Celebrity and the Press: Rights and Responsibilities

I’ve recently been reading Robin Barnes’ book, Outrageous Invasions, about rights of celebrities and public figures to protect their privacy and their reputations in the face of a free press.  The book again makes me think about the relationship between celebrities and the press and that old question about whether celebrities should be expected to give up some of their privacy in exchange for their celebrity and where lines should be drawn between what is truly private and what is fair game to the press.  Another aspect of this (that Barnes also talks about in her book) is the extent to which celebrities should be entitled to use their media contacts for purposes unrelated to their careers such as talking about politics or other issues that are important to them, but outside the scope of, say, promoting the last movie they made.  Whilst channel hopping the other night, I happened to see part of an interview between Piers Morgan and Matt Damon where Damon was talking about his disappointment in President Obama and how he feels that Obama has misunderstood his mandate.  This snippet of the interview was side-by-side with questions about Damon’s family, his recent movie (The Adjustment Bureau), and charitable causes with which Damon is involved.  Damon appears to be an intelligent, thoughtful and amazingly grounded guy given his status in Hollywood.  But the interview really got me thinking about issues raised in Barnes’ book.  For example, should celebrities like Damon (even thoughtful intelligent celebrities) be using their media clout to criticize the president?  To promote particular charities?  Damon may be a bad example here because he doesn’t appear to be doing anything outrageous with his celebrity.  What about Brad and Angelina who sold exclusive photos of their new babies to use the proceeds for charity (on the basis that the paparazzi would be hounding them for photos and would probably get photos for free anyway and not use them for any useful purposes)?  Is there anything wrong or distasteful about this?  I don’t know – but Barnes has made me think more about it…

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