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Matt Lauer and Celebrity “Outing”

Cross posted from The Faculty Lounge.
So while enjoying the guilty pleasure of watching the Today show at a hotel room yesterday morning, I – along with the rest of the world – heard the public declaration from favorite Family Ties mom, Meredith Baxter, that she is now officially coming out as a lesbian.  Extract from story here.

What intrigued me about this was not that she is gay, nor that she chose to come out publicly (apparently prompted by threats of exposure from the tabloid press).  I was interested in her choice of venue and interviewer for this news.  Why Matt Lauer?  Wouldn’t Ellen or Oprah have been more to the point?  Or even “The View”?  Or am I gender stereotyping by thinking that?

I’m not trying to say that she should talk to female rather than male reporters about being gay, but Matt Lauer as a person just doesn’t strike me as the obvious choice for this kind of story.  I’m not sure I can put my finger on exactly why though.  Baxter was obviously happy with her choice of interviewers as she closed the session by saying to him:  “Thank you for being the guy.”

I guess I should end my obsession with pop culture and start thinking about more “legal” issues.  But the pop culture has been interesting me lately because I’ve been thinking so much about personality rights law.  In the context of this kind of interview, one does see an undercurrent of a sense that some celebrities want a right to control their public persona not for commercial gain (as much right of publicity theory suggests), but out of a sense of control of aspects of their personhood and personal dignity.  I have long suspected that the right of publicity, if it should exist at all, should be more than just a commercial property right.