By Sandra Neri
In March of this year, actor Ben Affleck was photographed with daughter Seraphina, and appeared to be trying to kick the photographer. However, an insider reported that actually Affleck was trying to maintain his personal space.
In June, actress Halle Berry appeared before the Assembly Committee on Public Safety at the California Capitol to support a bill which will limit paparazzi from taking photographs of public figures’ children. At the hearing, Berry told the committee about her 5-year-old daughter Nahla; “My daughter doesn’t want to go to school because she knows ‘the men’ are watching for her. They jump out of the bushes and from behind cars and who knows where else, besieging these children just to get a photo”. Berry gave further example of unfair treatment, and harassment when recently traveling through LAX with her fiancé; “They were trying to start a fight with my fiancé because if they get a photo of that it’s more money.” Adding that the incident terrified her daughter. “She asked ‘Mommy, are they going to kill us?’ She didn’t get to sleep until 3 A.M. because she can’t get this out of her mind and she doesn’t understand what just happened to her”.
In August, actress Jennifer Garner joined Halle Berry to take a stand against the paparazzi in defending a bill aimed at protecting children and public officials. Senate Bill 606 would change the legal definition of harassment to include anything that “alarms,annoys torments or terrorizes” while photographing or recording minors without parental consent. While testifying, Garner cried as she described what her family had gone through. One troubling example was a threatening stalker who followed her with a group of photographers and hid behind her daughter’s school. “I chose a public life…but my three children are private citizens.” Stated Garner.
On September 15, actress Jennifer Garner stopped by a farmer’s market in Los Angeles with her children – Violet,7; Seraphina,4; and Samuel,17 months. Paparazzi followed actress and began snapping pictures of her and her children as they shopped for fresh produce. While in the parking lot, Garner confronted a paparazzo who was filming the family with a handheld video camera. Garner walked up to the photographer and took a photo of him with her camera phone.
The BBC.com reported on September 27th that the new legislation which will limit the paparazzi’s ability to photograph stars’ children has become law in the state of California. Bill 606 sets out to protect the children of those in the public eye. It would be “the beginning of the end,” Berry said, for “aggressive paparazzi”. The bill was signed into Califrornia law by state governor Jerry Brown.
The law comes into effect in January. Those breaking it could receive between 10 days and one year in jail, as well as a fine of up to $10,000.
“Kids shouldn’t be tabloid fodder.” Said Senator Kevin de Leon, who put forward the bill, adding that the new law “will give children, no matter who their parents are, protection from harassers who go to extremes to turn a buck”.
Organizations opposing the bill are the Motion Picture Association of America, who says it infringes upon free speech protections, the National Press Photographers Association and the California Broadcasters Association.
During an interview with Playboy magazine in December, actor Ben Affleck commented on the reasons he has been active about getting Bill 606 passed. “My kids aren’t celebrities. They never made that bargin… As their father it’s my job to protect them from that stuff…I try my very best, and sometimes I’m successful. The tragic thing is, people who see those pictures naturally think it’s sweet. They don’t see the gigantic former gang member with a huge lens standing over a four-year-old and screaming to get the kid’s attention”. Affleck continues, “You can say what you want about me. You can yell at me with a video camera and be TMZ. You can follow me around and take pictures all you want. I don’t care. There are a couple of guys outside right now. Terrific. That’s part of the deal. But it’s wrong and disgusting to follow children around and take their picture and sell it for money,” he tells Playboy. “It makes the kids less safe. They used to take pictures of our children coming out of preschool, and so this stalker who had threatened to kill me, my wife and our kids showed up at the school and got arrested. I mean, there are real practical dangers to this.”
Personally, I have been a firm believer that paparazzi should have limitations ever since I read an interview, years ago in Premiere magazine. For those who may not remember, Premiere magazine was a magazine published from 1987-2007, and dedicated to the filmmaking industry. I really enjoyed the behind-the-scene articles which also consisted of interviews with writers, directors, camera crew, costume designers, set designers, etc. This certain article interviewed actor Bruce Willis, and I cannot remember the year exactly although he was still married to his ex-wife, actress Demi Moore. Willis described being on the set of a movie, and having a small break during which he took a short walk with his (then pregnant) wife Moore. Their walk was at night, near some shrubs when someone jumped out and pointed something at them. Willis was terrified for the safety of his pregnant wife, as he did not realize right away that it was a photographer with a camera. Reading about Willis’s experience, I mentally put myself in his shoes, and have since always felt the actions of that photographer were wrong. What if he scared Moore so badly she tried to run and tripped? So many dangerous scenarios could of happened that day. I know there are many who will cry about how much money these celebrities make, but I cannot ever agree that anyone should be allowed to be consistently followed, stalked, and chased just for a photograph. It’s ten times more wrong to target their children. I say, Hooray for Bill 606…
Facts gathered from: