Comment Writer Lucy Dodd delves deep into the public’s fascination with America’s most famous family, arguing that Kim and Kanye will not be able to take a step back from the spotlight during their divorce
Over the past couple of weeks, the divorce of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West has been featured in what seems like all major newspaper and magazine outlets. Since it was announced over 2 weeks ago people have not stopped speculating over its cause and following the intimate details of how ‘Kimye’ are splitting their millions of dollars of assets. On Thursday night’s Jimmy Kimmel Live’ Sacha Baron Cohen poked new fun at the couple’s current situation. In a chaotic sketch selling vaccines, Cohen pretended to be on the phone to Kanye changing his order from ‘I’ve got you down for six’ to one, presumably referring to his estrangement from Kim and their four children. So the question is, do we as the general public have a right to know and judge celebrities’ private lives?
In general, I think no. Why should people have unrestricted access to some of the most intimate details of people’s lives just because their chosen professions make them celebrities? Actors are a prime example. If someone chooses to go into the acting profession and wants to become successful they know that this will come with a certain level of celebrity. What this does not mean is that the general public should now have access to everything, from their relationships all the way down to their choice of footwear when they pick up milk from the local shop.
For example, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie were a high-profile couple from the start. Meeting on the film ‘Mr and Mrs Smith’ and resulting in Brad’s divorce from fellow celebrity Jennifer Aniston their relationship was constantly in the spotlight. However, the two have made an effort to stay out of the general public’s watchful eye. Neither Pitt nor Jolie has any social media presence. And yet, just days ago their divorce was again put under the spotlight two years after the event because Jolie had sold a painting gifted to her by Brad for over $11 million. We should not have the right to know this when both parties have made it clear their private lives are their own.
However, in the case of Kim and Kanye the line is more blurred. Kim is arguably famous for simply being famous. She and Kanye have repeatedly placed themselves deliberately in the public eye for their own gain. Kim is best known for her fourteen-year stint on reality TV show ‘Keeping up with the Kardashians’ which exposed much of her own life and her childrens, while Kanye made a very controversial bid for President of the United States just last year, announcing his campaign on independence day. Therefore, unlike other celebrities attempting to stay out of the public eye, it is hard with Kim and Kanye to draw a line between the parts of their lives open to the public and those closed off. If you let the public know all, you can’t just choose to stop.
But why does the public want to know all? From a discussion of Kim and Kanye’s right to privacy, a deeper question emerges about popular culture and why the general public needs to follow celebrities’ everyday actions beyond their performances on-screen or the music they release. Journalist Winston Fletcher rightfully pointed out that contrary to popular belief, our obsession with celebrity is no new phenomenon. Madame Tussaud opened her exhibition of waxwork celebs in Baker Street in 1835 and it has been successful ever since, while literature since Homer spoke of Achilles in his Iliad of Ancient Greece, audiences have constantly returned to the mysterious power of fame. Yes, the quest for fame may have intensified in modern times with celebrities (such as Kim) being famous just for being famous, but ultimately why fame is unique to humanity is an age-old question and I’m not sure anyone can explain.
What many have attempted to explain is the notable negative effects of fame and it’s accompanying invasion of celebrities’ privacy. Like fame itself, these negative effects can be traced back throughout history. More recently, the public has been witness to the catastrophic effects that intense media attention has on celebrities with the deaths of singers, actors, and TV personalities from overdoses of drugs and alcohol. In the twentieth century, one of the most notable was the death of 1950s icon Marilyn Monroe. Sadly, she has been followed in the last two decades by Amy Winehouse, Prince, Caroline Flack, and numerous others. What this should signal to us is the need for celebrities to have a private life that is kept away from the public’s scrutiny. Unfortunately, not everyone has taken the warning. People still want every detail of celebrities’ lives, the press still reports on it, and celebrities still use it to make a profit, as is the case with Kim and Kanye.
Overall then, the negative effects of the invasion of celebrities’ privacy on their wellbeing are clear which is why those who make all efforts to avoid the public eye should be allowed a private life without judgment. However, for those celebrities who choose to showcase their private life to the public for personal gain and ignore what such fame may do to them or their families, I think they have forfeited the right for the media to feel responsible for invading whatever’s left. They have let the public become invested in their lives like how we become invested in characters’ lives in a movie and you can’t stop the movie without a conclusion.
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