Imagine being a mother, out for a walk with your small child, when suddenly a random stranger 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 could even 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 actress and singer Mandy Moore recently. 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 So for some ridiculous, outdated reason, it’s accepted that this kind of behaviour comes with the territory. (FYI, it shouldn’t. But more on this later.)
In a message posted to her Instagram stories, Mandy explains that she was 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.
Yet the same standard doesn’t apply to celebrities.
For some reason, it doesn’t 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 something less than human may’ve been widely, albeit mistakenly, accepted in the past – but these same tabloids and papers who are now 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 who follow women and their children for a photo, without any regard to the impact this may have on their mental and 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 being a professional sportsperson ever signs up for this relentless intrusion of privacy. Everyone has boundaries, and to think otherwise completely dehumanises us all, celebrity or not.
As Mandy suggests in her post, there are those who actively seek and want the exposure or “court” it, as she puts 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 venues they’re appearing at.
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 actress and mum 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.”
Actress, entrepreneur 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.”
It’s a terrifying direction we’re headed in when the concept of consent means so little. And when an entire multi-billion tabloid industry thrives off this predatory paparazzi culture.
I understand there is a strong desire to see photos of celebrities, going about their daily lives, with their families. And as long as that demand exists on the part of the consumer, the supply and publication of these photos will continue.
Which leaves us with two things to think about:
- Is it really worth it? Do we really want to contribute to this culture of mostly, packs of men, stalking and intimidating and harassing mostly, women and mothers, who are on their own, so we can satisfy our desire to see a celebrity going about his or her daily life?
- And does the demand actually exist, or are we contributing to it by clicking on stories and links without thinking about the paparazzi content they may contain?
The reality is, there are many of us who are in fact against this paparazzi and tabloid culture. Yet 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 we’re adding to that publication’s readership tally. We’re telling them we want more of this type of content that features paparazzi photos and they act on that, engaging more paparazzi to stalk and harass more people.
We ultimately, create the demand and space for paparazzi and tabloid culture to continue.
A simple moment of thought before we click can break this cycle. A simple moment of thought before we click can reduce the readership tally of certain articles and change the output of a particular publication.
Just because things have been done a certain way in the past, doesn’t mean it has to continue. We know better now as consumers. And we can do better. Similarly, it’s time for a larger conversation within the tabloids themselves about paparazzi and consent. Collectively, we can change the culture.
It can mean Britney could actually continue her days post-conservatorship without the media scrutinising her every move.
And it can mean Mandy can go for a walk with her little boy on a Sunday, without a random man inviting himself along. And at the end of the day, shouldn’t a mother be able to do that?
(Feature Image Credit: DFree/Shutterstock)