The Morality Exception for Celebrities by Ariana Fadel

The life of a celebrity seems glamorous, but as many of us know, a major problem they deal with is the lack of privacy. I can still remember when I first questioned the ethics behind these forcibly publicized lives of celebrities when I was around ten years old: I was bored while sitting in an airplane, so my mom gave me a magazine. As I was leafing through it, I saw an article entitled “Celebrities – They’re Just Like Us!” When I saw the pictures of random actors and actresses getting groceries, sitting in the park with their kids, and doing other equally mundane activities, it finally hit me: they are just like us! More importantly, this also made me realize that if someone were to take these same photos of me, that would be considered stalking. So, if these actors are indeed “just like us,” then why has this moral barrier been crossed and been so widely accepted? Why should this be considered “part of the job,” leaving actors criticized for not accepting this complete invasion of privacy?

The life of celebrities has been acknowledged as its own type of entertainment through the unethical use of the paparazzi, and I believe this is because it has become normalized and that we, as humans, are fulfilling a natural urge to find out as much information as we can about those we are interested in, such as celebrities.

You can find news on celebrities everywhere. For instance, when I go on Snapchat and look at their “Discover” page, a lot of the times it will contain at least one story of simply Kendall Jenner and/or Bella Hadid going outside. Seriously. What it will show is them leaving a restaurant, a fashion show, a club, anywhere. And instantly, upon setting foot outside, they are bombarded with cameras. If they even put a hand up to cover their face, they’re labelled as “defensive.” The lives of celebrities have become amusement – all privacy compromised – for the general public, including myself. I would not consider this great amount of the population that reads celebrity news as fundamentally immoral, however. I believe that the paparazzi, which is actually the equivalent of professional stalking, has been normalized for our generation simply because it is so accessible. If it is everywhere and practically no one is protesting it, then it cannot be wrong, right?

 

To put it simply – no. If you’ve taken philosophy or read Socrates, you could compare this to Socrates’ teaching that popular opinion does not necessarily mean right opinion. And that is the case here.

We have come to view celebrity stalking as acceptable simply because everyone else is fine with it, which is understandable but still wrong.

We have to change this view and give celebrities, who are people “just like us,” their right to privacy.

I believe there is a definite psychological aspect to the stalking of celebrities. In fact, I think the urge to find out all this information on this select group of people is natural. This can be seen in a common practice that our generation engages in today: Instagram stalking. Most of us do it: we click on one person’s profile, scroll through their pictures, look at one picture, click on the account of a person tagged, look at their profile, and then keep going until we have forgotten where we are and feel gross and ashamed. This is just like celebrity stalking – we are slightly interested in the person for whatever reason, so we decide to learn more about them. This may have to do with some animalistic urge to compete, mate, or something of that nature – what I can conclude at the moment is that this is quite normal.

In fact, the only reason our grandparents did not do the same thing is because they did not have access to that kind of technology. What they would do instead was gossip and ask around, talk to friends, etc., in order to learn about whoever they were interested in – another form of “stalking.” While we still do that today, we have easier means such as Instagram. Again, accessibility is key to why stalking has been normalized – but also, we are appeasing a natural instinct in us to find out as much as we can about someone we are interested in.

The only thing that truly differs from celebrity stalking and the stalking of regular people on Instagram is the lack of shame we feel after stalking a celebrity. As I stated before, often we feel embarrassed with ourselves after stalking regular people on social media. Imagine liking an Instagram picture from twenty weeks ago on a regular person’s account in comparison to liking that same picture on a celebrity’s account. The first would probably send you into a panic, while the the second was probably intentional. We become only a number in a celebrity’s huge amount of fans which means that any action we take, including stalking them, is hidden in the crowd.

We are so distanced from them that nothing we do to them could ever come back and hurt us, whereas (to continue the Instagram example) if we were to like a regular person’s old picture on Instagram we would stick out as their only stalker.

This means that they could call us out for it. With celebrities, there is no fear of being noticed for stalking simply because there are so many people doing it. The fact that this is the only reason we feel secure stalking a celebrity versus a normal citizen goes to show that stalking a celebrity really should not be any different from a normal person in terms of ethics. There is no moral reason that we feel we can stalk the famous – it all comes down to the fact that, with celebrities, we can get away with it.

I believe it is indisputable that all humans realize it is, to put it lightly, uncomfortable to be stalked. This realization sadly seems to be lost when applied to celebrities, however, due to the  normalization and accessibility of stalking over the years. It has become ingrained in us that stalking is normal for celebrities and should be fine with the celebrities because it is so accessible and everyone does it. Stalking, however, is a natural compulsion, and I believe that as long as it is not actually compromising that person’s rights, it should not be outlawed or anything of that matter. There is no doubt that it is embarrassing and a bit weird, but sure – go stalk that person on Instagram. There are different levels of stalking, however – it can be harmless, or it can alter someone’s life completely.

What I do think is completely morally wrong and should be fought against is the whole idea of paparazzi.

I believe it is the equivalent of professional illegal stalking. The person who is subject to paparazzi has their right to privacy taken away and their freedom becomes limited in the process of celebrity news, turning their life into entertainment for the bored civilian. The whole idea of the paparazzi is immoral and has to be dealt with as it hurts people. These people are celebrities, yes; but this does not diminish the fact that they are real people with real feelings and real lives to live.
But, in recognizing this grand dilemma, we are left with a new and extremely difficult question – how does one get rid of the paparazzi?

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