The lines between the public and the private are blurring, and often converging

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Title: The lines between the public and the private are blurring, and often converging (essay is not titled; the title used here on Fanlore is from the seventh paragraph)
Creator: Hope (angstslashhope)
Date(s): October 15, 2004
Medium: Livejournal
External Links: The lines between the public and the private are blurring, and often converging, Archived version
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The lines between the public and the private are blurring, and often converging is a 2004 essay by Hope (angstslashhope).

Some Background Info

First, some background info:

Yesterday (October 14 2004), an Elijah Wood fan, in her usual scouring of the internet for new images and multimedia, discovered a folder of pictures of some of the LOTR cast. These pictures weren't the usual publicity or red carpet type, they appeared to be happy snaps of the actors at parties, out with friends, etc. These kinds of 'paparazzi' pictures of the actors out in public (or even 'party' pictures from events etc) turn up on occasion, so the fan in question didn't feel any qualms at posting them in her Livejournal, especially as she had just had to do a little digging to uncover them, not hack into a locked or private folder.

However, shortly after she posted them, she looked further into the folders she was browsing, and realised that the photos were more happy snaps than images intended for public consumption - so she decided to remove the posts she made, [post publicly asking that if people saved them, not to re-post them], and contacted the owner of the site she found them on and let him know that the obviously personal photos were available for public consumption. He subsequently removed or locked the folders from public view.

Other fans in the community have had a variety of responses, for and against the actions and reactions of the fan who uncovered the photos in the first place. You can find a number of links to different reactions in the daily lotrips newsletter, four_lobsters, here. It's these responses, among others that I've seen and heard about around my friends list, that I'll be exploring here.

Some Topics Discussed

Excerpts from the Essay

In a broad range of media in this contemporary society, the lines between the public and the private are blurring, and often converging. What used to be considered the 'private' sphere of family, sex, the body, etc. is now well and truly out in the open and blatant, if not dominant, in practically all media we consume (think glossy magazines, tabloids, talk shows, advertising, even 'conservative' newspapers and current affairs programs). The phenomenon of 'celebrity' (in terms of the more recent fascination with the 'private' lives of such icons, not only their careers) is a quite recent aspect of this merging.

Celebrity is an interesting thing to look at because it seems to be where the private has become the public. Fictional characters (be it Frodo, Casey Connor, whoever) have no private sphere - there is no divide between public and private, because there is only one sphere for the fictional character, and that is by default public, regardless of whether it reveals aspects that are broadly considered private. It could be argued that celebrity is the contemporary (or postmodern, heh) 'fictional character'. Just as boybands are generally (obviously) comprised of a group of created personalities, so too are any celebrity you see reported in the papers - Jennifer Lopez, Tom & Nicole, Elijah Wood. These celebrities are creating a character - performing a fictional character in a way, to (and via) the media and general public. Just as the record labels create personalities and characters for members of pop groups, so too are publicists, editors, lawyers, etc. creating a personality for celebrities.

So in a way, celebrities are just as fictional as any fictional character (who may or may not have aspects of their fictional personality influenced by 'real' events). The difference with (most) celebrities, however, is that their fiction is often masquerading as 'truth'. On a basic level, they maintain their real names. On less obvious levels; there is rarely (if at all) any attention drawn to the subjectivity and artifice of their constructed public persona (I'm sure you can think of a bunch of celebrities/personalities who blatantly draw attention to the artifice of celebrity, but it's the other, majority group that I'm talking about here). Western society hasn't quite moved to the stage yet where we question the reality of supposed 'non-fiction' interviews, video footage or photography (unless you're a bitter old nugget like Baudrillard <3) by default. There is no challenging of the belief that what we are reading about in our magazines and watching in our interviews is reality. This is that person. The editing of that persona that creates the fiction is never referred to.

The 'celebrity' means both that what once was considered the private sphere has now become public, but another private sphere has come in to take its place. In other words, we know that Elijah's middle name is Jordan, that he was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, that he has an older brother who works with computer games and a younger sister studying in New York, an estranged father and a mother who managed his career when he was younger. We know his taste in music and movies, and a few anecdotes from his life. These are private things, but we have received them via a range of different filters that have consciously created a fictional Elijah Wood, celebrity. We, as fans, know all these things, but we don't know Elijah personally, though the knowledge of seemingly personal things such as listed above makes us feel like that.

