Privacy matters, in some way, shape or form, to everyone. Commonly, being famous does not allow celebrities the same sense of privacy that everyone else has. Paparazzi and camera flash accompany most of their outings; people ready to recognize them and notice every embarrassing thing they do. This lack of privacy, undoubtedly fueled by the rampant media, ties into a paramount problem: the media refuses to treat celebrities like humans.
TMZ notoriously publishes countless unflattering, scandal-focused articles, capturing every dramatic moment they can find. Garnering the title from the New York Times of “the website celebrities fear,” they entirely ignore compassion, treating celebrities much less like humans and more like spectacles for the public. As if they were zoo animals on display in the world’s view, feeding into the culture that made stars like Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton more known for being targets of scandalous headlines rather than the work they do.
In 2012, TMZ published a story, later found false, that included an alleged photo of paramedics taking Whitney Houston’s body out of the hotel room she died in on a gurney, completely ignoring the privacy and respect her family deserved at that time. Despite taking down the post from their website once they found out it was false, TMZ shockingly published a photo of the bathtub that Houston died in, absolutely disregarding the limits of what they should post.
Disrespecting the dead and their families only exemplify how far celebrity news sites like TMZ go to “get the scoop,” lacking compassion and not having the logic to omit certain news from their publication. Paparazzi going as far as to aim to take photos up the skirts of female celebrities and sharing extensive details on the dating lives of women in Hollywood highlights not only the extent of the media’s lack of respect or compassion for privacy but also a misogynistic nature to how they choose these stories. Reporters rarely ask men questions about who they’re dating or why they wore this a certain time, making the intrusive nature of the media into the personal lives of celebrity women a little more prevalent than into the lives of men.
Regardless of these details and stories being extremely invasive and insensitive to the feelings of celebrities, these defamatory stories sell papers and bring money to the media companies behind them. Paparazzi are hired specifically to snoop out an embarrassing video or capture an unfortunate moment in photos.
Take Britney Spears for example: in 2007, the media turned her so-called “meltdown” into a massive media circus with headlines like “Britney Shears,” accompanied by unflattering photos of her shaving her head, on the covers of newspapers like New York’s Daily News. Rather than respect a sensitive time for Spears’ mental health, the media battered her with hateful headlines and invasive information spread across their publications.
New York’s Daily News published an issue with this cover in February 2007, exploiting Britney Spears and her life as she was “on [the] edge of a breakdown.” (Photo/Getty Images)
This common readiness to put aside the humanity and emotions of celebrities in order to write an entertaining story may come from the fact that people have a propensity to not view celebrities as real at all. According to The Odyssey, we as a society value celebrities because they are people that we can envy, admire and be fascinated without ever having to interact with them. They become like an inanimate object that we love without ever receiving their feedback in the form of face-to-face contact, making them feel much less real and easier to manipulate and use for the sake of a juicy headline.
Tending to disregard celebrities’ right to privacy, basic compassion and the standards of kindness the average person at least tries to hold themselves to, the media forgoes treating famous people like humans with feelings in favor of treating them as if they are purely a source of entertainment. The job of a journalist may be to report on the facts but editorializing seemingly “news” pieces to tarnish the reputation of a celebrity or to dramatize a real, personal event ruins the sanctity of their duties and turns it into an exploitative joke.