Like a lot of kids I wanted to be famous when I grew up. My mother asked me when I was aged four what I wanted to be when I grew up and I said “a star”! However now I look at celebrity culture and think there could be nothing worse than living one’s life in the glare of the media.
Sellebrity is a documentary which looks at the paparazzi and the way they invade the privacy of stars. It’s produced and directed by Kevin Mazur, himself a photographer, but Mazur works with publicists and agents for approved shots and is not involved in the tabloid world.
The film opens with footage of Jessica Simpson surrounded by paparazzi, trying to fight her way from her car into a restaurant. It’s horrifying to see how invasive they are and how they have no care for her safety. The only thing that counts is getting the shot, and they don’t even care about getting a good shot. In fact a photo of someone falling, someone scowling or being uncooperative, or just a generally unflattering picture, is just as valuable to them.
Mazur interviews actors Jennifer Aniston, Jennifer Lopez and Sarah Jessica Parker amongst others, and also interviews some of the paparazzos including Darryn Lyons, a loathsome individual who calls himself Mr. Paparazzi. It’s clear that to the members of the photography pack this is a very lucrative job and concerns about stars’ safety or privacy never cross their minds.
Conversely the stars speak of their horror at how tabloid culture has evolved: photographers using long vision lenses to get topless shots of someone sunbathing in their own back garden; making lewd remarks to rile the person so they get a shot of them looking angry or upset; pursuing a celebrity in their car and causing traffic accidents. Sarah Jessica Parker talks about a paparazzi pack trying to get a shot of her outside her home and chasing her down the street, despite the fact that she was pregnant and told them that she was scared to run from them as she might trip and fall.
The documentary also takes a wider view of mainstream American media and how it has become tabloid-ised to the detriment of actual news. Anne Helen Petersen, celebrity culture expert, is interviewed on this subject. I have long been a fan of her blog and her insight is very interesting.
It’s clear that this issue has gotten out of hand. From documenting Britney Spears’ every move during her breakdown (and surely contributing to her psychiatric instability) to the recent episode of seven-year-old Suri Cruise being called a bitch by a paparazzo when she told them to stop taking pictures of her, celebrities’ lives (and those of their children) are being endangered and there is zero respect for their privacy. There is the mindset that if you’re famous “you signed up for this” and you have no right to complain, but doing publicity for a recent film release is one thing and being stalked day and night so you can’t leave your house is quite another.
The point is made that anyone who buys celebrity magazines or reads online gossip is contributing to this. While I used to buy rags like the National Enquirer I don’t any more, nor do I read the Daily Mail’s sidebar of shame, primarily because women in particular get such a hard time in both of these publications. Watch this documentary and maybe the next time you pick up a gossip mag in the airport or leaf through one in the hairdressers, you might stop and think about the culture you’re buying into and buy a book instead!