Paparazzi: Our Guiltiest Pleasure
by The Milton Measure on Friday, February 20th, 2015
The paparazzi have always been a part of popular culture, haunting celebrities in every aspect of daily life. The occupation of these “photographers” remains controversial: are they a nuisance or a menace? They harass and provoke other human beings for a living, but they thrive solely on public demand for their work.
Beyond the nuisance factor, the paparazzi have a more sinister, dangerous side. On August 31, 1997, Princess Diana of Wales was killed in a car crash as a result of trying to escape the paparazzi. Just a few weeks ago, Bruce Jenner, a member of the infamous Kardashian family, was involved in a car crash ascribed to paparazzi involvement.
But why is there such a stigma surrounding the paparazzi? As much as they appear to be stalking, their First Amendment rights guarantee them freedom of press. Also, celebrities must accept that along with their high-profile and high-profit lifestyle comes the intense scrutiny the paparazzi provide. In a way, celebrities need the paparazzi because they cannot generate the necessary publicity to further their name, causes, projects, or movies alone. To truly measure the depravity of the paparazzo, we must first trace the history of the paparazzi.
The name paparazzo is an eponym from Federico Fellini’s 1960 film, La Dolce Vita, where the main character’s colleague, Paparazzo, is a freelance journalist. It’s also been disputed that paparazzi is derived from the Sicilian word for mosquito, papataceo. Paparazzi were originally freelance photographers, yet they never conjured up the menacing connotation until Diana’s fatal car crash in 1997. Since then, it has entered a cruel purgatory of stakeouts for reality star contestants and anyone with a cellphone camera is easily able to upload to the mainstream.
The advent of the cellphone has made the paparazzi even more of a nuisance. From stalking to allegedly assaulting celebrities for provocation, the paparazzi have supplied many reasons for lawmakers to impose stricter regulations on their craft. In 2013, Los Angeles passed a bill to restrict paparazzi access to celebrity children, after many celebs argued that children should not suffer for the occupations of their parents. The city also increased the penalties for harassment and stalking. Laws like this provide new direction for paparazzi in their daily jobs and new protection for celebrities across the country.
However, often paparazzi have a mutually beneficial relationship with the celebrities they photograph. Celebs profit from the publicity that paparazzi bring, and get even richer from the free attention paparazzi supply. Kim Kardashian, the queen of being-famous-for-being-famous, is worth $28 million, with much of this fortune due to the overwhelming amount of paparazzi targeting her every day.
However, some actors, musicians, and businessmen are in their art for a love of the trade, not for the scrutiny and attention of the paparazzi. At the same time, the paparazzi must be expected not to cross a certain line. Whether it be harassing celebrity children or invading a person’s private space, this line must be drawn by lawmakers and the companies who contract the paparazzi.
TMZ.com receives ten times more traffic than Time.com: no wonder it is so much more lucrative to report gossip than serious news. If consumers actively boycotted tabloids, then the paparazzi would simply have to find another way to make a living.
In the end, we can care because it is our demand for the gossip and pop news that leads to the industry of the celebrity. As much as celebrities want to be left alone, these people will always look for a way to grab our attention from the creation of Brangelina to Britney’s breakdown and comeback. Paparazzi want us to watch, and so do we.
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