Monday, September 14, 2009

Public Voyeurism - Swarming Celebrities

Colin Farell yesterday confronted a paparazzi for yelling at his sister for getting in the way. Media frantically gathers information on celebrities to feed an apparently insatiable thirst for that information. The way we do that in the western world has a wrongness about it that I haven't quite fingered. Today I have more questions than answers.

When does the public's apparently insatiable desire to know become wrong? In a nation steeped in the principles of "freedom of the press", is restraint possible?

Here's a definition of mediated voyeurism from the book, Voyeur Nation: Media, Privacy, and Peering in Modern Culture. by Clay Calvert.

"Mediated voyeurism refers to the consumption of revealing images of and information about others' apparently real and unguarded lives, often yet not always for purposes of entertainment but frequently at the expense of privacy and discourse, through the means of the mass media and Internet. "

The book concentrates on "reality television" and the unreality so created. Privacy is a right. Obviously people who participate in such shows must sign away their rights to privacy, including night vision cameras. Regular people who have not cavalierly given them away, are more sensitized to their rights in this regard, especially now that we have the tools to break down all apparent barriers. On the other hand, it can be argued that celebrities, unlike "reality show" participants, never sign their rights away. Privacy is gradually (or suddenly) taken from them. Can a celebrity ever have a "private dinner" in a public place? Is there such a thing as a "private beach"? What lengths must a celebrity go to for privacy? How much privacy can a celebrity create for themselves without help?

A veteran of celebrity status, Gareth Edwards says,

"But the fact of life is that the mouth of the media is a very hungry one to feed. People may say there's no such thing as bad publicity, but I wouldn't necessarily agree...Publicity and all the attention is not something you get used to, it's something you grow with. If I were to say, 'Is it a nice thing?' then yes, it certainly is, and it has more attractions than drawbacks."

So far there are few restraints on the insatiable collection of minutae by the media, all under the cloak of "freedom of the press". Will there come a day where self-monitoring will be inadequate? Will the public demand some restraint on what is offered free on people's lives?

Here's a popular vendor who does not cater to the public, Shopskins . The link provides an audio interview, about twenty minutes long, with the owner of this popular restaurant. His answer to the public frenzy was to find a smaller location off the beaten track. He routinely ejects about 3-4 people a week if he senses they are simply there for the show. Check out the mixed reviews from visitors.

How different from Pike Place Fish, who have cheerfully embraced their yogurt dudes. The difference, perhaps, is that Pike Place has been committed to becoming "world famous" and has grown the company and it's offerings as it's popularity has grown.