Pop singer Robbie Williams recently lashed out at the media after finding out that German newspapers published images of himself, his pregnant wife Ayda, and his 18-month-old daughter Teddy in their swimwear.
Relaxing on holiday on a private property in Sardinia, Williams and his family had no idea they were being photographed. Williams took to Twitter to share the two newspaper clippings and explain how they made him feel: “So creepy, a man’s been hiding in the bushes on private property taking pics of my baby girl,” he posted. “We feel sick and violated.”
Rightly so. Imagine if you were on holiday, relaxing in swimwear with your baby running around naked, and then pictures appear of your intimate family time splashed across newspapers. Don’t celebrities deserve their privacy, some time away from the spotlight — especially where their children are concerned? Kids who, let’s face it, never signed up for the whole fame game.
In January of this year, actress and mom of one Kristen Bell campaigned for the “No Kids Policy.” Her aim was to reduce the media’s demand for paparazzi images of celebrity offspring. To highlight the need for this, she used Suri Cruise as an example. “Suri Cruise is not fictional. She’s a real little girl … and it’s just not fair,” Bell said. So how did Bell propose to achieve this? Her idea was simple: To limit celebrity access to the media outlets who refused to comply, which in turn would translate into potentially less viewers, readers, and profits.
Bell roped in a bunch of celeb buddies, from Jennifer Aniston to Jennifer Lawrence, who all agreed to decline interviews with TV, print, and online outlets that use paparazzi photos or videos of children that were taken without their parents’ consent. “No parent should feel like their child is being taken advantage of because of the choices they made on their career paths,” Bell said. “The basis of the issue is keeping strangers away from children, whether they have cameras or not.” Bell certainly has a point. She continued, “There is no way for a child to wrap their head around the fact that they are a cog in this machine. All they experience is the predatory sense of being hunted.”
She isn’t the first celebrity to describe the feeling of being pursued by photographers as being “hunted.” Sienna Miller said she felt exactly that when she left the BAFTA awards in 2008. She told a court, “We were all quite shocked at the way they were driving. The reason they were being that reckless is that they wanted to find out where I lived, which makes you feel quite hunted as a woman.” Describing her fear as she ran to her car, Miller said: “In any situation if you are a woman and you are running and there are men chasing you, it’s a threatening situation.”
If it’s that stressful and upsetting for a grown woman like Miller, imagine how much worse it must be for a child.
At the end of the day, does it all come down to consent? After all, the Cruises had no issue with having Suri on the cover of Vanity Fair shortly after she was born with the headline “Yes Suri, That’s My Baby.” But just because they’ve “gotten into bed” with the press, it doesn’t mean they forever deserve to have Suri photographed no matter where she goes or what she does. They had total control of the Vanity Fair shoot and were able to make their baby comfortable and happy, so therefore the experience wasn’t frightening for her. The same can’t be said for when they’re being stalked in the street.
And aren’t we to blame for a lot of this, the consumers who fawn over photos of the growing Beckham brood, gorgeous Flynn Bloom, and Gwen Stefani’s boys? If we stopped buying all the magazines that prey on these kids, then the demand would cease and the photographers would stop. At the very least, the children’s faces should be pixelated out, giving them privacy to grow up in peace without other kids in the playground getting jealous — or worse — bullying them because they saw their photo in the paper.
What I find most difficult to wrap my head around are the C-list celebs who peddle their children’s birth and parties and invite us into their homes, but then decide that they only want their children photographed when they’re getting some dollars for it. They’re effectively selling their kids’ images for their own publicity, so do they deserve all they get if they’re hounded by the paps? After all, they made the deal with the devil by selling their baby’s every milestone in order to fund their own lives. So where should the line be drawn?
For just a second, I try and imagine what it must be like for these celebrities. We’re all so protective of our kids; it must be horrific to suddenly see pictures that we never even knew were being taken suddenly everywhere — my child mercilessly photographed trying to ride their bike for the first time, being breastfed, having a tantrum — all for everyone to see and judge. No one deserves that.
Then again, the Kardashians let the cameras into their homes to film every single intimate moment of their lives, so why shouldn’t a pap make some hard-earned cash on grabbing an elusive shot of baby North? After all, her mama signed up for this reality way of living, which makes us feel like we’re part of the big K family too.
Finally, what about child stars — those that have carved out a great career on screen before they’re old enough to wear retainers? Surely they’re fair game to the press, as they agreed to the life of a star. Or is it that actors who don’t cultivate a relationship with the press, who leave Hollywood and the red carpet to others, the Maggie Gyllenhaals and Daniel Day-Lewises of the world, that they deserve to keep their hard won privacy? They don’t court the press or seek attention; they try to live as normal lives as possible.
Which brings me back to the kids of stars. No matter what mom or mad does, the children don’t court the press. They don’t have a day job. They just want to be kids and grow up in peace. Shouldn’t we do everything we can to have a world where this is allowed?