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Paparazzi, Celebrity Kids, and Exploitation

Back in January, I first read about a group of celebrities who were imploring fans to stop reading magazines that use paparazzi-taken photos of their kids.  The boycott points out our role in the harassment of people related to the celebrity; Kristen Bell states that if we stop buying these magazines, the demand for these photos will go away.  Of course, the magazines won’t know if we’re not reading them for the baby photos, the insipidness of the articles, or the perfume samples they slip inside the pages.  But still, as someone who is incredibly squeamish about overstepping lines, I’m in favour of Kristen Bell’s requests.

binkyGood binky for disguising young children

Image: US CPSC via Flickr

I like to think of my life like one of those divided plates where I’ve put myself in the largest protein portion, offering myself up for consumption.  But the kids and Josh are like the separated out peas and carrots and corn.  They’re right beside me, but they’re clearly not mixed in with me.  It’s my decision if I want to give up some of my privacy.  But it’s not my decision to make as to whether the twins give up their privacy.  And it certainly isn’t my decision to give up someone else’s child’s privacy, hence why I am so wholly against people putting up pictures online without permission; and that includes class pictures, group shots of the sports team, or party photos.

Unless you’re cool having your privacy invaded, don’t invade someone else’s.

But I digress.

People magazine put up a statement yesterday about their use of celebrity children’s images in the magazine.  They are moving toward only using posed photos from events or ones taken with permission.  A step in the right direction though I’d caution all those celebrities releasing photos of their kids that their kids may not be thrilled to have that picture of them playing in the park in a national magazine.

But what gave me pause was a snarky little sentence in the middle of People’s statement:

And there’s always the tough balancing act we face when dealing with stars who exploit their children one day, and complain about loss of privacy the next.

Exploit their children?  While there are celebrities and non-celebrities alike who make parenting decisions that I would never make, I can’t say that I can point to one celebrity who exploits their child.  Can you?  There are celebrities who sell baby photos of their children and donate the money to charity — such as Angelina Jolie.  The reason usually given is that by providing the images, they hope to stave off paparazzi who are trying to steal an image by bothering them in public.  Bring children to events?  Sure — but is that exploitation?  To me, exploitation is using a child for gain.  And I’m not sure what is gained that wouldn’t be gained otherwise by attending an event without your child.  Is the child being used to get the parent work?  Money?  Do I think some people see their children as accessories that they put on when they’re in the mood?  Sure, I’m sure there are people out there like that.  But that isn’t exploitation.  That’s just crappy parenting.

Accusing someone of exploitation is a character assessment.  And while I think there are child celebrities who are being exploited by their non-famous parent — pushed into privacy-stealing positions without being properly prepared for the pressure — and child celebrities who are being exploited by their celebrity parent a la the children of reality television shows that feature children on-air, I can’t think of a celebrity parent who is exploiting their non-celebrity child.  It’s a fairly charged word.  I’d be really curious if People magazine is privy to behaviour that shows clear exploitation from celebrities who are complaining about their child’s lack of privacy.  I would be very curious to learn who they believe exploits (meaning; derive benefit from) their child AND complains about a lack of privacy.

What do you guys think of the boycott of paparazzi photos of celebrity kids?  And can you name a celebrity that exploits their non-famous kid?


1 jjiraffe { 02.26.14 at 9:59 am }

What they are referring to is the practice by celebrities of selling “exclusive” photos of their kids to People and US Weekly when they have something to promote: a reality show, a company they are launching or in some cases, their movies or TV shows.

2 jjiraffe { 02.26.14 at 10:18 am }
3 Mel { 02.26.14 at 10:26 am }

I guess what I’m saying is that if People is making that assertion, I want them to back it up with proof. Give us names. Who has sold pictures of their kids in order to promote their next project? They say it is people who complain about privacy the next day AFTER selling these pictures. They list people like Jennifer Garner, Halle Berry, and Kristen Bell when they speak about their picture policy. Is the reader to assume that Jennifer Garner sold pictures of her kids and is now complaining about privacy? Or are we talking about people like Actress X who sells pictures of her kids but never complains and People magazine is putting two separate situations together to excuse their printing of paparazzi pictures? I’m not saying that exploitation doesn’t happen — I think kids on television ARE exploited for the most part since they can’t make informed decisions that take into account predicting the future when they’re kids — but are the people who complain about privacy the same people who exploit their kids?

4 jjiraffe { 02.26.14 at 10:28 am }

So many comments when I’m in a hurry and on my phone! The first comment should have said: I’m guessing that’s what they are referring to. I have no knowledge whether such stuff is actually happening. But that is what I thought based on that statement?