So the controversy with this photographs came about because the public celebrity sphere masquerades as the private, which leads to the blanket (valid) understanding that celebrities do not have privacy, due to the fact that their very persona is created by their private life. In other words, if media or information about them have filtered their way to us in any form, it is open to us just as the rest of their private life is.

But there are many facets to this. Another one is the group of people who are horrified at the idea that these photos are from the 'real' private sphere (1), and therefore by viewing them we are infringing on the privacy of the person, instead of partaking in the publicly available private celebrity.

Yet another facet, making people from many different camps even more uncomfortable, is the sense of concern or distress on behalf of the celebrity in question - because many fans consider themselves a 'fan' because of the amount of respect and affection they have for the celebrity. Due to the publicised private life, as fans we do feel like we 'know' the celebrity in question (especially, as mentioned above, as there is no reference made to the artifice of their persona), and thus feel distressed on their behalf when events such as this (which could be considered threatening) occur.

This opens up yet another aspect - how do others in the community react to this distress that some fans feel on a personal basis? Someone has already labelled it as a characteristic of 'the BNFs' sense of propriety to the celebrities they are fans of, as if the people concerned are behaving thus in order to control what the rest of the community sees, and not out of personal concern or distress on behalf of the celebrity they feel so close to.

So how do we deal with this situation? Perhaps the difficulty we're having here, and the unprecedented anxiety and strong emotion it seems to be causing people from many facets, is because we don't really have a discourse that dictates how we respond to this kind of situation - kind of like how Queen Victoria outlawed homosexuality between men but not between women, because it was incomprehensible that lesbians existed. There is no open discussion in society, and not even much in the (more private sphere of) fandom, that discusses the simulacrum/artifice aspect of celebrity, or acknowledges it openly and/or frequently. The existence and practice of RPS regarding celebrities has only come out in such force recently, and it appears we're right in the burgeoning crux of it here - hacking our way through the jungle with no map so that people behind us can just follow the path.

And on top of the public/private issues that come with celebrity, fictionalising and fanning celebrity, is our own practice and existence within fandom. Up until quite recently the mini-universe of fandom existed much like a public sphere within which fans discussed issues of fanfiction, fanon, canon… basically anything fandom-related, via mailing lists, message boards, and earlier still - paper zines. With the massive influx of Livejournal as the community medium for fans to communicate, suddenly public and private issues are being aired and discussed in virtually the same forums; even 'friends lock' is creating micro-public spheres for fans to share aspects of their private life in a public environment. More conflict arises as we face a similar public/private split as celebrities face, and yet fans (BNFs included!) are not figureheads standing out of our reach but people within a digital arm's reach, who we communicate with regularly, and who can read what we say about them.

So do the "you wouldn't like people writing porn about you!" and "you wouldn't like it if your private photos were posted publicly on the web!" arguments hold weight? Is this a moral issue, with people with differing viewpoints standing at different moral positions? How much of (a) celebrity is available to the public, considering the artificial persona created to mimic the 'real' person? Further exacerbating the converging of public and private spheres that is so apparent in fandom, I'll happily hear valid emotional responses as well as thought-out intellectual ones.

Some Comments at the Post


None of us who stumbled on the pics initially intended to invade anyone's private sphere. Like you say, at first it seemed just like garden-variety event photos (paparazzi are a rather different thing; they're not invited to events, they take pics in public areas, like in shops or on the street. "Stalkerazzi" are the ones who follow celebs to private places, or who use high-powered lenses to get pics in their back yards or on private beaches, etc. The former, while annoying, are legal and more or less ethical. The latter definitely aren't.) Once we realized that these were personal pics and not your usual media stuff, or even fan snaps, that's when we decided the links should be taken down, etc.

Had the pics only been of public events in public places, I doubt any of us would worry about it. If they were only of WWS shows in bars, or someone's party at a local club or something, it's not a big deal. When people go out to a public place, they expect strangers to look at them, and therefore pictures of someone in a public place should be fair game for public viewing. But when people are in a private place, like someone's home, or a hotel room, where they are surrounded only by friends, they have a reasonable expectation of privacy, and that strangers won't be looking at them, and they act differently. This is true no matter if you're a celeb or not. I'm sitting here in my pajamas, hair unkempt, and a pile of various debris on my desk. If I believed a stranger was going to be looking at me, I certainly wouldn't be in this state.

