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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

question of the day: Should it be illegal for paparazzi to photograph celebrities’ children?

An article at whiotv.com captures Julia Roberts’s rage at celebrity photographers:

“It should be against the law to take a picture of a celebrity’s child,” the Oscar winner told Allure magazine, adding that she doesn’t know “what is going on with this crazy, bloodthirsty child hunt.”

Roberts said that she and her husband, Danny Moder, go out of their way “to shelter” their three kids from paparazzi, but sometimes they still get pictures of them.

Roberts, 41, said that one night on the computer, she stumbled on some pictures of her kids at a park. What really upset her were comments like, “One is cute; that other one sure is ugly.”

Roberts said: “Even commenting nicely, what are you doing critiquing a child?” She said the comments “sickened” her.

I’m not sure how a ban on photographing anything would hold up from a Constitutional perspective, but it’s a question worth talking about anyway. Are we really so callous as a culture that we’ll chase children like this, and then comment so cruelly about them in a public forum? How can we discourage this? Is there any way to discourage it without a wholesale shift in cultural attitudes?

I don’t have any answers.

What do you think? Should it be illegal for paparazzi to photograph celebrities’ children?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me.)



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  • Arco

    If I say ‘no’ to that, it would only be because of the slippery slope it might create, legally. Others would use and abuse such a precedent for other ends since, sadly, that’s just how it goes. Or how long before you’re arrested on a beach, taking a pic of your own loved one(s) while children are accidentally shown in the background? And if that’s not the case, how to prevent the paparazzi from continuing while using excuses of not ‘aiming’ at the kids? Specific application of such a law is nearly impossible.

    But apart from those concerns, I would be completely in favor of it, since paparazzi are a disgusting bunch and celeb children will grow up messed up enough as it is without their constant assaults on their privacy.

    Similarly, I’ve been saying for years that funerals should be protected by a radius of at least half a mile against protesters. (Like Phelps and his ilk) An even easier and safer thing to use and enforce with even less chance of it being abused.

  • i don’t pretend to have the solution for this type of disgraceful behavior, but i have to agree that making this type of thing “illegal” is dangerous and starts to approach the “it’s illegal to think…” sort of thing. t

    here used to be *unwritten* rules and laws of social conduct, which is something we seem to have lost. we didn’t read all about JFK’s amorous liasons, nor FDR’s long-time affair with his secretary; we didn’t read about Rock Hudson’s sexual orientation, nor were there numerous unsanctioned photographs of the children of hollywood stars and politicians, other than publicity machine sanctioned ones.

    additionally, it is always disgraceful behavior to comment on the appearance of small children who, #1 don’t have any control over the expression of their DNA and #2 have no defense against such commentaries and discussions. such rules of social behavior will take time to re-establish, or establish new rules — just as it is no longer (in the western world) socially acceptable to enjoy a day out at a public hanging or execution; or to admit to a fetish for very young girls; or to spit on the subway or sidewalk (although here in NY it seems to be making a comeback); or enjoying smoking, drinking or irresponsible sex; or any one of a number of other things that were once considered acceptable but are now big social faux pas, and not just among certain levels of society.

    the development of social rules takes a long time, and has to come from either a concentrated campaign, or a groundswell of public opinion. it may be another generation before we see anything done on the photos and comments front.

  • Gee

    The European Convention on Human Rights gives a right to privacy, and JK Rowling made use of this last year to protect her son from photographers.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2008/may/07/medialaw.pressandpublishing

    “Delivering the ruling in London today, the Master of the Rolls, Sir Anthony Clarke, said: “If a child of parents who are not in the public eye could reasonably expect not to have photographs of him published in the media, so too should the child of a famous parent.”

  • Ryan

    The paparazzi are a blight on society period. Celebrities should have to deal with legitimate journalists, both the fawning PR type…and the investigative type who search for slip-ups…but neither they nor their children should have to deal with paparazzi.

    The market is created, however, by the voyeuristic Americans who love reading celebrity magazines…so those people have to take some responsibility for creating a market…and many celebrities would have to take some responsibility for pandering to the paparazzi when it suits them for career reasons.

    This debate is one of many reasons why I would never want to live in LA…

  • ryan, not to descend to a name-calling sort of thing, but celebrity crazed readers can be found all over the world. italy (where do you think the term “paparazzi” originated?), france (think the princess diana accident) and great britain has an enormous number of those ridiculous junk weeklies and colour photoplay type magazines. the US has a higher percentage of movie stars, perhaps, but i don’t know if on a population ration basis, we are actually at fault for the poorly behavior of the professional photographers.

  • Ryan

    Oh, I’m sure you’re right and there is an international component to it. No doubt David Beckham, for example, gets mobbed just as badly or worse in England…I was just giving an ‘american’ perspective.

  • Gee

    I posted the bit about JKR to show that it might be possible to have a law to protect children without infringing any freedoms, not to engage in any type of “territorial one upmanship”. Indeed, the paparazzis are a menace in the UK and the tabloid press is full of their output.

