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September 17, 2013

Will You Join Me in Boycotting Paparazzi Culture? ~ Kristina Peterson

Why do we watch?

Waiting in the grocery store checkout line or in the lounge of any given hair salon, all we see are magazines touting celebrities. Their lifestyle, their weight loss plans, their marriage, their daily walk in the park with their kid.

When we really think about this fixation, it is incredibly disturbing.

My job as an assistant director on film sets puts me in direct contact with actors, fans and paparazzi. In the last 20 years, the paparazzi presence surrounding a lot of the actors has increased dramatically. By and large, “Paps” are a respectful bunch in a disrespectful job. Most of the photographers are employed by agencies. They get assignments to go out and cover specific shoots or events and they have rules they have to follow. No disturbing filming, no trespassing on private property and interestingly, no photographs of family members, including children.

Those are the agency guys. In the hierachy of paparazzi, they are the “most moral”, if there is such a thing. One guy in particular will not take any assignment involving a house of worship. No weddings, funerals, high holidays, christenings, etc. “Those are private moments for the family,” he says.

Agency guys have set schedules, health insurance and most importantly, an employer that does not want to be held responsible in a lawsuit.

Then there are the “stringers” or freelancers who make their money by selling single photographs to various outlets. They’re the pirates of the industry. Those guys (and I use the term “guys” since the vast majority of paparazzi are men) are the ones to worry about.

Those are the guys the agency guys hate. They ambush celebrities at funerals, hide in trees to catch them topless at their pool, jump in front of moving cars and chase people into alleys.

They terrorize children at school and birthday parties.

Here’s the thing: none of these guys would really have a job if we weren’t so obsessed with celebrities. Admit it, we’ve  all flipped through those magazines while waiting for a haircut or standing in line at the store. Even some of the mindful life magazines have started to treat the yoga rockstars as if they’re celebrities.

Focusing not on their work, but on their stuff and their lifestyle.

What is it about public personalities that makes us collectively nuts?

On a recent shoot in Los Angeles with two “A-List” actors, there were hundreds of people watching us film.

Hundreds.

Taking photos with their phones and boiling in the hot southern California sun.

For hours.

Is it a boost to our self esteem to read that a mega film star has a cheating girlfriend?

Does it help us sleep at night to know that a once famous child star has hit rock bottom emotionally, financially and physically? Or is it just comforting to see that someone who plays a superhero also snacks down big time on cupcakes occasionally?

Psychologists have tons of theories about celebrity worship. At the least, it’s harmless. At worst, it creates massive mental health problems, from self esteem issues related to body image in teenage girls to homicidal actions in middle aged males.

My argument is that it is never harmless; celebrity worship is morphine for the soul. Dulling our senses and distracting our hearts. It’s our way of not dealing with our own world. It’s our way of not connecting with each other because we are busy obsessing over a pop star’s weight gain.

This obsession fosters envy, jealousy and mean spirited-ness. Discussions about celebrities are replacing discussions about politics and the environment.

Why?

There’s an interesting theory about celebrity obsession out there. It postulates that our interest is more than just the person. Our interest is in the divine. The celebrity is our connection to immortality, a demigod, and by following their activities, we are less inclined to fear death. Our modern day pop stars are the pharaohs of old Egypt.

Really?  

Celebrities are just ordinary people. Some are incredibly smart, some are incredibly dumb. All of them are extremely fortunate to be where they are and most of them appreciate that fact. They are not demigods.

Not even close and they would (well most of them would) argue that they are much more fallible than even the regular man/woman on the street.

Can we put the gossip rags and photos of buff stars on the beach aside and focus on what is truly important? Real connection to one another, community, joy and most importantly, being comfortable in our own skin.

Not wearing someone else’s.

Or are we trying so hard to numb ourselves to the pain of intimacy that the only thing we can connect to is a carefully crafted false image of a modern day demi-god?

Will you join me in boycotting paparazzi culture?

Let’s put down the tabloid magazines and reclaim our souls.

Like elephant journal enlightened society on Facebook.

 

Ed: Bryonie Wise

{Photos: Jack Montague}

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Kristina Peterson