It's not that there was any incriminating behavior in the pics in question-- none of it was stuff we haven't seen that gang do before in public-- but that some of the pics were taken in private locations, and the people in the pics surely did not expect them to be viewed by the general public.

What this guy did was to naively think that there was no chance anyone but himself and his friends would see these pictures-- the fact that he took them down so quickly is a clear testament to that. The analogy I think of is that he accidentally left his front door unlocked. And just because he did doesn't mean someone else has the right to go in and look through his sock drawer.

I'm well aware that some might think me hypocritical to even weigh in on this subject, and I believe opinions about where the line should be drawn do vary. But in my opinion, the line gets drawn at someone's door. What someone says or does in public is and always will be fair game to talk about, whether that person is a celebrity or not. But behind the doors of their cars, their homes or their hotel rooms, that's their own personal, private space, and it's not for anyone to barge in on, and that goes regardless of someone's profession. Just because someone has had their face on a movie or tv screen doesn't mean they've given up their humanity.

Does this apply to gossip or fic? I don't think so. Because you can police actions, you can't police thoughts and ideas. Obviously, an attractive woman walking down the street isn't likely to want to have sex with some stranger who sees her, but she can't prevent that stranger from imagining having sex with her, she can only prevent him from committing the act. Fic, being fantasy, is an entirely fictional, imaginative creation. It's not a play-by-play of something one has actually witnessed. Likewise, gossip and speculation based on public words and actions isn't unethical. If I want to think that Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones have an unhappy marriage based on how they act toward each other in public, that's my right, and it's also my right to talk to other people about that. I don't, however, have the right to hack into one of their email accounts, find a scathing letter one has written to the other, and post it all over the net.

I just thought about another way to look at this particular situation.

Say for instance you're at a Starbucks, calmly sipping your latte next to someone else, who's carrying an envelope full of newly-developed pictures. If the person, distracted by a phone call or whatever, gets up and leaves that envelope of pictures behind. that doesn't mean that those pictures now belong to you, nor that you have the right to open up the envelope and look at the pics inside, and certainly not the right to go make copies and post them on every billboard in town. The person who owns the pictures did not make a point of showing them to you, therefore it's clear that they didn't want you to see them.

Just because the pictures in question are not physically tangible items doesn't make them any less privately-owned. In fact, copyright law says that pictures belong to the person who took them, and it's up to them to decide how and whether to distribute them. As the pics were in a single location, which was not searchable, and the link had not been widely distributed, it can be reasonably inferred that the pictures were intended to remain private, just as the pictures left on a table at Starbucks can be assumed to. This is even more clear when you have an action like the person at the Starbucks returning there in a panic, and grabbing the pics. If they caught you sitting there going through them, they'd have every right to be furious. And that's exactly what's happened here. The photographer realized he'd made a mistake, and took back his pictures.

Just because you leave your keys on a park bench doesn't mean someone then has the right to drive off with your car. And just because this guy forgot to lock his front door, as it were, doesn't mean we have a right to go snooping around in his pantry.

I'd have to look up case law to see what courts have said about this issue, but IIRC, judges have generally found that "finders keepers" generally doesn't apply unless a lot of time has passed, the owner of the item cannot be located, or the owner has made a point of saying that the item is now public property (like leaving a sign on an old chair sitting on your curb saying "free chair")


thanks for detailing me your opinion yet again, msa, as of course in looking around at all the posts on this i haven't seen them posted on every single comment thread already.

I wasn't looking for responses to the original stimuli. as i said, It's these responses, among others that I've seen and heard about around my friends list, that I'll be exploring here.

In simpler words, i'm not discussing my response to the events, i'm discussing other people's responses. I'm not looking for more responses. I'm not looking for people justifying their own moral standpoints. In my post i explored the possible discourses surrounding the behaviour displayed by people within the community.

In other words, why did you just re-post to me your response to this original stimuli when i was discussing something at least a couple of steps beyond that? If you're going to go to the extent of needing to use 2 comments, at least address topics relevant to the discussion underway, please.

[msallegro]: My apologies, I must've misunderstood what you were getting at.

