Post No.: 0684
The paparazzi are independent photographers who take pictures of well-known people, usually while the latter go about their normal life routines. The paparazzi then try to sell these photographs to media outlets – in particular gossip magazines and tabloid papers.
The papacazzi or pupperazzi don’t just repeatedly tail and intentionally try to provoke their subjects into giving a reaction so that they can capture it – these magazines and tabloids also often twist the stories that paparazzi pictures tell. A picture might be able to tell a thousand words but those words can be extremely ambiguous and can be taken out of context – maybe to artificially whip up ‘shock value’ or sensationalism.
It’s not always the sole exploits of the paparazzi when it comes to taking the shots either – the pictures we see in celebrity magazines are sometimes deliberately devised and set up by a celebrity, their PR team and the photographer together in collaboration, to contrive a sellable exclusive story or image. So paparazzi shots are sometimes staged, with the celebrities being in on the act to serve their own PR campaigns. And sometimes even reputable news outlets can fall for these stories if they’re not careful.
The paparazzi used to constantly follow and harass certain high-profile individuals, damage their mental health as a consequence, then record their breakdowns in order to help sell further newspapers and magazines (e.g. Britney Spears, Amy Winehouse). For the celebrities, it was, or still is, a love-hate relationship with the media – they benefit from the media interest yet it can go too far.
The readership must take some blame for this too however because it’s about supply and demand. For-profit corporations want our private data to monetise it, sometimes for our benefit but more often just for theirs. Governments want our private data to keep tabs on us, for better or worse. And consumers or citizens generally want to know about other people’s private lives too because they’re very nosey, as evidenced by the demand for sources of gossip, reality TV shows and constantly wanting to know what their favourite celebrities are up to all of the time (especially their relationships, infidelities and break-ups). Humans, as social animals, love gossip – see Post No.: 0599.
Celebrities are, however, better able to control their own images and brands, and break their own news, via selfies and posts on their own social media channels nowadays. Although of course they will only volunteer to show the public what they and/or their agents want the public to see. Plus they can now completely bypass fact-checking journalists to communicate straight with their followers, who may be told false news (e.g. some high-profile figures dispensed dodgy health claims and cures that concerned COVID-19 and its vaccinations). Some use social media managers too so it’s not even their own words!
Fans may end up thinking that they know these celebrities as if they’re close friends, for following them every single day. But they won’t quite. Their public persona may be quite different to their private one. Well from the celebrity’s perspective, they’ll say that their fans know them if saying so makes them seem more relatable and more marketable – but then they’ll say that those who only know them through a lens or screen won’t truly know them if anyone judges them negatively or tries to get too close! Or people with large followings can be like ‘you’re my fam’ to their community – but if they sell out or something they do creates a backlash against their community then they’re like ‘well you’re not my real family or friends’!
Their fans themselves can sometimes go too far – some fans are overprotective and will harass anyone who speaks ill of their idol, even if they’re fair comments or free opinions. Social media can expose celebrities (and anyone else who’s on them) to a lot of direct trolling, mean comments or outright abusive messages though, which is a downside to having a more direct and immediate connection with the public.
For most, being a well-known public figure brings more benefits than downsides and, unless you’re a complete ****, you’ll receive far more love than hate. However, some parts of the media want, whom they consider, the undeservedly rich or famous knocked down a peg or two. And, for all of us, it’s the negative comments that mainly grab our attentions, affect us deeply and get remembered most easily. Also, even with their fans – thousands of fans may just want to get a photo with them when they happen to bump into their idols in real life, thinking that it’ll be their only chance to do so, when the celebrity may just want to eat in a restaurant, go to the shops or do something else in public in peace. But if these requests are denied, some fans have little sympathy for them because ‘it must be so terrible to have their adoration and money – how awful to just pose for a photograph with those who helped get them where they are!’
It overall highlights how the media actively shapes as well as reports on culture. Over time, as mental health education has increased, the paparazzi and media industry at large has begun to behave relatively more empathically. Celebrities are just people too. But sections of the media still want to prod and provoke to try to get a sensational, sordid or salacious story that will sell for stacks of spondulicks. Since supply is in significant part driven by demand, consumers would need to demand those kinds of stories less if we want to see those stories less.
It’s not uncommon to find that the public’s reactions have been carefully orchestrated by sections of the media, including via articles with headlines that deliberately aim to generate hate, ridicule or shock, for which the public then react with hate, ridicule or shock, which then ultimately serves to give the message even more publicity and exposure, which is exactly what the authors wanted.
Readers and other journalists frequently unwittingly give attention to something that seeks attention and that only exists and persists because it continues to receive attention. Certainly, the gossip media in particular needs story contrivers as much as story contrivers need the gossip media – one wants shocking stories that grab viewers and listeners, and the other wants exposure and fame. We, the wider public, may bemoan it, but by precisely paying attention to and moaning about such stories, we unwittingly give it the oxygen of publicity to spread further.
It does require a coordinated effort but we should try to ignore deliberately inflammatory posts and articles because (unless you’re getting paid for your reactions and are a part of this game too) we may think we’re being smart in the comments we post against these publicity-seekers – but they’ll actually be smarter than us if we react because we’re precisely being manipulated to react. The social media platforms should perhaps intervene (better) instead – but the more activity on their platforms, then the more eyeballs hooked on them, and the greater their revenue from advertising, hence they face conflicting interests between serving profits and upholding community ethics.
Some might even argue that if a popular social media platform tries to moderate its content and this appears to systematically disfavour a particular group, then members of this group will just gravitate towards another social media platform that won’t fact-check their content to any degree at all, and therefore the echo chamber will remain – although with a smaller neutral audience who might accidentally stumble across these messages and fall for them too.
The public’s reactions might alternatively be sometimes far greater than how even the media outlets envisaged. The ‘CNN effect’ occurs when the public opinions of citizens and politicians, from what they learn via global 24-hour news (e.g. about their own country’s shameful behaviours in foreign conflicts), strongly influences domestic policy or action. It’s especially as a result of perturbing raw images or videos that are captured and reported, which can become indelibly memorable for the wrong reasons (e.g. from certain acts that were committed during the US involvement in the Vietnam War), that can change domestic opinions about something. (Not all acts that are captured and reported that cause such a reaction are illegal but it highlights that even if an act is legal according to international law, it still might not be wise to do it because of the political repercussions.)
…Art at first reflects life but in dramatic form, and then life eventually imitates the art until these dramatic forms become reality – so the media reflects our culture as well as creates and reinforces it (they feed back from each other), sometimes for better and sometimes for worse. The media reflects as well as reinforces culture bi-directionally thus, for example, giving free PR to controversial, outspoken and therefore attention-hungry individuals only gives such people even more power and influence. It may even ultimately help mobilise their political careers.
One can blame all these lying, exaggerating, self-interested and/or under-educated yet hugely-followed figures – but one can also place some blame on the public in general for not applying enough critical thinking and sustained inquiry, and for not basing, refining or revising their beliefs on the foundation of hard evidence and sound reasoning instead of emotional intuitions and biases.
Meow. You can share where you personally believe the responsibilities should mostly lie (e.g. on the paparazzi, media outlets, celebrities, social media platforms, governments, the readership…) by using the Twitter comment button below.