) and like you, I'm in favor of changing almost every institution we have in America. What I struggle with is the ways people choose to exist inside a mechanism while being fully aware of the pitfalls, then retroactively acting like they didn't want to be there. It's hard for me to believe that someone strives and strives for riches/fame, plays the game in the way it is currently structured, puts in the ungodly amount of work to obtain those things, but then suddenly exists inside a world (be it business, politics, celebrity, etc.) that is foreign and gross to them. Those worlds were gross the entire time and people on the inside should understand that more than anyone. So on the one hand I sympathize with any human going through strife (because why would I want that for anyone?!?) and on the other, I want to scream through a megaphone BE CAREFUL AND INTENTIONAL ABOUT WHAT INSTITUTIONS YOU CHOOSE TO BE A PART OF. I think that is a nuance there that many overlook when screaming about what the rich/famous do or do not deserve, or dreaming and working towards being rich/famous themselves. I like this quote from you ("I don’t think we should villainize the artist (for being a fame monger) or the fan (for being a patron of it)), I agree, and I think that particular equation presents a good point for reflection on individual desires, current institutions, and whether or not any of us truly want to be involved with them. Those are my thoughts and I apologize in advance for angrily texting you the next time Taylor Swift coverage overwhelms a Chiefs game.
I am conflicted. On one hand, I think current celebrity culture/journalism seems awful for the celebrities and not great for the rest of us.
On the other hand, it isn't really new (the Cohen brothers _Hail Caesar_ has a major plot-line about trying to manage the media coverage of a star) and I think it is telling that it's hard to find a better model. I do wonder about how laws like that would affect journalism. Both directly, but also by sending the message that the prepared photo-op or interview is the natural setting for a celebrity. I think about Joan Didion's story from the 1988 campaign (currently paywalled but available at the wayback machine): http://web.archive.org/web/20211027141750/https://www.nybooks.com/articles/1988/10/27/insider-baseball/?pagination=false
This “battle of the backdrops” story appeared on page 24 of the issue dated September 12, 1988. On pages 22 and 23 of the same issue there appeared, as illustrations for the lead National Affairs story (“Getting Down and Dirty: As the mudslinging campaign moves into full gear, Bush stays on the offensive—and Dukakis calls back his main street-fighting man”), two half-page color photographs, one of each candidate, which seemed to address the very concerns expressed on page 24 and in The Post. The photograph of Vice-President Bush showed him indoors, with his jacket on, and behind a lectern. That of Governor Dukakis showed him outdoors, coatless, with his sleeves rolled up, looking ebullient, about to throw a baseball on an airport tarmac: something had been learned from Jeff Greenfield, or something had been told to Jeff Greenfield. “We talk to the press, and things take on a life of their own,” Mark Siegel, a Democratic political consultant, said recently to Elizabeth Drew.
About this baseball on the tarmac. On the day that Michael Dukakis appeared at the high school in Woodland Hills and at the rally in San Diego and in the school-yard in San Jose, there was, although it did not appear on the schedule, a fourth event, what was referred to among the television crews as a “tarmac arrival with ball tossing.” This event had taken place in late morning, on the tarmac at the San Diego airport, just after the chartered 737 had rolled to a stop and the candidate had emerged. There had been a moment of hesitation. Then baseball mitts had been produced, and Jack Weeks, the traveling press secretary, had tossed a ball to the candidate. The candidate had tossed the ball back. The rest of us had stood in the sun and given this our full attention, undeflected even by the arrival of an Alaska 767: some forty adults standing on a tarmac watching a diminutive figure in shirtsleeves and a red tie toss a ball to his press secretary.
“Just a regular guy,” one of the cameramen had said, his inflection that of the union official who confided, in an early Dukakis commercial aimed at blue-collar voters, that he had known “Mike” a long time, and backed him despite his not being “your shot-and-beer kind of guy.”
“Before the internet, an artist might be known for their work—a singer for their albums or an actor for their films—but they weren’t harassed for their personal life.”
This caught my eye and Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle popped into my head. He was perhaps the leading edge of the press shifting its interest from mostly political monitoring and championing (no “objective” press back then, journalism wasn’t even a profession, and didn’t require a J-School degree, there were no J-Schools.. anyway, that’s a topic for another day) to celebrity reporting. 40 quarts of liquor, a party in a hotel, a dead model — Virginia Rappe — a silent movie star (Fatty) and a relentless press. The only difference between them and now might be the speed and volume at which things get published. It’s a fascinating story... two book reccos:
Maybe a third... a little biased, but a good read nonetheless