Thursday, November 25, 2010

Public Figures and Private Lives


   Sometimes when I read about Mel Gibson, Paris Hilton and other public figures whose private lives spill onto the front pages of our newspapers, it almost seems as though their personal lives are being packaged as public entertainment. When I pick up the National Enquirer, the Globe or other celebrity gossip tabloids, I seriously worry about what effect this has on the people who produce our entertainment. Could being "on stage" 24/7 lead to creative or personal burnout? Do the people who entertain us welcome and cultivate this scrutiny of their private lives or does it pain them? If I view gossip about my friends and coworkers to be objectionable, how should I feel about discussing Brittany Spears?

Sometimes, there is a connection between the private lives of public figures and their later contributions to public life. Josip Broz Tito, the leader of Yugoslavia was of Croatian and Slovenian descent. Was his devotion to Yugoslavia, a collection of South Slavic nations related to his mixed ancestry?

Hitler and Stalin both grew up in harsh family environments. How did their familial experiences shape their approach to government? Were there common denominators that explained their genocidal common denominator? The OSS, the forerunner of the CIA commissioned a psychological biography of Hitler that focused on the link between the private life of Hitler and his public persona.

In the entertainment world, episodes and aspects of Eminem's personal life have fueled, coloured and influenced his creative output. Despite this, he does not turn his life into a reality TV show. Day to day events in his life still take place behind a curtain of privacy.

Some public figures attempt to maintain a shield of privacy. Woody Allen and Paul McCartney are known to dislike being approached by fans despite instances in which their private lives spilled onto the pages of the tabloids. Other people open a window into their private lives. Art Linkletter, who produced "Kids Say The Darndest Things." discussed publicly his daughter Diane's suicide in 1969 at age 20 with the hope of educating people about the dangers of drugs.Ronald Reagan and his family were very open about his affliction with Alzheimer's disease.

Is there a place for celebrity gossip? I would say that celebrities should be discussed with their consent. We should not be prying our way into their personal lives.Hitler, Stalin and other public figures who present a danger would constitute an exception to this rule.For those who must discuss the lives of others, there are soap operas and sitcoms.

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