[bunniewabbit (the fan who posted the original photos]:

You rock on so many levels.

I feel I should respond to this, but I've just spent the day explaining and defending and being accused of being a hypocrite, and I'm just... tired.

All the interesting stuff is here and here [1], which you have probably already read, except perhaps for my most recent arguments concerning said 'hypocrisy.'

Most of the albums, I couldn't care less about whether they were made private, or not. But Elijah's personal stuff? Yeah -- I wanted them keptsecretkeptsafe. They seemed so much more personal/private than anything else on that site, and my main goal all along was to see that they were protected. That was the main reason that I asked people to remove links and photos: I didn't want anything left that might make those albums traceable until I could manage to get someone to lock them up. The other albums becoming private in the process was merely a by-product. The family photos bugged me the same way that paparazzi photos bug me, but I didn't feel the same overwhelming urge to keep them private. I'm not sure why that is...


bunnie darling! i'm so sorry that you've had to bear the brunt of this. as far as i see it, you made your own personal moral judgement that was the only option for you. i don't buy into the whole hypocrisy/BNF thing because (as i will no doubt reply at more length in a comment below) in fandom BNFs *aren't* just distant celebrities, they are normal people in weird positions, and their personal moral decisions should never be considered anything *but* that - personal moral decisions.

I'm glad you found them first, love. <3


*sigh* and this reminds me why I don't mind having dropped out of fandom a little. Distance is a good thing.

Tell me if I've got this wrong: some chick is surfin' about and finds some pix she's never seen before. Cool. Shares with like-minded fans, as any of us would. Realises the pix may not have been for public consumption, so removes them and asks anyone else who posted them somewhere, or posted links, to remove them. Alerts pix owner that pix are readily available on internet.

So....what's the issue? All seems perfectly reasonable to me.

Interesting, too, that this raises the very real and very frightening issue of just how easy it is for information that is stored electronically to be found by anyone searching the net. It is scary how many companies "store" sensitive financial information within their websites (credit card details, for example) but don't take precautions to ensure they cannot be "found" by a surfer. Ditto personal pictures.


So....what's the issue? All seems perfectly reasonable to me.

the issue is 'celebrity' and 'internet' - people believing that anything on the internet is essentially up for grabs, and people believing that people who decide to be celebrities are essentially giving up the right to have privacy and thus anything they do is fair game for the masses to consume.

and that's the issue here - how is that alright for celebrity and not for ordinary people? do we have the discourse to deal with these dilemmas? etc.

[notemily]: You know, if I found random pictures of someone's (non-celebirty) birthday party on the internet, I'd assume that they were meant to be for public consumption--because after all, they're on the internet, publicly accessible to all. I'm not sure why I'm supposed to think differently when there's a celebrity involved.


This opens up yet another aspect - how do others in the community react to this distress that some fans feel on a personal basis? Someone has already labelled it as a characteristic of 'the BNFs' sense of propriety to the celebrities they are fans of, as if the people concerned are behaving thus in order to control what the rest of the community sees, and not out of personal concern or distress on behalf of the celebrity they feel so close to.

I think you're underselling the pro-distribution position by citing probably its weakest single advocate (she just seems randomly bitter!). What I'm reading in most of the pro-distribution posts is only secondarily that "BNFs"* are resented as gatekeepers of this info, but primarily that people acting as gatekeepers are making undue/arrogant/absurd claims of ownership or custodianship over the celebs' feelings. The other pole of the pro-distribution argument is questioning whether something that has been made publicly available on the internet by a photographer (with whatever intent -- and the photographer's intent is still purely a matter of speculation at this point) can possibly still be considered part of the private sphere. In the absence of (a) non-speculative information about the photographer's intentions and (b) non-speculative information about the celebs' feelings, there is some danger that self-appointed guardianship of celeb feelings is just an ego-gratifying fantasy. And of course people think that's an illegitimate reason to gatekeep others' access to info -- which *is* an exercise of power whether or not exercising power is its intent/motivation as such.


and the photographer's intent is still purely a matter of speculation at this point

Actually, it's not. I've been in contact with him, and he's made it clear that the photos were not intended for public viewing. If nothing else, the fact that he took them down almost immediately after finding out they'd been found, plus the fact that the site wasn't searchable is a testament to his intentions for the pics. I really think he simply believed that as long as he wasn't handing out the URL to anyone but friends that no one would find the pics. Naive, certainly, but I don't think it's fair to punish him for that naivete by taking advantage of it. If someone absentmindedly leaves their wallet in a restaurant, the ethical thing to do is mail it back to them, not rifle through it, and distribute their cash and credit cards among your friends.


