Our respect for Jennifer Lawrence, amid the nude-photo scandal

Emma Teitel on the nude-photo scandal that’s shaking up Hollywood

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Early on in Notes on a Scandal, a 2006 film about voyeurism and unrequited love, Barbara Covett (Judi Dench), a spinster schoolteacher-turned-stalker, sits down to lunch for the first time with the object of her obsession: a beautiful, affluent art teacher named Sheba (Cate Blanchett), who proceeds to tell Barbara her entire life story, unsolicited. Barbara’s voice-over soon chimes in: “It’s a peculiar trait of the privileged,” she says. “Immediate, incautious intimacy.”

For the privileged person who also happens to be famous, however, the trait in question is turned on its head. A celebrity—especially a female one—isn’t prone to incautious intimacy, but involuntary intimacy. She doesn’t have to dish about her secrets over lunch, because, whether she likes it or not, we’re bound to discover not only who she is but also what she looks like naked.

For proof, look no further than the present: As I write this, the FBI is investigating a major case in the United States, where one or more hackers stole from and leaked numerous nude photos of more than 100 female celebrities onto the image-sharing site 4chan, from Academy Award-winner Jennifer Lawrence and supermodel Kate Upton right on down to lesser-knowns such as Jessica Brown-Findlay, a.k.a. Lady Sybil on Downton Abbey.

The public, equal parts fan and stalker, has eaten this up, either condemning the malicious pervert(s) who leaked the photos or perving out themselves.

I’d be a fraud if I didn’t admit that the first thing I did upon hearing about the leak, while surfing the Internet in bed on Labour Day morning, was immediately and frantically search for the photos. I even became indignant at one point when the folder labelled “Rihanna” wouldn’t open. “But they promised she’d be in there,” I muttered to myself impatiently, like a child disappointed with her gifts on Christmas morning. (Some on Reddit have dubbed the scandal “the Fappening,” in reference to “fapping,” a commonly used Internet synonym for masturbation.)

Then I checked Twitter. The avalanche of support for the actresses and musicians in the photos, Jennifer Lawrence, in particular, seemed unending. So did the condemnation of people like me, who, though basically moral in every other sense, felt entitled to the intimacies of celebrities’ lives. Comedian Ricky Gervais, who later tried to soften his position by tweeting a nude bathtub selfie, was excoriated as a “victim blamer” for tweeting that celebrities would be wise not to keep nude pictures of themselves on their computers. Perez Hilton, arguably the highest-profile celebrity blogger in the world, issued an apology for posting a censored version of the photos of Lawrence on his website—the journalistic equivalent to the Toronto Star apologizing for publishing photos of Rob Ford smoking crack, or the Washington Post deciding to keep Watergate under wraps. Clearly, something is afoot in our culture when tabloid kings are made to apologize for exploiting their subjects and merely viewing leaked nudes is compared earnestly to sexual assault. It may be, as Ashley Csanady argues on Canada.com, that “leaked nude pics of celebrities cross the Internet’s own line  . . . The swift, raucous outcry suggests we haven’t given up our collective decency to social media yet,” she writes.

On the contrary, I think we gave it up a long time ago. At least, I don’t recall being ashamed in 2004, after viewing 1 Night in Paris, the leaked sex tape of heiress Paris Hilton (in which she interrupts coitus to answer her cellphone) or Kim K Superstar, the leaked sex tape of reality-TV star Kim Kardashian. North America took so-called slut shaming to a new level when these women were exposed without their consent, yet we show enormous compassion for Jennifer Lawrence. Why? Because the former are talentless attention whores and the latter is Meryl Streep in training. The outrage at hackers and voyeurs this time around isn’t proof that human decency is making a comeback on social media, or that we respect women’s bodies more than we did a decade ago. It’s proof that we respect Jennifer Lawrence—a lot. (It should be noted that the sympathetic coverage of the leak has focused almost exclusively on Lawrence, and not the other, lesser stars involved). Moreover, it proves that we are almost exactly like our grandparents, who divided half the world into “respectable women” and “tramps,” and also found it easier to sympathize with the former. Our sympathy doesn’t stem, then, from a new, progressive attitude, but an old-fashioned one. We can pat ourselves on the back the day we’re as outraged about the violation of America’s bimbos as we are about its sweethearts.




