Celebrities: are they obliged to interact with fans?

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by Laura Sproule, contributor

The Gown considers what it means to be a celebrity in the age of selfies and constant recognition.

In a society that is becoming increasingly obsessed with the aura of celebrity, many people have no qualms about running down the street to obtain an autograph or selfie with these cultural icons. Many more will pay out hundreds, if not thousands, to have the chance of personally meeting the one who has inspired them.

In bygone days, actors, singers and the like relished this attention from the public. However, if Avril Lavigne’s now infamous meet-and-greet in Brazil is anything to go by, it is becoming increasingly common for celebrities to hate talking with or taking photos for their fans.  Such reactions beg the question: are they under obligation to interact with the people who have supported their career? Or, is it unfair of us to assume that celebrities should make time in their lives for so many people that they do not know?

The Lavigne meet-and-greet saw devoted concert-goers pay around $400 for the privilege of meeting the singer one-on-one. However, backstage they were informed that they could not touch her, give her any gifts or stand too close. Whilst the photos produced hinted at the awkwardness and disappointment of the fans, the uncomfortable expression on Lavigne’s face also causes pause for thought.

Perhaps spending time chatting with a person whom she has never met before, and who is likely going to want to talk about her is not something Lavigne is happy doing. She may be more interested in writing songs and performing. After all, it is the company behind her who have orchestrated this event, in order to make money. While some might argue that Lavigne could have at least pretended to enjoy herself, as she is essentially being paid copious amounts to stand and do nothing, it is possible that she has had enough of being exploited in such a way.

Indeed, many other stars seem to be taking issue with the sheer intensity of the limelight that is placed on the famous faces of today. Announcements from the likes of Sir Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, stating they will no longer sign autographs for those who approach them in public, are becoming more and more common. Again, on the surface, this seems unfair. The people asking for photos are, after all, the ones who have supported their career and made them who they are today.

But consider the celebrity’s point of view. In no other profession are people hounded 24/7, and regularly asked to produce a permanent reminder of who they are. Few of us would like want to have our photo taken whilst running into town or going to the gym, and why should celebrities be any different?

Perhaps celebrities should know to expect some degree of attention, as a by-product of what they do. But this is easy for us to say, when regularly dealing with many people making demands on our personal time is not something that we have to deal with.

At the end of the day, most celebrities do what they do because it is their passion, not because they want to be pointed at and photographed everywhere they go. For many, it is not a case of being asked for one or two autographs, but hundreds or thousands. Maybe, we should try to be more understanding of the fact that, whilst celebrities are probably grateful for their fans’ support, interacting with them on a daily basis is not something that they are obligated to do.

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