Over the weekend, two stories broke within a matter of hours. The first revealed the tactical termination plans of Josie Cunningham of NHS boob-job notoriety. The second was Lindsay Lohan's season finale miscarriage bombshell. Putting aside righteous outrage and peremptory disbelief for a moment, it seems worth addressing the troubling epidemic of some sort of obsessive-compulsive disclosure.
We live in a perverse age of celebrity culture. Considering, the number of 'belfies' in ill-fitting swimsuits mooning about on Twitter, and the recent Instagram #aftersex overshares, it is hard to believe that the Phone Hacking Scandal and Leveson Inquiry took place in the same decade. It appears that for every public figure that wants to maintain some sense of privacy, there is another willing to air the most personal aspects of their lives.
I have not watched any of Lohan's OWN series but it strikes as a misguided decision to follow the every-move of a young recovering addict, whose struggles were, at least partially, a result of this overexposed culture.
Previous episodes have reportedly contained revelations of Lohan falling off the wagon, behaving unprofessionally and cancelling filming. The question has to be asked, what person would choose to have all this documented and thrown out as bait for a greedy public to feed on?
Speaking on the Late Show, the actress said "Some things are taken out of context and that creates the drama... I don't have control of the editing." So this is manipulative publicity tactics, or, perhaps worse, Lohan's colleagues are taking advantage of a sick woman to make dramatic TV disguised as a career comeback.
Whatever the case, the depths to which celebrities will go to sustain public interest is uncomfortable, and the extent to which the public are interested is, frankly, sinister. Apparently, we have become so accustomed to playing the central character in our own twisted social media shows that many of us do not question our right of access to the intimate lives of people we don't know.
I do not entirely exempt myself from this group and the irony that I am writing an article about these disclosures does not escape me. However, I would suggest that a world where a young woman did not feel the need to publicise a trauma (real or otherwise, either scenario is sad) would be a better place. The same goes for Tom Daly's public statement of his sexuality and the cheating scandal rocking the marriage of Tori Spelling and Dean McDermott.
In a blog post yesterday, Spelling explained her reasons for giving her marriage troubles an audience:
"the tabloids have told every story you could imagine -- and they always got it wrong... I don't know if it will have a happy ending. But I need to get my voice back, and this is my way of doing that."
Is that really what we have come to? A place where full disclosure is control?
The problem remains that as long as there is a consumer demand for this kind of information 'reality' TV will continue to be made, the press will continue to dig and misguided celebrities will offer themselves up to the buzzards in a thinly veiled attempt at regulating their public image.
And then there's the case of Josie Cunningham. I find her reasons for aborting her baby deeply troubling but is it really such a mystery as to why she's offered this life-altering decision to the media on a plate? The woman wants to be famous -- she's not alone. We are a narcissistic society. With the chance of a spot on a reality game show fading fast, she has used what celebrity culture has taught her, and offered her bones for the picking.
What does it matter if people verbally abuse her? It's worked. People who didn't know about her on Saturday are now talking about her. She's totally in control, right?
Let's stop reprehending these women for a moment and acknowledge how scary this disclosure epidemic is. Let's look at how we perpetuate it. Perhaps we can all take some responsibility, and the next time we see a shock revelation, hold back from clicking and ask ourselves who this benefits. It seems like the worst that can happen is a few people might fade into the background, which might well be for the best. I can well imagine, the alternative is completely losing grip of reality -- a time when we're all allowing full access to our intimate lives before we have processed them ourselves.
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