If it were not for the media would Princess Diana and Michael Jackson be alive today? What defined a celebrity before the current era of paparazzi? Does their existance do us, the people, more harm than good?
The answers to these questions neither come easy nor are simple. Princess Diana sped to her death away from who she perceived as paparazzi. The necessity to shield her private life away from the 'Sauron' like eye of the public whisked her directly into the open arms of death. Similarly, Michael Jackson's final years were plagued with negative publicity which is a certain cause of his fatal addiction to prescription drugs.
The often 'good cop, bad cop' routine played by the fickle media leaves the lives of these celebrities wide open to public autopsies. The constant acceptance and now the daily ritual of preying on celebrity has given birth to a host of new business models, including gossip websites. What happened to the era when celebrities were reverred for their talents and their on screen persona? Their private lives remained as such, private. People saw them at premieres or interviews or at award shows thus wrapping them in that alluring shroud of mystery. Whilst also allowing them the honor of privacy in their daily lives.
In this era, the declining readership of print newspapers induce the editors to obtain more 'readable' material from the paparazzi and the increasing popularity of the internet propels the disbursement of such material to a wider audience. Angelina Jolie, in an era gone by, would have been likened to Grace Kelly or Jackie O. However, we can now even obtain extensive analysis of the veins in her arms on certain days.
A similar paparazzi culture has given claim to a fame to a host of otherwise forgotten individuals. In the past, Lindsay Lohan would possibly not have any claim to fame - she would be a one hit wonder. Now, without a single good production in the pipeline and almost broke, she remains in the forefront of celebrity news for her junkie lifestyle. Paris Hilton, Nicole Ritchie and a host of others manipulated the glitz of their families to obtain the focus of these cameras. It is difficult to respect and adore the art of these artistes when you have seen their underwear. What art can most of these celebrities speak of? Celebrities for the most part used to comprise of artistes. This is no longer the phenomenon.
Although an ardent fan of MJ's music, I never looked at nor paid attention to the paparazzi spin of his life that was potrayed by the media for the past few years. Thus I was able to retain the magic that his art cast on my life since childhood. This retention and this pure adoration for an artiste's work and for the gifts he had given us, is what makes it difficult for me to accept his sudden demise. I also believe this is what makes MJ the last true celebrity. Someone adored all over the world, not for the news they generated on one day by wearing a certain type of clothing but for their art - which in the end is what will remain for years to come.
It is a shame to see that people who have brought moments of peace to our lives through their work in movies or music, are now subjugated to our constant analysis and ridicule. If this brings about a phenomenon that we no longer see good pieces of art or music that has soul, it is as much our fault (for feeding the paparazzi the fuel to satisfy our thirst for celebrity gossip) as much as anyone elses.