    You are correct, Ryan. David Beckham is a huge star in the UK, having being the captain of the English football team for years and being capped many times, and, as a consequence, he suffers from plenty of media attention. I’m surprised to hear that he’s well known in the US, but I don’t follow football much, unless it’s the World Cup or European team championships (and England have qualified!)

    Here’s a link to the Court of Appeal decision if anyone fancies some light reading:

    http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2008/446.html

  • chiclit

    Where to start..Julia Roberts should be calling out her colleagues like Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise who are literally pimping their children out to promote their movies. Personally, I think its beginning to backfire-we now know too much about certain stars to accept them in other roles due to over exposure..

    Why do legitimate journalists, industry professionals-and the general public fall for the ” happy family” fantasy in the face of conflicting evidence ?I am fairly convinced the Cruise/Holmes marriage is a sham, and young Suri is being hauled out and about at all hours of the day or night-to the point you wonder if Child Services should be notified. Similiar to the Pitt/Jolie children. Kids that age crave stability. Just because they are semi portable at the age does not mean they should be world travelers. And I am also convinced there are more issue going on with Angelina than get reported…pregnancy should not be fetishized the way it is.

    Many women cannot have children, or have lost children etc, they can probably hardly look at the entertainment news these days. The bump watch must be so offensive to them. Additionally, what does it say to young women that if you are normal sized and wear a high waist or boxy jacket that you are pregnant. God, the pregnancy rumors that have been following Michelle Obama, a normal sized fit woman for months. She is a role model for health and fitness for all of us!! Seriously this fetishism has led indirectly to OctoMom. No wonder starlets are using pregnancy to get attention-it seems like Ashlee Simpson might have been given a part on the new Melrose Place because she got pregnant by musician.

    Of course, the market for those stories needs to go away-then the paps would leave children alone, but not until “stars” like Tom, Brad, and Victoria Beckham stop calling/texting the paps to alert them to a public appearance by themselves and their designer clad mini me promotional devices.

  • Christie

    I’m sorry, Chiclit, I hardly see your point, but I can’t seem to stop myself from addressing your post. I don’t know why folks complain so much about Brad and Angelina taking their children along when they travel; it seems so strange that anyone should believe other people’s parenting style is any of their business. If we were talking about abuse, that’s different, but sheesh. Also, I HIGHLY doubt Tom or Angelina text the paps to let them know where they’ll be, as you suggested. Sorry to call you out on this; I guess I’m just irritated, since I’ve heard this accusation before, and while I don’t have a huge amount of respect for these celebrities, this just seems silly, even for them. Attention whores with about 10 seconds left on their 15-minutes-of-fame clock, like Heidi and Spencer on the other hand, yeah, they’d def. do that.

    Back to topic. :)

    I do tend to think there may have to come a law protecting these children from paps one day if things continue to escalate as they have been. I can only imagine how terrifying it would be for a child being stalked like that, perhaps even when their parents aren’t around to protect them, like when they’re in school or playing in the park. Something like that would’ve given me post-traumatic-stress disorder. Weird world.

  • NorthernStar

    I don’t think there should be a ban on taking photos. It skirts too close to infringing on personal liberties.

    However, I do think the media should have a responsible attitude when using such pictures – pixelizing the children’s face is used widely in newspaper’s in the UK where the parents haven’t given or been asked for permission.

  • chiclit

    Well, Christie we can agree on Heidi and Spencer!

    And Brad and Angie do seem to be trying to do good works, but it does not seem like an accident that we get pics of the whole family right before they have movies coming out. Just sayin..

    As for Tom and Katie, I can appreciate Suri is the cutest kid alive, Tom is an older parent, thus she goes to late night dinners etc other toddlers wouldn’t. However, I defy you to look at pictures of Tom holding her over the years, and tell me he isn’t holding her uncomfortably and oddly face forward in order to better facilitate her picture being taken.

    I am sorry for being cynical, but a lot more people call the paps than any of us realize-its the current atmosphere of mania for family and kids that causes this hysteria-and it can spill over into the lives of people like Julia Roberts, Sandra Bullock or others who want privacy for their families, or cause paps to go after kids on their own.

  • Christie

    Chiclit, It could be you’ve got a point there. Hell, I just do not know, but is it possible that the Pitt/Jolie family just happens to be available when a new movie comes out coz they’re supposed to be available and present to promote it? Dunno. I guess I admit to not being quite as cynical in this area, though I’m pretty cynical in general.

    Sorry for hijacking the thread, y’all.

  • Paul

    Maybe instead of banning the taking of photos, we should ban the paying for them? Ban the paying for a photo of any child even if the parent is in the photo, too.

    Like my Dad said, if you can’t ban the guns, ban the bullets. Then I think Chris Rock made a stand up routine along the same lines 10 years later.

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