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Princess Diana and Voyeurism

Essay by   •  December 10, 2010  •  Research Paper  •  2,354 Words (10 Pages)  •  1,244 Views

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Perhaps the best way to think of it is as a war. On one side are the Hollywood stars with their armies of agents, managers, lawyers, publicists, handlers, personal assistants and, of course, bodyguards. And on the other side are the paparazzi - guerrilla warriors armed with cameras, whose job it is to break through the stars' defenses, steal small parts of their souls and sell them to the highest bidder. The lengths to which paparazzi will go to get "the shot" are legendary - hiding out in trees, digging through garbage and spitting on the stars in order to shoot their reactions. Car chases and helicopter surveillance seem to be routine. And there's very little the stars can do about it. Even the paparazzi who were trailing Princess Diana that hot August night, one of whom called 911 while the others recorded the scene for both posterity and prosperity, got by with a slap on the wrist, if that.

The car crash that killed Princess Diana and her companion Dodi Al-Fayed early Sunday, apparently as paparazzi trailed the couple in Paris, follows a series of run-ins between celebrities and those who take their pictures for big money. Witnesses said news photographers, probably freelance paparazzi, were pursuing the couple on motorcycles. A witness told CNN that paparazzi were taking pictures of the wreck within seconds of the crash, and that one of the photographers was beaten at the scene by horrified witnesses. According to news reports, seven photographers were in custody after the accident. (Edwards, 23-4)

Chasing celebrities has become a big-stakes proposition for many professional cameramen, worth incurring the wrath of those luminaries who want some personal space left to them. Richard Wood, in his article "Diana: the people's princess", said a single photograph of Diana could have been worth thousands to tens of thousands of

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extra issues sold for its buyer. "She has always been a main news story for the newspapers of this country," Swift said. "The whole country, indeed the world, has a deep fascination for everything she does. And she was and will remain one of the most popular figures in the world" (Wood, 3).

While sympathy and fond remembrance for the 36-year, often star-crossed princess poured in from around the world, there was an undertow of anger at the media, whose obsession with Princess Diana's every move may have contributed to her death.

"I always believed the press would kill her in the end," said Diana's brother, Charles Spencer, who accused "greedy and ruthless" editors and publishers with having "blood on their hands" (Edwards, 31). However, one must question the reasoning behind Charles Spencer's statement, for when the issue at stake, celebrities and there relationship with paparazzi and public voyeurism, is really examined, the topic becomes rather complicated.

Princess Diana had a very complex and sometimes symbiotic relationship with the paparazzi who covered her. In fact one reason why she was so loved, so followed and so revered is because the paparazzi constantly kept her image in the public eye. She was constantly portrayed as a sort of fairy tale princess, a lady of elegance and class who somehow connected with the poor and downtrodden people - regular everyday people - and in this way she gained the publics admiration and unfortunately their desire to know all the details about her life, including her personal agenda. There's no doubt Diana cultivated and used the press to her advantage during her life in the spotlight. "A woman who's been followed by the press as much as she has does not embrace her Egyptian lover

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in public on a boat where she knows there are going to be people floating around offshore taking pictures unless she means to make a statement" (Levine, 52). She, like many other stars and celebrity figures, played a game of sometimes hard-to-get and sometimes of great accessibility with the photographers who covered her.

Although Princess Diana used publicity for her causes, she often appealed to the press to give her and her family space to live. On a skiing trip with her two sons, she left a restaurant on the slopes to go along a row of photographers and ask them to give her sons some breathing room. All but one did, and of course he made a fortune for his exclusive pictures (Levine, 86). It's the invasion of the stars private lives, the personal stories and the pictures that the paparazzi struggle to obtain; for they know that this is not only the material that earns them large sums of cash, but it is what the public desires to view and be apart of. The regular, everyday activities that most people do on a normal basis are glorified and blown out of proportion when done by a star and when these menial tasks become a public obsession the privacy of stars is intruded upon. And in Princess Diana's case, although she was not a Hollywood star, she was royalty who attained celebrity status and therefore also the treatment and image of a star. In this situation, it is easy to see that the paparazzi are actually only part of a larger problem.

There are no royalty in America, and yet the run-ins between celebrities and those who would take pictures of them are growing increasingly ugly. There are many instances of stars and their confrontations with the paparazzi that in some sense parallel those of Princess Diana. The Kennedy encounters are among the worst. Surely one reason Jacqueline Kennedy married Aristotle Onassis was the privacy that his immense

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wealth could offer her. In her later years, she finally got a court order against one of her most persistent stalkers. Her son John has a permanent blockade outside his apartment so that photographers have to stay a humane distance away as he and his wife, herself a constant target, come and go (Mulvaney, 39).

If you're not a Kennedy but just in the movies, you are also fair game, although the stars tend to fight back. George Clooney urged a boycott of Paramount Pictures TV shows because of their use of video paparazzi footage of him and his girlfriend. Alec Baldwin scuffled with a photographer who confronted his wife Kim Basinger and their newborn daughter as they came home from the hospital. In addition, Robert De Niro, Will Smith and Woody Harrelson have all fought with the shooters (Tabloid Frenzy).

But when really scrutinizing all of these situations one finds that there is a long chain of responsibility with much of it ending with the reader. If readers hadn't wanted to stand in the supermarket check-out lines and devour Princess Diana in her pink-flowered

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