5 Mel { 02.26.14 at 10:32 am }

I do feel for some of these celebrities because while some enjoy placing themselves and their family in the spotlight, many more just want the profession without the intrusion into their personal life. They want acting or singing or writing to be their job, and once that job is over for the day, they want to go home to their family. And those people who don’t seek the spotlight, who are clearly trying to not get media attention, should the message they’re putting out be respected?

I think the flipside is that they can’t have it both ways. They need to decide on whether privacy or promotion is more important to send a clear signal to the media.

6 jjiraffe { 02.26.14 at 12:03 pm }

Totally agree: I wish People would have backed up their assertions if they were going to imply that.

I do feel for celebrities like Kristin Bell who want no part of either willingly or unwillingly sharing any images of their children. I don’t remember ever seeing photos of say, Meg Ryan’s kid or Harrison Ford’s kids back in the day. Things clearly changed for actors about 10 years ago?

7 Sharon { 02.26.14 at 5:26 pm }

I rarely read magazines that have photos of celebrities and/or their children but do allow myself to buy them occasionally as a “guilty pleasure” on business trips. From that limited sampling, I can say that most of the photos I see look like they have been taken from far away, when the child subject(s) were unaware they were being photographed. Which would suggest to me that the photos were taken while the children were simply out with their parents, on normal outings, and not being paraded out for photo opportunities.

(Yes, I realize that celebrities, especially particularly famous ones, are probably aware that any time they leave their home is a potential photo opportunity. . . but what are they to do, never allow their children to leave home without being covered from head to toe?)

I have often thought how very hard it must be to grow up as Suri Cruise, or Shiloh Jolie-Pitt, or other children who cannot even go out of the house without have hundreds of flash bulbs going off in the vicinity, simply because of who their parents are. What a sad way to grow up.

8 Queenie { 02.26.14 at 7:52 pm }

Even if the parents ARE exploiting their children. they are children, for goodness sake. Just because someone is taking advantage of them doesn’t mean that other people ALSO get to victimize them. Someone needs to remind People of that old adage: two wrongs don’t make a right.

9 Persnickety { 02.26.14 at 11:12 pm }

I stopped buying those mags at some point during the Paris Hilton years. I realized every one of my purchases sent the message more Hilton on the covers was good, so I stopped.
I am fairly certain the weekly mags have very good metrics on what cover images sell magazines, plus what gets clicks on their websites. Cynically, I have to wonder if kid shots aren’t bringing the audience any more.
On the exploitation thing- I remember stories from the mid 90s about Diana tipping paps off when she needed some sympathetic stories. Particularly for celebs whose fame is not huge, and tied in part to their life, I can totally see them setting up “dates” where they will be in a particular place for some candid shots. I suspect that people is aware of which ones are more likely to do this and that’s what the line is about.
For example, I have no idea what Matt Damon’s kids look like, but even I could probably recognize tori spelling’s kids. She may not be exploiting them, but she is definitely putting them in places that she is aware will be photographed.
On a side note, I recently discovered that tori played the bad wilderness girl in troop Beverly hills. She did have an acting career before 90210!

10 Geochick { 02.27.14 at 10:39 am }

I was going to post the lainey link, but jjiraffe already did. I think the telling point that Lainey makes is that there ARE celebrities who’s kids we don’t ever see. (ie. Matt Damon, who lives down the street from Ben Affleck). It’s possible to remain private (as you have) if you want it. Also, pay attention to when you see supposed paparazzi photos of families. It’s usually when they have something to sell (movie, book, trying to get an award). I’m with her, and am pretty damn cynical myself. They can’t have it both ways. They can’t whine and complain non-stop then call someone to take pictures of them at the park or pumpkin patch or whatever.

11 Alexicographer { 02.27.14 at 1:46 pm }

What Queenie said. Even, and maybe especially, if another adult is exploiting a kid — or if a parent is exploiting their kid — it’s my obligation as an ethical adult not to participate (indeed, I might be morally obligated to intervene, though not I think in these cases cited). Full stop.

12 Lori Lavender Luz { 03.01.14 at 9:59 am }

You are spot on.

13 Jeranel { 03.26.14 at 11:57 am }

Jolie-Pitt absolutely exploit their children. since their union, their entire career has been built on the back of their exploited children. Sorry but it is true. Most Hollywood moms would rip paps to shreds for lurking around their kids and taking their pics like that. J-P welcome it. And somehow it has been spun into “look at what a wonderful family and great mother AJ is”. WHAT? The great moms are not the ones exploiting their children for their own personal media attention. And their children are not getting an education at all, whatsoever. In my opinion this is child abuse and child neglect.

14 Jeranel { 03.26.14 at 12:08 pm }

and there is no proof that J-P give the money to charity. It has been said that is what they do but no one can ever be sure of that. It is also a pi*s-poor excuse. If it weren’t for those kids, and the constant media circus surrounding those kids, J-P would have faded into oblivion by now. Especially Angie.

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
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