What I'm reading in most of the pro-distribution posts is only secondarily that "BNFs"* are resented as gatekeepers of this info, but primarily that people acting as gatekeepers are making undue/arrogant/absurd claims of ownership or custodianship over the celebs' feelings.

i think that the whole BNF thing could be read similarly to the way i've addressed celebrity in this post, only with a step closer to the private sphere and maybe a bit lower in baudrillard's phases of simulation!

BNFs do not become gatekeepers of information. rather, it seems that frequently people become BNFs because they are already gatekeepers of information. in other words, they are just ordinary people like any other fan who just happen to have a lot more people watching them. in my experience, rarely to people behave differently once they become considered a BNF.

in other words, these people who are taking the moral standpoint that the photos should *not* be reposted - and are thus refusing to allow the information through, gatekeeper or not (BNF or not, also) is due to personal moral standpoints, not due to a belief that they have 'ownership or custodianship over the celebs feelings'. like i said in the post - i don't feel like we have a proper discourse in which to deal with these kinds of situation, so people on both (or rather, all) sides seem to be getting hysterical over the fact that they have different viewpoints on the matter and they're all right.


"I think you're underselling the pro-distribution position by citing probably its weakest single advocate (she just seems randomly bitter!)."

I think you just might be misunderstanding me completely ;)

Bitter? Naa. What in the world would I have to be bitter about?

Poking fun? Hell, yes! The seriousness that surrounded the entire PhotoGate affair made me laugh out loud several times. Truly, that's one of the things I find so entertaining about fandom - the gravitas with which some people seem to endow themselves. And, while I freely admit I'm a fangirl, myself (albeit aging!), I am most certainly aware of the meta humor inherant in it.


I haven't read all of this (the reactions) but this seems one of the most sensible discussions about this topic.

I have seen a lot of people in the LJ communities say that the pictures were no big deal. Why hide them?

I agree: the pictures themselves were no big deal.

But, IMVHO, that's besides the point. It's not the picture itself but the fact of being looked at, judged, talked about whenever, wherever,...

Some say that this is the price of fame and if you can't stand this heat, you should get out of the kitchen. I disagree with that.

Russell Crowe has major problems with the trash press. When his baby boy was born, lots of people wanted to see pictures but he refused. He said that his son is part of his private life and he doesn't see why he should expose him to everybody out there. He doesn't owe the movie-going public one thing, except try to do his very best when he's doing his job: acting. I think that the pressure was so high that he did have to cave in and let his son be photographed but I'm not sure...

I remember having a discussion with somebody because they wanted to see more pictures of his then pregnant wife and later of his son, even if it was clear that he wants to keep that part of his private life. We had the 'Lady Diana' discussion about paparazzi. She said to me, I don't care if those pictures were taken with long lenses,...I don't care: I just want to look at those pictures. What's so bad about a couple of pictures?

I decided to ignore all that because the hysteria of 'we want to see a picture of his son, what's the big deal, just show him' annoyed me.

I'm just reading a biography of a celebrity who tries to explain what it means to be famous and having paparazzi chase you, people making snapshots and spreading them all over the internet,... You go out for a cup of coffee with friends..*snap*...somebody with a mobile phone takes your picture.

You go out to a grocery shop...*snap*...somebody with a long lens takes your picture.

He said that you create a public persona besides who you really are as a private person. It's just something you do to protect yourself but it's not easy to keep making that distinction. Certainly not if you reach a certain level of fame. So, when you see pictures of you surfacing all over the place with people making jokes about it, discussing your every move, criticizing you, dreaming about you,... it's the public person they're discussing. But that's the theory. In real life, it's not easy. You end up looking over your shoulder every time. Sometimes, it seems that you only have to THINK of something and it ends up in some gossip newspaper. You end up being paranoid toward even your friends because you wonder how some things get out.

