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a dark area with paparazzi flash photos going off. Not associated with Harry and Meghan's car chase, just used to illustrate paparazzi.

The Part We’re All Missing About *That* Car Chase Involving Meghan & Harry

Paparazzi pursued Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex along with Meghan’s mother, Doria Ragland, after they attended Ms. Foundation’s Women of Vision Awards in New York city last night. The couple’s reps shared a statement describing it as a “near catastrophic car chase” which resulted in “multiple near collisions involving other drivers on the road, pedestrians and two NYPD officers.” Shortly after, the police shared a statement confirming there were no “collisions, summonses, injuries or arrests in regard,” while NYC Mayor Eric Adams called out the “reckless and irresponsible” paparazzi.

And shortly after that, the online world exploded. With opinions. With judgment. And I mean, truly exploded.

Either fiercely defending the couple or annihilating them to pieces.

 

Photo by Lev Radin/Shutterstock.com

 

For many, it’s a reminder that nothing has changed since the horrific death of Prince Harry’s mother, Princess Diana. For others, it’s a question of whether there’s any truth to the story to begin with. You’ll notice a number of commentators scoffing at the thought of a high-speed car chase in New York City, though it’s important to note the words “high-speed” were never used by the Sussex’s reps.

Perhaps it comes down to the meaning each person attributes to the word “chase”. Does a chase have to be high-speed? Could it be normal speed? Or even slow speed? And if so, isn’t that still a cause for concern? Or are Harry and Meghan over-exaggerating? Liars? Trying to get sympathy? And so the discourse goes.

But what about the bigger picture here? The one we’re all missing:

Whether you believe Harry and Meghan’s version of events or whether you’re more inclined to agree with unnamed witness #3 quoted in the tabloids who is playing it all down, it is a fact that the paparazzi industry is highly unregulated and this in itself can be extremely dangerous.

There is no degree to become a paparazzo. There is no official training involved. In fact, these days, anyone with a camera who sells the pics can be one. It’s ultimately a free-for-all. There are no set rules or ethical codes (though abiding by local trespassing laws and California’s laws against the harassment of celebrities’ children helps somewhat), and there are certainly no boundaries.

 

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In 2007, when footage of George Clooney having a verbal altercation with paparazzi surfaced, he later explained to Entertainment Tonight that it was about the lack of boundaries putting people’s lives at risk: “there are no rules now… it’s getting to a point where people that are not involved are getting hurt. What they’re doing is illegal. It’s high-speed chases and they’re competing with each other… The guys that commit all these crimes are rewarded for it.”

Lindsay Lohan knows it all too well – she once had a paparazzo purposely ram his car into hers, just so he could get a photo.

In 2016, Shakira held a press conference in Colombia to let the world know she wasn’t pregnant so paparazzi would stop going through her garbage bins trying to find pregnancy tests.

Last year, Blake Lively posted pregnancy photos of herself on Instagram so the “11 men waiting outside” her home would leave her and her children alone: “You freak me and my kids out.”

Not long ago, Elvis star Austin Butler who saw photos of himself holidaying in Mexico with girlfriend, model Kaia Gerber and realised the hang-glider flying above them was not just some dude having the time of his life. He was a paparazzo trying to score some shots.

Anything goes in the paparazzi world. But a lack of regulation or any kind of industry oversight not only exposes artists to constant harassment and danger, making them fear for their safety and impacting their mental health, it also impacts the paparazzi themselves too.

In her book, Manufacturing Celebrity: Latino Paparazzi and Women Reporters in Hollywood, journalist Vanessa Diaz details the racial violence and exploitation Latino paparazzi regularly face. Many of them are paid low wages and many find themselves in poor working conditions, unable to leave a post for food, water or a toilet break in case they miss the shot.

The ultimate winners here are those profiting off the multi-billion dollar gossip and celebrity industry – the publications who put out the photos. The publications who do not care about the unregulated paparazzi industry or its mental health impacts on actors, musicians, sports people or other. 

And it’s us, the consumers, who are allowing this to happen, with every click. 

Last night’s frenzy involving Harry and Meghan was always going to be, because there is public demand for their photos. Demand from Harry and Meghan supporters – who don’t actually want to see the couple harassed by intrusive paparazzi – but click on the photos anyway. Demand from the haters who don’t want to look at pics of the couple, but will do it if its accompanied by a negative headline that suits the narrative they want to hear. And demand from the large majority of readers who are unaware that every click, every share and every comment made on those pap shots, boosts the publications’ readership tallies and increases their advertising revenue.

And so the paparazzi cycle continues. Without regulation. Without consequence. And with danger always in the mix. 

(Feature Image Credit: KOTOIMAGES/ Shutterstock.com)

Nehal is an award-winning news presenter, author of "A Kids Book About Kindness Online" and founder of CelebrityKind. She has dedicated her career to creating connected and healthy spaces in the media. When she's not writing, you'll find Nehal hanging with family, dancing to Beyoncé, interpreting Taylor Swift lyrics or watching old eps of Oprah.