Should the press be allowed to take photos of celeb children?
From the Star Shots of Star to the Hot Pics of US Weekly, from the Startracks of People to the News in Photos of OK! magazines compete to get their hands on the best snapshots of celebrities and their families. Photos of celebrity children are in demand because readers nationwide clamor for them.
We want to know that stars are just like us, juggling kids and diaper bags and carpools. (In fact, US Weekly dedicates a whole page to the callout "Stars—they're just like US!" and now a full page to "Kids Stars—they're just like US!") But do we stop to think about how the paparazzi that feed into these publications managed to snag these shots?
Halle Berry described one situation during her custody battle that bordered on a verbal assault of her 5-year-old daughter Nahla, "[The photographer] said, 'How do you feel, Nahla? You may not see your father again. How do you feel about that?"
Now pregnant with her second child, Berry is taking action by supporting strict amendments to a bill known as SB606. The existing law states that it is a misdemeanor crime to "harass a child due to the occupation of his or her parents or guardian." The proposed amendments to the law would allow the attempt to photograph or record a child without parental consent to be classified as such harassment and would escalate the punishment of these crimes (from an up to $1,000 fine to an up to $10,000 fine and increase the maximum imprisonment from six months to one year). The new law would also allow the parents to file a civil action against perpetrators.
Of course, the media is up in arms waving First Amendment rights and Freedom of the Press. Motion Picture Association of America and other organizations oppose the bill for these reasons and for the unintended consequences that could result: What if you take a picture of your kid at soccer practice and Suri Cruz just happens to be in the background?
But, in truth, the MPAA need not worry about this. The law, as it is currently proposed, bans harassment. Taking a photo of a child in public in and of itself is not harassment, but can be considered harassment if the act "seriously alarms, annoys, torments, or terrorizes the child" to the point of "substantial emotional distress."
Listening to the stories of these celeb parents, the paparazzi's behavior is not just an invasion of privacy it is potentially harmful to these kids. On August 13, Jennifer Garner—actress and mom of three—testified to the Assembly Judiciary Committee in Sacramento, "Large aggressive men swarm us causing a mob scene, yelling, jockeying for a position, crowding around the kids. My 17-month-old baby is terrified and cries." Berry stated that her daughter is afraid to go to school because photographers are always jumping out of the bushes.
The bill passed the Judiciary Committee and now awaits judgment by the Assembly Appropriations Committee before becoming official law. While Berry and Garner are the public supporters of the bill, I can only imagine that other actors and actresses feel the same way. One could argue that along with their career choice, they have opted in to a life in the public eye. But should their children's daily lives be fodder for our daily entertainment by default?
Garner nearly burst into tears as she pleaded her case, "I don't want a gang of shouting, arguing, lawbreaking photographers who camp out everywhere we are all day every day to continue traumatizing my kids."
Since much of the intention behind these pictures is to show that celebrities are just like us, perhaps we should consider if us average Janes would put up with the constant camera flashes and provocative shouting every time we went to the grocery store or school or piano lessons or T-ball. Do the kids of stars have a right to the same treatment as our children?
Let us know your thoughts below!