It's not the picture itself that makes this sort of thing uncomfortable. A picture of a celebrity drinking a cup of coffee with friends is nothing special. It's the fact that every single thing you do can end up being discussed, laughed at, admired,...

Everybody needs space of their own. You don't need to feel sorry for them - not at all - but people want more and more from certain celebrities and I don't agree with the argument "if they can't handle that, they should get out".


I have to say, a very well thought out presentation. Good job.

I saw the pictures while going around friendsfriends. One of the communities had something about "OMG MEEN BNF!!!" or something. Curious, I clicked the link to see (I had no idea about the wank that was going on. I'm really just a lurker in the fandom). At first it was all "Oooh! New pics. I wonder what it's from?" but as more and more pics uploaded there was a growing sense of dread that this just wasn't on.

There are different spheres going from the public to private, and yes, celebrities realize that their lives are a bit more public than most. However, I think it's because so much of their lives are public that we should respect the boundaries of what they choose to keep private.

[mirabile dictu]:

Thank you for this terrific summary and discussion; I've really enjoyed the responses (especially princessofg's). I've been avidly following the events, the disclaimers, the accusations, the defenses, ever since I saw the first post yesterday morning. Last night I tried to describe them in my (off-line) journal. I discovered that I don't actually know how I feel about the entire situation. Or rather, I feel and think many different things.

I'd been considering writing a kind of cultural anthropological analysis of what's going on, but I really like your use of Baudrillard here, especially the notion of the simulacrum. IIRC, he said that what's different now is that the original has disappeared, or am I misremembering?

Okay, I googled around and found this by him, "Simulacra and Simulations": Whereas representation tries to absorb simulation by interpreting it as false representation, simulation envelops the whole edifice of representation as itself a simulacrum.

These would be the successive phases of the image: 1 It is the reflection of a basic reality. 2 It masks and perverts a basic reality. 3 It masks the absence of a basic reality. 4 It bears no relation to any reality whatever: it is its own pure simulacrum.

Continuing your argument, then, it seems as though fandom could be divided among those who agree with the first case (the "Elijah Wood" in those photos is the Elijah Wood who loves his mom and video games and can be hurt if he stubs his toe) and fans who agree with the subsequent cases.

Dunno if I'm off base with what you're saying, but writing this out has helped me to realize that I take position #4 in the sense that the "Elijah Wood" I write about in my LOTR RPS stories bears no relation to reality. Because I have no idea what the reality would be for him, or of him. Even were I to meet him, I would be meeting the simulacrum he creates for public appearance. (And we'd need to problematize the term "reality" as well.)

Back to you: thanks. I'm memory-ing this and sending the URL to friends to read so we can continue your discussion. Fascinating stuff. It's sort of the whole LJ issue acted out: what's the difference between public and private?

Can the private exist in a public sphere?


This is definitely the most well thought-out piece I have seen on the whole disaster. I do think that there was too much distress over the "well-being" of the boys- as if viewing pictures of them playing croquet and eating corn rapes their privacy. The pictures simply shouldn't have been seen, but I doubt the fact that a bevy of fangirls saw them for a day or two is going to make Dom and Elijah lose sleep, you know?

Anyways, great work. It is complicated and multi-faceted, and I admire how you can study numerous sides of the issue. *schnoogles*


Couldn't the discomfort also be, however, b/c we're finally realizing that we've been stepping over some sort of line all along, i.e., i often feel that a lot of rpsers cling to the comfort that they are only manipulating a media image and thus not *actually* writing about "real" people (the veridical self, so to speak)? in other words, viewing and enjoting the pictures makes us uncomfortable not so much because we've identified so much that we now feel the need to protect them--even from ourselves--but rather because it is forcing us to face our own perverse appropriations in the first place. [and i say this as someone who actually defends the utter constructedness of the ultimate characters that get written, co-constructed by fandom with the help of media images, and have no compunctions answering the 'so what if they were writing about you' question b/c i've seen it...]

i think every fan of rps, but esp. people who are trying to write as close to canon as possible are caught in a certain tinhat phenomenon where the more they love the guys the more they *don't* want to be that crazy fan yet *are* that crazy fan (if that makes any sense).

wonderful post, btw! i've just finished (well, almost :-) an article on identification, identity construction, and self-insertion in popslash and every line above rang very, very true!!! though your guys might be much closer to the literature that's there (dyer et al) on celebrity theory than mine...a lot of things don't apply quite the same when there are no "actual" screenroles to be filled, when the performance extends from the stage into life contiguously...


