What if it was Paris Hilton?
That’s the question I asked a friend of mine on Tuesday night when we were discussing one of the biggest international stories of the week – the hacking of phones of celebrities, and the subsequent leaking of compromising photos.
My friend, by the way, hesitated for a moment when I asked her that question.
At the public centre of this story is the very talented actress, Jennifer Lawrence.
Lawrence is one of those rare Hollywood stories – her Wikipedia page doesn’t have a ‘controversy’ tab (well, it didn’t until this week) and she has managed to ride to fame without the usual trials and tribulations of the movie business.
She does extensive charity work, her movies are almost always first class and she’s managed to keep a pretty tight control on her personal life.
That was until this week, when naked photographs found their way onto the Internet as a result of a major hacking case, that has affected many other celebrities, too.
Despite the best efforts of her and her representatives, the photographs will live forever online – that’s the unfortunate downside of the Internet, it rarely allows for redemption and can act like a public record of your private life.
The interest from males for obvious reasons aside, most people have condemned the hack this week and have expressed great sympathy for Lawrence, which is deserved.
But back to that question, what if it was Paris Hilton? Or hey, what about Kim Kardashian?
Would you still care as much?
Would the media have reported it differently?
You may deny it, but I contest you wouldn’t care as much. And yes, I believe the story would have been reported differently.
That’s of course incredibly unfair, but part of the cruel reality of how our society’s reactions and outrage levels change based on who’s involved.
The hacking and leaking of photos this week is a disgraceful story with many eye-opening lessons and a plethora of questions.
But the outrage has bizarrely moved on from the hacker, to attacking people who dare look at the photos, or comment about them in any way other than disgust. In fact, some of the most popular opinion pieces, and various posts from friends of mine on social media, barely mention the hacker and go straight to attacking individuals for daring to want to see the photos.
This is where, personally, I think the whole issue has gone off-track and the arguments are becoming misplaced.
Be outraged at the hacker and the illegal way in which the photos were leaked, absolutely.
But don’t turn this into some sort of self-serving bash-up that is contradicted every single day and will continue to be well into the future.
Because here’s the truth – those taking the high road and encouraging people to not look at the Jennifer Lawrence photos, will look at the next celebrity nude photos that come out.
Or they’ll buy a magazine that features photos taken from a long lens, invading a celebrity’s privacy. Let me give you a prime example.
Last week, Lara Bingle was captured swimming and frolicking on the beach topless in Hawaii. The photos are easily accessible on the web, and media organisations like the Daily Telegraph published them, albeit censored.
Granted, it was on a public beach and the photographs were obtained legally – the fundamental difference between this and the Lawrence case.
But does that mean we should openly accept that it’s OK for naked photos of her to be taken, and distributed? Why is it OK for us to look at those photos, but not those of Jennifer Lawrence? After all, I presume Lara Bingle didn’t want naked photos of her all over the Internet either, did she?
And if it’s not OK, where was the outrage?
Even female-focused website MamaMia, which has tried to go with the ‘misogyny at work’ argument in relation to the Lawrence photos, ran the Lara Bingle story and photos last week, with one of their writers proudly exclaiming her love of Bingle’s breasts.
Are we OK with that, because it’s Lara Bingle?
Maybe my question should have been, what if it was Lara Bingle?