Lorde hides from the press in New York. Photo: Getty
Apparently as fearless as she is preternaturally talented, Lorde has become the latest in a swelling tide of celebrities who has criticised the omnipresence of the paparazzi, firing off a searing string of tweets this week about being stalked by photographers.
“This man has been stalking me, photographing me and refusing me privacy. I am scared of him. he frequents central [Auckland],” she said, posting a photo of the snapper, Simon Runting.
She continued: “I understand that this comes with the territory. I do not understand why I should be complacent [...] This should not be an accepted standard for young women or anyone in this industry [...] I refuse to stay complicit and I refuse to stay passive about men systematically subjecting me to extreme fear.”
Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield's sign for the paparazzi. Photo: Getty
To those who’d sniff “‘Extreme fear’? Just how scary can a guy with a photographer be?”, perhaps it would pay to re-watch Notting Hill again. One creepy guy with a camera is bad enough; no doubt there are some celebrities who’d consider Lorde relatively “lucky” to be stalked by a sole paparazzo (as this ‘bird’s eye view’ of a paparazzi swarm around Jay-Z’s car should demonstrate).
Seeing the paparazzi at work is one of the more sinister displays of the society of the spectacle in action. In Los Angeles and New York especially, they roam in packs, occasionally swarming on whichever passing celebrity was unfortunate enough to have been the subject of a tip off from a cash-hungry clerk or valet.
Even as the DSLR-toting engines of the celeb gossip press have reached unprecedented levels of privacy invasion (following celebrities’ children to school is one example), the targets of their camera flashes are expected to grin and bear it. “It goes with the territory,” runs the familiar armchair commentator’s cry, “They knew what they were getting themselves into.”
Benedict Cumberbatch takes a stand against the paparazzi. Photo: Getty
This flawless logic comes despite the fact many noted actors, musicians and artists were, in fact, “getting themselves into” a career in their chosen craft, not the “hosed down by camera flashes outside the supermarket” game.
As Lorde notes, it’s a given that the public’s desire for gossip drives the paparazzi industry; the idea that the targets of the photographers should “stay passive”, on the other hand, is a misnomer almost entirely invented by a public unable to grasp that a celebrity’s right to privacy isn’t trumped by the public’s need to “stay connected” with said celebrity’s life.
It appears that the age of complacency and passivity is drawing to a close, however, with stars like Lorde speaking out about the hounding they receive at the hands of photogs desperate to get that six-figure-sum-worthy shot.
Others have shoehorned the paparazzi’s gaze into a forum for good; Emma Stone and boyfriend Andrew Garfield directed the watchers to cancer and orphaned children’s charities, while Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch suggested it would be better to photograph the political unrest in Egypt than his face.
Much of the time I’m amazed they have the presence of mind to respond to the paparazzi in such a calm manner; the Kanye West/Russell Crowe/Sam Worthington variety (or at the very least the Michelle Williams and Heath Ledger salute) seems a more appropriate response.
Speaking about the paparazzi’s harassment of his and other celebs’ children last year, Ben Affleck said, “The tragic thing is, people who see [pictures of kids] naturally think it's sweet. They don't see the gigantic former gang member with a huge lens standing over a 4-year-old and screaming to get the kid's attention.” Terrifying for a kid; probably not much less intimidating if you’re a 17-year-old, or just any garden variety adult human.
Think about that next time you’re browsing the Daily Mail’s sidebar of shame. Stars, They’re Just Like Us: they don’t particularly want a creepy guy taking photos through their hotel window, either.