But WHO is a Celebrity?

This was just utterly fascinating, and it went into SO much more detail that I had gone into (on the same topic) in my own journal.

THis issue of celebrititis (and that's what I'm going to call it) is such an important one. I don't think that people realise that actors, musicians, whoever, are still people, and it's something that needs to be brought to the forefront.

The question will be asked over and over again, "How much privacy should a "Celebrity" have?" It's something that people are going to continue to ask, and they will also continue to push the limits. For me, I think that "celebrities" by default have very little privacy. It is the nature of Celebrititis, it's what will happen. The thing is though, an actor can choose NOT to be a celebrity. On making that choice, the actor is as much a "person" as anyone else.

I guess it sounds as though I'm de-humanising celebrities, and to be honest I guess I am. As you said yourself, they are fictional characters using factual bases... just like the characters we write in RPS. BECAUSE they "act" like a celebrity, because they embrace that lifestyle, they take away their privacy themselves. I'm talking about people like Britney Spears, Paris Hilton... I think they have removed privacy from themselves by acting the part of "Media Celebrity".

In this particular case (because it's what we're talking about really, and it's the example that everyone's going to understand) I don't think Elijah embraced being a "celebrity". I honestly believe he is an actor, because it's his job. (As an actor, I recognise the signs... eg: wanting to remain private.) Because he's chose this non-celebrity lifestyle, he is still entitled to his privacy.

When fans are brought into the situation, it becomes even more of a difficult conundrum. I think (and as a fan I know I do this) that we idolise actors to the point where they BECOME celebrities. We hunt them down, and treat them as if they were one. It becomes increasingly difficult for the actor to avoid becoming a "celebrity". Regardless of the fact that they may or may not have rejected the title, it is what they become. BECAUSE though they are not pursuing it willingly, they are still entitled to their privacy.

From here, we reach another fork, and another long wait. Who decides that a Celebrity is a "Celebrity"? I think to maintain... I don't know "professional dignity"... the one who wants it must pursue it. It is not the descion of the fans who the person becomes.

and this is a little off the track, but I'm saying it anyway.

The fictional characters that celebrities create, have NO private lives. They are fictional characters, and thusly can be treated so. It is when the fictional characters BECOME the real people that the fans, papparazzi AND stalkerazzi, must step away. It is the most human thing to do.


Thanks for posting this. I haven’t thought along these lines in quite a while, so I am going to try to make my thoughts coherent (and hopefully on topic). The more I read conversations like these, the harder it is for me to get a mental grasp on the idea of reality. In truth, I can't really see that anything is truly real. The personas that celebrities take on are just as false as the personas that non-celebrities assume.

Every time that I comb my hair and put on lipstick to go to the grocery store, I am appropriating a construct that is not me, but who I wish to be seen as. We all do this, the only difference between each person is the layers of constructed identity that they give themselves. And the only difference I find between ourselves and celebrities is the amount of people that are trying to access this information.

I keep the lines between who I am online and who I feel I really am very thin. (Although, at times I also question my assumptions about my own identity.) And in all honestly, there are probably only about 10 people in this world who are interested in who I am, if even that. However, I am not everyone and I can by no means judge anyone else by my standards.

This is the same with each celebrity. Every actor is different and it is foolish to judge each person on the same scale. Someone posted above that there is no gray areas in this discussion, but I disagree, since I think that there is nothing but gray when it comes to discussing the feelings and emotional responses of human beings.

So, what am I trying to say here? Basically, I am just as unsure of where I personally draw the line in this matter as I am where we should draw the line as a community. As you said, there is no precedent for us to follow, no previous guidelines to direct our behavior. We are attempting to make the rules up as we go, which is hard to do.

I don’t have the answers as to where the line between public and private are, aside from the fact that we need to figure these things out for ourselves. Many of the responses to the pictures revolve around each person’s feelings on the matter. ‘Looking at the pics made me feel bad, so I took them down and requested that other’s do the same.’ Our own feelings are all that we have to go by, since there are not clearly defined rules, so perhaps the best way for us all to behave is to be respectful of those feelings.


  1. ^ here and here lead to two purged journals