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Celebrities and the Obsession to Own Them

Updated on September 9, 2016
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Jamal is a graduate from Northeastern Seminary and writes on a broad range of topics. His writings are based on other points of view.

The hacking of Icloud has created the largest violation of privacy in Hollywood history.
The hacking of Icloud has created the largest violation of privacy in Hollywood history.

The Continuing Battle

The recent scandal over the hacking of the private accounts of female celebrities has put not only the entertainment community in uproar, but the people who enjoy watching them as well. It has also polarized the public over the morality of the issue and who is to blame; the hackers who broke into the accounts, or the celebrities themselves for taking the photos in the first place. Both sides have their share of strongly opinionated people as only the internet can produce. Projectiles ranging from, ‘slut-shaming’ and ‘right to privacy’, to lack of common sense and karma have been fired, but only succeeding in further antagonizing each other. I would like to look at this from another point of view.

Taking Ownership

The news sites, and, have recently revealed that what has been called the largest photo leak in Hollywood history is not the result of one hack, but of many that has been going on for years. Even more disturbing is that all known evidence points to not just one hacker trying to break into private files, but an entire ring devoted to the illegal effort and collecting these intimate files as trophies as well as selling them to interested parties out as soon as they get access. Most of us may be asking why some people devote so much time and effort to these, with little regard to the effect that it has or that it’s illegal.

People breaking laws to get at the private lives of famous people are nothing new. Back in 1995, the first real ‘leak’ of any sexual nature was when Pamela Anderson and then husband, Tommy Lee, had their home broken into and a private sex tape stolen. That tape was then played out all over the internet and many men clamored to get views of the sexy bombshell performing real sexual acts. There are also the stories of stalkers, people so obsessed with performance artists they admire that they are willing to go to extraordinary lengths to get close to them.

What these prior issues have in common with the recent photo leaks is that some of us feel as if we more or less own the actors we admire, look up to, or desire. Ownership can be interpreted in a few different ways in this context, but it all leads up to an expectation that they owe us something. Now sometimes that ‘something’ maybe just getting selfies taken with them at premieres. Other times it maybe that if the celebrities sell themselves as being publicly accessible to promote their products, that they are then obliged to satisfy our own desires in return.

Kate Middleton, the current Duchess of Cambridge, has had a constant struggle trying to maintain privacy while performing royal duties.
Kate Middleton, the current Duchess of Cambridge, has had a constant struggle trying to maintain privacy while performing royal duties.

The Burden of the Public Eye

This is often a common struggle between people on different social levels. Those who live on the lower and middle levels often look up to those people on the higher end of life, living the dream and the lifestyle that they wish they themselves had access to. Strangely, this also produces a sub-conscious animosity towards them. I’m not sure of a single popular figure, political or otherwise, who wasn’t at some point the subject of public judgments, even if those judgments were never expressed openly. This has been a reality for rulers and social notables, that when things go wrong or they screw up openly, it becomes all too easy to demonize them. We feel just a little bit more powerful than we normally do by exerting this moral authority over those in the upper hierarchy, which we otherwise usually lack.

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Why am I Paying You?

When it comes to media artists, it becomes even more entangling. While rulers may do what they want because they are presumably born into that role, actors and music artist have to be carried there via public opinion. They have to convince us that the product they or their company is selling is worth our time and money; singing, movies, or their own bodies, it doesn’t matter. Whether it’s the studio, the people, or just the momentum of the media machine itself, the lengths taken to convince us often becomes sexualized or overhyped.

Pamela Anderson was known for her blonde hair and great body, not her acting skills or any animal rights programs she supported. Jennifer Lopez has always been known for her ass first, and her singing and talent second. Tom Cruise has always been promoted for his charming smile and big movies that operated around his name alone. This isn’t to say that this is morally right, just this is what is playing out.

On top of this is the constant war between celebrity-hunting Paparazzi and the artists themselves trying to defend their privacy. Actress Halle Berry championed this cause when she went to Assembly of Sacramento to defend the privacy of actors with families who were being negatively affected by unwanted picture taking and pursuits. These artists therefore get their fame by appealing to our base nature rather than our intellect. The alternative is finding another job.

Is this now part of the job description to be a actor or a singer?
Is this now part of the job description to be a actor or a singer?

Dodging the Leash

The internet photo leak, while wrong, wasn’t about hating women, or about whose fault it was that the pictures existed to begin with. It is about the continuing tug of war between the media machine that feels the need to sell the celebrity image to draw in people, those people within the masses who embrace the media promotion too much, and the artists themselves trying to maintain some level of regular life without the scrutiny of the masses.

The people who go to illegal lengths to get their fix of a famous person, like those in the hacker ring are few, but those few can be very determined. Morality doesn’t deter them, or perhaps they have their own twisted version of it that they feel justifies their actions.

Either way, the struggle between getting known, while trying not to be owned, will continue as long as human society continues wanting to look up to the special few; the desirables, the jet setters, the finically set, and considering their lives to be so much better than ours that we covet it. It’s an added baggage to the ‘success’ of a career in the public eye and something that all future artists need to consider before venturing out into waters where not everyone has your best interest or your privacy at heart.


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