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Media intrusion in the lives of Hollywood stars

Since Hollywood was established as a municipality in 1903 and later consolidated into Los Angeles, the emergence of rumors and celebrity obsession has greatly impacted female-identifying artists. From actors like Clara Bow to Gloria Swanson, the 1920s, in particular, saw an increase in celebrity coverage as silent films boomed in Hollywood.

News coverage of celebrities, especially at TV and movie premieres, increased during the 1950s and 1960s. Stars like Elvis Presley, Audrey Hepburn and Sidney Poitier rose to fame through consistent media coverage, and reporters became more inquisitive about celebrities' lives and personas.

However, this curiosity led to intrusion. In the late 1950s, paparazzi exploded in Rome after photographers like Tazio Secchiaroli and Marcello Geppetti began to follow celebrities in their daily lives, wanting to capture their informalities.

Meanwhile, premieres became bigger spectacles, adding in award shows and red-carpet interviews that we see now at the Academy Awards and the Golden Globe Awards. 

Those new reporting styles allowed news organizations to gain popularity and expand the topics they could report on. But they also served as an extremely harmful development. Celebrity journalism soared, taking inspiration from the early 1700s and 1800s tabloids.

During that same period, a writer named James Boswell wrote over 70 columns for the London Magazine, using gossip he heard about celebrities and politicians to gain mass appeal. Boswell and many others who followed him would discuss daily rumors they heard, fabricating lies that would increase readership. By the mid-18th century, sex scandals and relationship drama became common occurrences in many writers' works, especially as printing became more accessible. 

The 1980s and 1990s adapted these tabloids into television shows like "The Jerry Springer Show" and "The Oprah Winfrey Show," focusing reporting on pop culture updates and events. Celebrities also started speaking out about their horrible experiences on television shows like these.

In one incident, Oprah Winfrey interviewed Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen during an episode of her show. She asked both actresses if they had eating disorders after rumors had circulated about the subject. The Olsens both said they tried "not to read the good or the bad" rumors about themselves, causing Winfrey to then pry about their clothing size. The two actresses both looked extremely uncomfortable, and Winfrey has since received backlash after the interview resurfaced in 2021. 

Fabrication and misinformation were also used to inform audiences about celebrity news, making it a period that saw invasive behavior increase on a global scale. 

For example, Princess Diana was hounded by paparazzi after her marriage to Prince Charles in 1981, and it followed her through the news of her husband's alleged affair. According to TIME, she became the most photographed person in the world, with photographers valuing her photos up to $656,000. The princess's private life was extremely exposed to the public; in 1993, she sued Mirror Group Newspapers for printing photos of her at the gym. 

As she became more famous, Princess Diana began confronting paparazzi but her pursuers only used this to their advantage. Some photographers called her outbursts "loon attacks," using these instances to take photos of her crying or with her head down. 

She died in 1997 after a car crash in the Pont de l'Alma tunnel in Paris. While the police found the driver guilty of operating the vehicle intoxicated, many people blamed the paparazzi who were chasing the car.

Diana's tragic passing proved how the lines between public and private were intensely blurred for celebrities. Jurors ruled she was "unlawfully killed" by the driver and photographers, and tabloids like The Sun and The Mirror recorded their lowest sales figures since 1962.

For decades, women have been the targets of intrusion by the media and public. With the rise of the internet and social media, people have used these platforms to continue attacking their relationships, friendships, styles and bodies.

The 2000s was arguably one of the worst eras of intrusion in entertainment journalism. Celebrities like Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, Lady Gaga, Michael Jackson and Beyoncé were subjected to hateful comments on not just their talent but more specifically for breaking gender and societal norms and stereotypes. It also brought about a radical shift from gossip and rumors to conspiracy.

Spears, who shaved her head in 2007, was labeled as "crazy" by the media, an unjust reaction based on beauty standards of the time. Lohan's car was deliberately crashed into in 2005 by Galo Cesar Ramirez, a photographer who had been following her. When the actress wanted to get law enforcement involved, Ramirez rammed into her Mercedes. He was arrested for assault with a deadly weapon.

Meanwhile, Lady Gaga was rumored to have a penis after a fan took an inappropriate photo, causing her to deny the claim once major news sources like ABC News took hold of it. 

The claim also sparked rumors about her sexuality, where the singer said, "I don't think being gay or being bisexual or being sexually free is anything that should be hidden. Everybody has a right to their secrecy, of course, but I don't feel particularly shy about it. It is who I am."

Jackson was also frequently questioned about race in the 2000s when many media outlets reported he had bleached his skin. However, his skin changes were due to a skin disorder called vitiligo, which destroys the pigmentation of the skin. 

In an interview with Winfrey back in the 1990s, the singer denounced rumors that he was ashamed of his race, saying, "I'm a Black American. I am proud to be a Black American. I am proud of my race, and I am proud of who I am. I have a lot of pride and dignity of who I am."

Similar to Jackson, Beyoncé's race became a major motivator for people to attack her music and brand as an artist. As one of the most successful Black female musicians of our time, the media has continued to bully and downplay the singer's accomplishments. As Jay-Z pointed out this year, she has never won Album of the Year at the Grammy Awards despite being the top Grammy winner with 32 awards.

The singer has also been subjected to questions about her love life. Her relationship was widely reported on after the release of 2016's "Lemonade," which dealt with her husband's infidelity. With the media producing multiple articles over a rumored divorce, Jay-Z responded to The New York Times by debunking the rumors, revealing that the two both were using their music as therapy to move on from his infidelity.

There are countless examples of how the media industry has abused female celebrities, but celebrity coverage is so lucrative that it will likely not end anytime soon.

As sensationalism and misinformation continue to be promoted by social media platforms, and as certain members of society keep promoting traditionalist values, successful women will be forced to deal with this kind of scrutiny. 


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