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Public Interest or Privacy Invasion?

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Leeds chapter.

There was a huge debate in late 2012 when topless pictures of the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, appeared in the French magazine, Closer. Obviously, it did not take long for the pictures to emerge on the internet and go viral. Many people condemned Kate, suggesting that people felt she had made a misjudgement in going topless, especially as a part of the royal family. However, others supported the Duchess, insisting that she was on a personal and relaxing holiday, and should therefore be entitled to her privacy.

Whatever your opinion may be, it cannot be doubted that in today’s society, celebrities can hardly sneeze without the public finding out about it. Magazines and tabloids seem to relish printing unflattering and downright embarrassing pictures of famous people, which seem to hold little, if any, relevance to real news. However, it cannot be denied that as an audience, we do enjoy consuming this type of media.   

A story running in the magazines at the moment is the relationship of Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis. It is reported that the couple are often, if not always, hounded by the paparazzi, and constantly photographed. The couple are apparently on the verge of splitting up due to this lack of privacy; surely this supports the argument that the constant presence of cameras is a strain on a relationship. As a nation, we are notoriously nosy about the personal lives of other people, especially those who are in the public eye. We seem unable to resist the chance of knowing more details than simply the music, movies or businesses of celebrities. Surely it is our right to know about these things? If an artist wants the public’s money and loyalty, do they not owe the public a lifted curtain and a view into their everyday life?

Interestingly, the other side of the coin is the role that the public plays in encouraging attention seeking and hedonistic behaviour, such as that of Katie Price. The woman is currently on her third wedding to a man that she has known for a matter of months, in addition to being pregnant with his child. The full story and all the gory details are made available to us by Katie Price, on her television show, through her magazine deals, and in her interviews. Is this a woman full of desperation and falsities, or simply someone who knows how to make money from giving the public what they want? For every person who shakes their head at Price’s antics, it is just another interview read, magazine sold, and more money going into her pocket.

However, curiosity is only natural, and some would argue that the more someone puts themselves into the limelight, the more prepared they should be to share some confidentiality. Sometimes celebrities do seem to take this into account and almost reward their fans by sharing parts of their lives themselves. Beyonce is an example of this, as she is known for usually being fiercely private. However, she released a documentary called Life is But a Dream, which provided a fascinating insight into her personal and professional life. The result of this was a much more detailed and intimate portrait of Beyonce’s life; this is something which a photographer peering through bushes could never have found.

So, are we just a nation of nosy parkers, intent on discussing and debating every inch of a celebrity’s private life? Alternatively, is the issue one of public interest, whereby fans just want to feel closer to the subject of their loyalty, and so they are expressing their right to know more about the person that they have gone to see on screen, listened to, or supported over the years? Whether right or wrong, at least it can be said that the paparazzi are helping cut down on the amount of famous people committing crimes or infidelity. After Lindsay Lohan’s public issues with the law, and Kristen Stewart’s crucifixion over her cheating scandal, celebrities must now be terrified of being caught on camera.

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