The UK, the rest of the Commonwealth and let’s face it, the world, has stood still over the last few days. As third in line for the British throne, William and Kate Windsor’s (or Wills and Kate as they are better known) new born son has burst into the limelight with countless messages of congratulations flooding into the Royal couple as well as thousands of photographers making their way onto the internet instantly. But what if this 8lb 6oz bundle of joy opts to turn his back on his destiny of Monarchy? What if he does not want to be known by every citizen of the world?
Instinct, Choice & Celebrity Culture
Parenting is all about instinct. Every decision you make as a parent is all a matter of personal choice. Should I save up so my child has a chance at further education? Should I give them a curfew? Or should I allow them to make decisions for themselves? Many of those people lucky (or unlucky) enough to be in the glare of the public eye- celebrities to you and I, are parents. And the choices they make with regards to their kids become even more significant.
For a child with a famous parent, sometimes a life gracing the pages of Heat magazine is all they know. Take the offspring of Katie Price (Jordan) and Peter Andre. Although the couple are no more (sob sob) and Ms Price is undoubtedly shacking up with her latest hubby, their children have been subject to several reality shows and many a magazine spread. But being celebrities, everything they said and did was in the public domain and due to the popularity of their T.V. shows; their 2009 split was also public property.
Katie Price has recently decided that Harvey, her severely disabled child from (another) previous relationship, is not to be featured in the public domain again until he can make the decision for himself. But the question is, should the couple have thrown their kids into public view with so little hesitation? Surely it would be best to wait until their children are at an age when they can decide whether their fate lies in the celebrity world or not. The fact is it is their parents who are of interest to the public and that should not directly concern their children or any other member of their family.
Paparazzi & the Law
Aside from campaigning or, let’s face it, just walking fast, there’s very little celebrity parents can do to prevent photographers from taking pictures of their kids. As long as the paparazzi are in a public place and are willing to fork out to get their work published in the press, there’s nothing stopping them. Several mothers have even physically lashed out at photographers for insistently snapping their cameras around their children, including Nicole Richie and Sarah Jessica Parker.
“They’re always going to be pursued because there’s a market for those photographs, and not much can be done to shield them” said Robert Mintz, from law firm McCarter & English. “Celebrities have gotten a restraining order against individual photographers, but even then, they’re only required to maintain a certain distance- they’re not precluded from photographing altogether.”
Constantly having your photo taken from a very young age can have severe mental and psychological effects on you. Lee Kamlet, Dean of the School of Communications at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut and a former producer for ABC News said that he would worry as a famous parent. But he also said that sometimes celebrity parents put their kids in the spotlight deliberately. “Celebrity parents usually have a reason for having their children in public that may not be obvious, and they also have ways to shield them,” he said. “But once you put them on public view, then they’re absolutely fair game.”
Some celebrity children have had to learn this the hard way. Lourdes Leon, Madonna’s daughter, was snapped in May smoking a cigarette, which, of course is illegal for a 15-year-old. The image was printed in The New York Post and was therefore in the public domain and could not be removed. Although throwing kids into the spotlight can be a positive thing, perhaps to highlight a rare illness or condition they possess.
Protecting what’s precious
Some celebrities such as Ewan McGregor and his wife Eve Mavrakis, as well as Halle Berry, who in April this year began to campaign for a complete ban on photographing celebrity children. McGregor and his wife want to protect their four children from paparazzi and television shows in order to give them an ordinary upbringing. Whereas Halle Berry wants to have the 200-year-old law changed in the US so photographers are banned from taking pictures of all famous kids. Although she famously lost her custody case where she requested the court to allow her to move her daughter Nahla Aubrey to France because they have heavy anti-paparazzi laws in place.
One of the Media industry’s oldest dilemmas is finding the balance between the right to and the need to give consumers the news they’re after. Frank Griffin, co-owner of photographing agency. The Paparazzi has been under-fire ever since celebrity culture emerged and the fact is, legally if something can be seen it can be photographed. The only thing to be done within the constraints of the law is asking the photographer to stop, asking them to leave the area and wiping their memory card. Failure to leave private residence could result in being charged for trespassing.
The best way for celebrities to avoid the wrath of photographers and the glare of the media spotlight upon their children is to hide them from the public. Children are not emotional tools and despite how famous and in demand their parent may be, they have yet to reach an age when they can decide if the snap-happy life is for them. Being sheltered from photographers will do children no harm and allows them to grow up in as normal a fashion as possible.
Despite the fact that this may not be possible for the latest addition to the Windsor family, there are to be no Royal tours and vast public spectacles that were expected of Prince Charles and sister Anne when they were young. Therefore there has been progress with regards to protecting celebrity and royal children over the last decade or two, but more needs to be done to stop implementing parents’ lifestyle choices on their offspring.