Jul 28, 2010
A spate of celebrity involved sex scandals, suicides and rumours of extramarital affairs involving sports personalities have hit the headlines in the last two weeks. One the one hand it shows our proclivity for some steamy news and it also proves beyond that sex and sleaze sells like a hot cake in our country and elsewhere and the media which is always in the look out for some ‘breaking news’ with a tinge of sex, is ready to pounce upon any scandals involving celebrities. We have seen and experienced it time and again as we are fed with such a doze on a regular basis. If it has got something to do with the private lives of say politicians, sports persons, film stars, T V personalities, models and singers, then there is no stopping the media from unearthing every bit of sleazy information and thus putting their private life in public domain.
The Tiger Woods Scandal and the media scrutiny that followed and its repercussions on his private life are still vivid in the minds of the public. In our own Karnataka the sordid Harthal Halappa sex scandal had its own ramifications, though many doubt the veracity of the allegations and the motive behind this sordid saga. However, the motive has taken a backseat in this murky incident as of now. But the damage was done. The incident gave the media and public a steaming topic to discuss for weeks and months together. Then there was the author and publisher David Davidar scandal of “consensual and flirtatious relationship” with his former colleague Linda Rundle, for which he had to pay a heavy price though the consequences of it on his personal life are not made public.
Now the “jwala” in stylist batsman and former Indian skipper and Member of Parliament Mohammed Azaruddin’s life is the latest scandal to grab eyeballs in the Indian media, which has gone gaga over the supposedly new woman in Azar’s life. “Pati, patni or Woh” theme seems to be the perfect recipe for ‘breaking news’ in the Indian context as that keeps the television channels occupied for a couple of days and the viewers too hooked to the channels. These media reports spoke about Azar planning to divorce his wife of 14 years Sangeetha Bijlani, a former model and actress and that makes a grand cocktail of cricket-politics-sports-Bollywood, enough to send the media and public into a delirium.
At the same time Indian Women’s Hockey and Weightlifting teams are mired in sexual harassment controversies involving their coaches. So the last week gave the hungry T V channels and an equally hungry public something to chew upon on a weekend. It is not the first time such sex scandals to hit public domain. Just a few weeks back suicides by two top models Viveka Babajee and Natasha were discussed threadbare by television and print media thus satiating the curiosity of an equally enthusiastic and inquisitive public as to know what really the trigger point for their suicides was. The media showed scant regards to the turmoil of the family members or the privacy they wanted in their hour of grief, and were bent upon seeking salacious bites or reactions.
People’s predilection for celebrity scandals is well known and every time there was a scandal the media gained momentum. The clamor to be the first to come out with such breaking news with new angles to the story, results in adding more masala to make it a spicy dish.
Why is it that people are so obsessed with celebrity private life? Or what is it about celebrity that fascinates them so much? One look at our tabloids, yellow journals, Television news and shows, internet blogs and regular newspapers demonstrate that we are a celebrity-obsessed people who never get tired of celebrity news, gossips and scandals. Of course there are some regular page 3 people who go to any level just to be featured in the media, which in itself is a subject for discussion. One look at even our standards newspapers show that some glossy pictures of celebrities are included daily with news of some gossip just to provide a steamy effect aimed at titillating the public. Yet it looks as though we are not a satisfied lot and still feel more doze of information surrounding them is always welcome. It goes to prove that celebrity life has become an inseparable part of our culture without which we lack the zest to keep us going.
There is a growing feeling that media is trespassing into the privacy of these individuals paying too much attention to the minutest details of their private lives. In this information age there is an abundant supply of information that percolates from all corners and that pertaining to scandals has many takers. At this juncture we need to ask whether private lives of public people should be subjected to public scrutiny? The general feeling is that once a person enters a public life he is subjected to constant scrutiny. This is mainly because whatever their personal lives may be people look up to these public figures to lead by example and expect them to follow some personal probity in their lives completely forgetting that too have a personal life, just like all of us. There is nothing wrong in looking up to these people and expecting them to be above board when it comes to their personal lives. But the lack of it does not mean one has to crucify them by denying them the right to privacy.
The “Peeping Tom” is prevalent in almost all individuals and celebrity obsession is a natural human instinct where people develop passion for knowing about other people’s private lives. Basically we are very nosy or cheeky people. There is some sadistic pleasure people derive from getting to know more about celebrity news particularly about scandals, suicides and crimes. We have a large number of television viewers addicted to murder related serials which corroborates this aspect. Outwardly we express remorse when something goes wrong with a top celebrity but heart of heart we wished something to go wrong, though we may not acknowledge it.
However, there should be a limit when it comes to getting into the celebrity private lives beyond which it nothing but voyeuristic. It is like gossiping. Though gossiping to a certain extent is said to be relaxing and healthy, once it becomes an obsession it is like crossing the danger zone. People are generally fascinated by the unknown and the unfamiliar and that heightens the tendency to get a peep into other’s lives.
The degree to which the media is free to get into the private details of people in public life varies from country to country. The right to freedom of expression cannot be treated as a license to probe into private live. Such a probe can be justified if their private lives affect the public office they hold or they misuse the public office for their private gains. Excessive public attention on individual privacy as happened in the case of Princess Diana is like playing around a danger zone and is suicidal. What Tiger Woods or Mohammed Azaruddin do with their lives is strictly a private affair and somewhere down the line one has to have a borderline on giving them that privacy.