a novel by JOHN GRABOWSKI

Stalk this way?

Paparazzi

Hawaii Senate Bill No. 465, otherwise know as the Steven Tyler Act, has passed the state senate. The legislation makes it a crime to take pictures of celebrities in their private moments. It was written after unwanted photos were taken of Mr. T and his girlfriend last December and published in a national magazine, causing some sort of serious embarrassment to the people in front of the lens, though I don’t know the details. I also don’t know how they’re going to enforce the bill, and not just for the obvious reason that the people who do this sort of thing often don’t tend to stick around and are also good at making themselves invisible.

No, what’s not clear to me is how to define what are definitely private moments. If you’re schlepping to the store for some Häagen-Dazs and they take a photo of you, is that private? What about if someone is taking a photo of something/someone else and you get in the shot? And does it apply to just paps—those who sell Mr. Taylor’s doughy mug for money—or to anyone in Hawaii snapping away? What if Tyler walks behind or in front of Aunt Emma? Is he fair game? Now what if that doesn’t count and the person snapping Aunt Emma decides afterwards to crop her out of the photo and sell it to a tabloid?

Upon closer inspection the legislation seems to apply only to paps. It encompasses not just celebs but politicians as well. Critics say it interferes, therefore, with the First Amendment, and makes it easier for scummy politicians (is that redundant?) to escape media coverage. Among celebrities, Britney Spears, Mick Fleetwood, Sharon Osbourne, and Neil Diamond have lobbied for this bill. And it’s understandable from their point of view…

But alas, it’s also not that cut-and-dry. We don’t need more pictures of stars tanning themselves or drinking too much at a party, and paps are getting more and more aggressive as the pressure and appetite for candid photos increases, fed by more and more celebrity websites and television programs. A princess and mother of two died fleeing them fifteen years ago, and the whole world mourned—and then dried its eyes and kept on buying tabloids of scandal-soaked celebs.

The paps can make it very hard for stars to do the simplest things the rest of us take for granted, as these videos below demonstrate:

Now for the contrary argument: sorry folks, but these people know when they thrust themselves into the public eye, when they are paid more than most people earn in a year for one day’s work, they are not ordinary people living ordinary lives, and for that reason alone, for better or worse, right or wrong, it is different when they go out to consume a pint of Häagen-Dazs. They themselves would certainly make that very argument if they were negotiating an endorsement contract for the stuff. Just as a test pilot faces hazards for the thrill of the job, so does the celeb, and one of those hazards is you can’t just blend in. If you want to, don’t work half your life to become a rock star.

Obviously they know their face brings tremendous value to anything it’s near—value they seem to want to be able to turn off and on at their whim and whim$y. And many use the same paps they often publicly despise when it suits them, staging events and selling photos of their newborns for small fortunes. It’s understandable how many if not most people feel they’d trade a lot of their privacy for that. Plus a star’s biggest nightmare just may well be when they appear outside in plain view—and nobody cares.

Read more about the Steven Tyler Act, which is now headed to Hawaii’s House of Representatives, here. And if you ever see Stevo hanging out in the Aloha State, don’t snap his mug.

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