Mandy Moore and her recent interaction with paparazzi raises important questions about regulating the industry – for the safety and wellbeing of celebrities and photographers.
Imagine being a mother out for a walk with your small child and a random stranger suddenly comes along on the walk with you.
He wasn’t invited. He didn’t ask if he could come along. He just decided it was perfectly fine for him to be right there, next to you. Watching your every move. Following you.
For most of us, the thought of this would be terrifying and would likely warrant a call to the police – What does he want from me? What is he going to do to me? What will he do to my baby? Why won’t he leave us alone?
Well, this is exactly what happened to actor and singer Mandy Moore. But she’s a celebrity. And the man was a member of the paparazzi. So for some ridiculous, outdated reason, it’s accepted that this kind of behaviour comes with the territory. It shouldn’t. But more on this later.
In a message posted to her Instagram stories, Mandy recalled being out for a walk with her 9-month-old son Gus, when a “paparazzi dude” decided to follow them, and it wasn’t the first time.
“To the paparazzi dude who just tried to join me and my son on our walk for the second Sunday in a row, you can kindly f*** off,” she begins.
“Same dude that harassed Taylor and I when I was 10 months pregnant and Jackson was in the hospital fighting for his life,” she continues. (Taylor is Mandy’s husband and Jackson is her dog.)
“I know my line of work puts me in a position for this kind of stuff but go find someone who courts it, ya know? We live in a quiet part of town for a reason. You weren’t invited to tag along on my day.”
Now, in any other industry, having a random male stranger follow a mum and her baby would not be tolerated, would it? Some might even call it stalking, harassment, intimidation or some other form of criminal activity.
Why does it not seem to matter that Mandy is, at the end of the day, simply a mother walking her baby? She’s not at work or a public event, where perhaps the “it comes with the territory” excuse might fly.
She’s in her own area. In her own neighbourhood. On a Sunday. Doing her own thing. With her own family.
Sure, the idea of seeing celebrities as objects of consumption or something less than human may’ve been widely accepted in the past – but these same tabloids and papers who are at this very moment spouting messages about the importance of not making the same mistakes we did with Britney Spears and highlighting the importance of mental health, are the same ones regularly paying paparazzi to follow women and their children for a photo, without any regard to the impact this may have on the celebrity’s mental or physical wellbeing.
No, it shouldn’t come with the territory.
Of course Mandy is a public figure and of course there’s interest in her life. But no one – NO ONE – with a passion for acting, singing or sport ever signs up for this relentless, and at times dangerous, intrusion of privacy. Everyone has boundaries, and to think otherwise completely strips celebrities of their human-ness.
As Mandy suggests in her post, there are those who actively seek and want the exposure or “court” it. They’re the ones who give either express or implied consent to photograph themselves and their children. They’re the ones who might invite paparazzi along to their outings.
Mandy does not consent. Or at the very least, in that moment, when she was on a walk with her child, on a Sunday, she didn’t.
And that should’ve been enough for the “paparazzi dude” to walk away.
Game of Thrones actor Sophie Turner does not consent.
Earlier this year, she shared a blunt message to the paparazzi to stop photographing her daughter: “It’s f***ing creepy that grown, old men are taking pictures of a baby without permission.”
Supermodel Gigi Hadid does not consent.
She shared an open letter to the media asking them to stop photographing her daughter, or at the very least, blur out her face in photos: “I can imagine that close or dramatic paparazzi frenzies must be overwhelming and disorienting…it still is as an adult that understands and deals with it often.”
Actor and philanthropist Blake Lively does not consent.
She’s repeatedly urged the tabloids to “get with the times” and stop sharing photos of her children. In one incident, a paparazzo hid, then jumped out at her and her kids causing “a stranger on the street to have words with them because it was so upsetting for her to see.”
George and Amal Clooney do not consent.
The actor has explained on multiple occasions that it’s particularly unsafe for their children’s faces to be published online:
“I am a public figure and accept the oftentimes intrusive photos as part of the price to pay for doing my job. Our children have made no such commitment.” He adds, “The nature of my wife’s work has her confronting and putting on trial terrorist groups and we take as much precaution as we can to keep our family safe. We cannot protect our children if any publication puts their faces on their cover.”
It’s a terrifying direction we’re headed in when the concept of consent means so little. And when an entire multi-billion dollar tabloid industry thrives off this lack of regulation.
The reality is, there are no rules or boundaries in the paparazzi world. There is no formal training. It’s a free-for-all. And no, this isn’t just harmful to celebrities. In her book Manufacturing Celebrity: Latino Paparazzi & Women Reporters in Hollywood, Vanessa Diaz explores the poor wages and working conditions of many Latino and immigrant paparazzi. Some say they go without food, water and toilet breaks for hours so they don’t miss the shot.
Just because things have been done a certain way in the past, doesn’t mean it has to continue. We know better now. And we can do better. It’s time for a renewed conversation within the paparazzi industry about consent, privacy, boundaries, fair pay and conditions.
Similarly, it’s time for consumers to understand their role in all this too.
Arguably, there are many who do value celebrities as people, but we’ll still click on that link of Britney spotted at the supermarket, because we just want to know what she’s up to – and we don’t think beyond the impact of that click.
But what we’re actually doing when we click on that link is adding to that publication’s readership tally. We’re telling the outlet we want more intrusive paparazzi photos and the publications act on that. Consumers, ultimately, create the demand and space for this unregulated paparazzi culture to continue.
A simple moment of thought before clicking can break this cycle. A simple moment of thought before clicking can reduce the readership tally of certain articles and change the output of a particular publication.
Collectively, we can change the culture.
And it might mean Britney could actually continue her days post-conservatorship without the media scrutinising her every move. And that Mandy could go for a walk with her little boy on a Sunday, without a random man inviting himself along.
At the end of the day, shouldn’t a mother be able to do that?
(Feature Image Credit: DFree/Shutterstock)