The late American Comedian Fred Allen’s ironic quote defining celebrities still reigns true: “a celebrity is a person who works hard all his life to become well known, then wears dark glasses to avoid being recognized.” When you’re a high-profile celebrity, sometimes the Ray-Bans and Versace shades aren’t enough. Naturally, because celebrities want to not be bothered in public and paparazzi want pictures of them at any given time, the two have become bitter enemies with a long list of incidents portraying this combative relationship. The paparazzi will say they’re just doing their job and these photos get the bills paid, but what about the celebrity? Is it fair to them that they can’t walk outside without lights flashing and cameras in their face? For decades it seems as if celebrities and the paparazzi have been involved in a cold war, with both parties waiting for the other to cross the line with every encounter. But just what exactly is crossing the line?
Apparently, to the self-named “Yeezus,” simply speaking is, and it might get you a trip to the hospital. Kanye West is no stranger to issues with paparazzi, and on July 19th, 2013 – just seven days after telling photographers not to speak to him (ever) – a cameraman gets a little too wordy for the Chicago rapper, and in result Kanye lunges toward him. The altercation occurred at LAX Airport and is now under investigation. Charges brought against West could put him behind bars for up to three years, which is not a good look for a man who just dropped an album and entered fatherhood earlier this summer.
The first question that probably came to your mind is “why would he do that?” To help answer that question, we must first look at previous encounters. The first major incident happened in September of 2008, once again at LAX Airport. West was caught on tape confronting a photographer and smashing his camera before walking away.
Over two months ago, another video of West surfaced on the internet. In this video he walks into a stop sign after having his head down trying to duck photographers. After the embarrassing accident, he runs towards a cameraman demanding that he stops taking photos.
Kanye’s frustration with the ever so persistent paparazzi is evident, and understandable, especially being that pregnant girlfriend Kim Kardashian accompanied him as they walked into what seemed to be a restaurant. Just imagine being bombarded with photographers while trying to entertain the future mother of your children. Should paparazzi be able to get close to you at all times including walking down the street, in the park with your kids, on the beach with your lady? Is it an invasion of privacy? Should there be laws and restrictions against paparazzi?
One heinous example of privacy invasion by the paparazzi features Los Angeles Clippers forward Lamar Odom’s. On Wednesday, July 10th, paparazzo came up to Odom, camera in hand, asking if he cheated on his wife Khloe Kardashian. Odom responds by first saying, “I would never cheat on my wife. That’s why I wear my wedding ring,” while showing his band in the camera. Next, Odom goes to the cameraman’s car, and throws all of the camera equipment in the street, packs it up in a bag and put it’s in the trunk of his Mercedes.
This instance in particular invades another type of privacy, asking personal questions about his marriage and rumored affair. On one side, which we’ll name Team Odom, it can be viewed as disrespectful to his commitment to his wife. Even if Odom did cheat on his wife, how dare you come bombard him with a camera and get him to publicly humiliate her? On the other side, Team Paparazzi, it can be considered fair game to question Khloe and Lamar’s marriage due to their show, which made their relationship public. Personal opinion plays a huge roll when deciding which team to root for, but would you want your business and dirty laundry aired out?
Teen superstar Justin Beiber has also been in headlines recently for incidents involving the paparazzi. Bieber is currently facing a lawsuit for getting in a scuffle with paparazzo at a movie theater last year.
Also this year Justin attempted to get into another physical altercation with a photographer in London and ended up hitting another while trying to pull out of a parking spot in his Ferrari. For a young kid like Bieber, it’s hard to maturely handle such situations. We previously discussed both Odom and West, both nearly 20 years older than Bieber, lose control in a similar circumstance. Should there be some kind of paparazzi management class celebrities take to learn how to keep it cool?
One of the most infamous celebrity verses paparazzi altercations resulted in the tragic 1997 death of Princess Diana. No one knows for sure whose fault it was, but the media pinned the blame on paparazzi as did Chris Brown earlier this year when he crashed his Porsche. Should entertainment spreads really have the ability to put celebrities in life and death situations without repercussion? Though we don’t know whose really at fault in either case, it is believable that the paparazzi are responsible for these accidents since they are known for doing whatever they have to in order to get a great photo.
Candid celebrity snapshots can sell for a few hundred, up to a million dollars depending on the celebrity and/or action in the photo. Earlier I posed the question, "should paparazzi be illegal?" To answer that: I say no. In my opinion, the paparazzi deserve the pay they receive, for working around the clock and risking harmful altercations with volatile personalities such as Kanye West. However, I also think there should be new restrictions applied to this field. If I were out with my child, in an attempt to spend quality family time, I would appreciate it if the camera's stopped flashing for my sake and my family’s sake. Maybe certain locations should be off limits, and paparazzi shouldn’t be allowed to sell photos of pre-adolescent celebrities. Maybe there should be a distance limit that the paparazzi must keep. With the lens technology of today, Paparazzi can snap quality shots from 50 yards away. Privacy is something that not only keeps us as humans sane, but something that I believe we all need. If we’d like for our entertainers to continue entertaining us, we must offer them some form of protection. With that being said, paparazzi need to move with a form of conduct, and understand how to tastefully get their job done. At the end of the day…it’s all wishful thinking. Just how bad can we really feel for millionaire celebrities who have everything life has to offer made available to them?
-Written by Julian Wood