Of the movie’s villains, the paparazzi are distinctive in being a number of the maximum precarious teams within the Hollywood media device.

“Framing Britney Spears,” the most recent documentary from “The New York Instances Items” sequence, has created many perceived villains within the Spears fiasco: her father, ex-boyfriends and husbands, her mom, media figures like Diane Sawyer and Matt Lauer, and, after all, the paparazzi.

There’s a jarring second within the documentary the place, after a paparazzo tells Spears “we’re thinking about you,” the following scene displays him seeking to ask her questions. Spears’ cousin asks him to not after which Spears angrily emerges from the automobile along with her umbrella, moves his automotive, and says, “Pass f___ your self.” The interviewer within the movie asks the paparazzo if he thinks the paparazzi affected Spears, and he argues that they didn’t. He says, “There have been occasions when she mentioned depart me on my own for the day. Nevertheless it wasn’t like depart me on my own without end.” What the scene leaves unexplained is what the dynamic between Spears and the paparazzi used to be in truth like each day, outdoor of this evocative second. The interview with the paparazzo is carried out and minimize in a method to shed light on that the interviewer puts blame at the photographers for Spears’ psychological and emotional state.

Famous person-paparazzi courting

The fame-paparazzi courting is way more nuanced than the movie may lead audience to consider, specifically relating to Spears. Whilst the movie displays a tearful second of Spears complaining in regards to the paparazzi in a 2006 interview with Matt Lauer, Out of doors of the notorious umbrella scene featured within the movie, Spears had a collaborative and in fact pleasant courting with many photographers. “When she didn’t know the place she used to be going, she would let us know, and we’d lend a hand her get the place she had to pass,” one paparazzo advised me. “We necessarily would create a motorcade for her to ensure she didn’t get misplaced. That is anyone we noticed day-to-day and he or she knew us.” 

This 2006 photograph finds Spears within the automotive of a paparazzo named Galo Ramirez, who Spears had requested for a trip. She went on thus far a paparazzo named Adnan Ghalib from 2007 to 2008. It’s contradictory to claim Spears’ company as a reliable and a hit entertainer as a explanation why for why she shouldn’t be positioned beneath a conservatorship and why we want to #freebritney, whilst on the identical time perpetuating the fiction that she lacked company in her interactions with the paparazzi.

Photograph of Ramirez in automotive with Britney Spears in 2006 (Photograph: handout)

Of the movie’s villains, the paparazzi are distinctive in being a number of the maximum precarious teams within the Hollywood media device. They’re uncovered to excessive possibility at the task (they have got been assaulted by security guards and celebrities, and even killed while working), and are frequently manipulated by celebrities and their handlers. The paparazzi are also the only demographic of predominantly BIPOC media producers in Hollywood. From approximately 2002 to 2008, the demographics of the Los Angeles paparazzi transitioned from a labor force of predominantly white men to one of predominantly Latino men, many of whom are immigrants. The paparazzo featured in the film, Daniel Ramos, who worked as a paparazzo from 2004 to 2013, exemplifies this Latino demographic shift.

A number of factors contributed to this shift, including an explosion in the number of celebrity weekly magazines that created the need and budget for photos former Us magazine photo director Brittain Stone discusses in the film, the low barriers of entry into the profession, the need for laborers willing to work around the clock, and the social networks of immigrant labor. Despite their position at the bottom of the Hollywood food chain and the media’s reliance on their images,the  paparazzi are made the scapegoat for everything wrong with celebrity culture, often in ways that collide with anti-immigrant and anti-Latino sentiment.

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As Ramos notes in the film, it’s “hard to get out of [paparazzi work] once you start making the kind of money these guys were making,” particularly when these photographers are largely working-class men of color without a college education. In the film, Stone also reveals the multimillion-dollar budget the weekly magazines allocated for exclusive celebrity shots. The magazines spent exorbitant amounts of money on photos because the public was buying the magazines with salacious covers and coverage. Placing blame on paparazzi sidesteps the market forces that demand their labor.

Systemic problems in entertainment media

The film illuminates that condemning individuals for their acts, particularly individuals who are not in high-ranking decision-making positions, conceals the larger systemic problems in Hollywood and entertainment media. The entertainment industry as an institution strategically produces narratives that serve its needs.

The characterization of Spears by the media is as problematic as the characterization of the paparazzi. Spears’ portrayal as a cheater, unfit mother, and general train wreck sold copies of magazines and boosted television ratings. The paparazzi’s portrayal as responsible, at least in some instances, for pushing her over the mental edge, takes out of context the broader system demanding the images.

Britney Spears on July 22, 2019, in Hollywood. (Photo: Valerie Macon/AFP via Getty Images)

These demands come from both corporate media as well as a voraciously consuming public. And in the case of the paparazzi, the narrative scapegoats the most marginalized workers in the celebrity industry. If this film and the #freebritney movement is about justice for those in precarious positions, the goal should be justice for everyone involved who is mischaracterized and scapegoated, including the paparazzi.

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Vanessa Díaz was a red carpet and nightlife stringer for People magazine from 2004 to 2013 and is the author of the book “Manufacturing Celebrity: Latino Paparazzi and Women Reporters in Hollywood (Duke University Press 2020).” She is an assistant professor of Chicana/o and Latina/o Studies at Loyola Marymount University. Follow her on Twitter: @vanessajdiaz 


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