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Our respect for Jennifer Lawrence, amid the nude-photo scandal

  1. If you don’t want nude photos of yourself showing up on the Web…..don’t put them there. Simples.

    Stop falling for the constant barrage of PR coming out of Hollywood.

    I don’t understand why people still mistake actors on the street for doctors ….’because they’ve played one on TV’

    John Wayne was not a ‘tough guy’, neither is Bruce Willis. Patrick Stewart isn’t brilliant, and Debbie Reynolds/Eddie Fisher were an arranged marriage.

    When ‘Hunger Games’ is over with….you need another gig. Hence the JL flashing

    They sell their bodies….their image….on purpose. It’s for the box office.

    • Ya, that’s it. A girl gets violated, and suddenly the real culprit is PR from Hollywood. Got anymore hate on people you have to get out. Maybe babies need to be silenced…. permanently??

      • Who took the photo? Who put it online?

        The 24 year old WOMAN named Jennifer Lawrence.

        Get a grip, pal.

        • All 100 women did that? What was it – some kind of bizarre club of actresses?

          • They all…male and female…. have a ‘portfolio’….professional and their own photos.

            It’s advertising.

          • Uh huh (rolls eyes)

          • I know actors have portfolios – have a couple cousins in the profession. I’m saying this is not that. And that you have to be quite the cynic to think so.

          • LOL yer also a hoot.

    • JL’s career is doing just fine; she is getting lots of roles (and critical acclaim) outside of the Hunger Games. I really doubt this is her own doing.

      Most people think smart phones are secure – if they think about the issue at all. The phones aren’t. They are just as hackable as any computer or other chipped device. And most people don’t bother with even the most basic of firewalls or other protective software for them.

      Most of us really don’t have to worry about someone hacking our phones to get our pictures. Celebs are more likely targets. But really, no matter who you are, it is theft and invasion of privacy. It’s one thing to decide to do a nude scene for a movie; it’s something else entirely to have someone steal images meant only for you (and maybe that special someone). At its core, it is no different than if someone broke into her home and set up a hidden camera to catch her in the nude. Or hacked the camera on her laptop to spy on her when she thought the PC was turned off.

      Or do you think that’s also OK, when it’s a celebrity?

    • Sorry that you’re a little slow, but Jennifer Lawrence didn’t go out and post nude photos of herself (nor did the other celebrities). They were hacked by hackers who spent MONTHS generating passwords to hack into their PERSONAL iclouds (where YOU probably keep private documents and photos too!). Some of the photos retrieved had even been deleted off of actresses’ personal computers (so you can imagine the really creepy lengths the hacker went to to retrieve a deleted file…) So, no, these aren’t attention getters posting pics of themselves and then complaining. I think they are right to assume that information on their personal computer is…personal.

      • Again….who took the photo? Who put it online?

        No, I don’t put personal documents online, in clouds, or in a efile. If you want something to remain private….you make it private.

        This is all faux shock.

  2. I’m not sure I agree with you entirely here. I would like to believe that we are more aware of the dangers of having your privacy violated and the damage that it could cause. In this particular case, storing photos in iCloud is something a lot of us would do, (if you should be doing that with intimate pictures is another thread of discussion I think) so when a hack like this happen, I think it’s something we can all relate to and wouldn’t want it to happen to us. I have respect for Jennifer Lawrence not just for her acting skills but she has handled this scandal with class, which I think explains some of the reactions by the media. I will however, point out that as long as we the public go searching for the leaked pictures, we are creating a demand for such things that hackers are happy to oblige stealing. Out of respect for others and our own privacy, let’s not give hackers even more reasons to do this, let’s choose to not look at those pictures…

  3. I believe that much of the outrage is because of the prudish values, which are also very hypocritical, in the western world. We flock to R-rated movies, purchase large quantities of ‘sex’ magazines and adult porn is one of the growth industries on the internet. We should appreciate the bodies that nature has given us, not be ashamed by them. If nudity was more open in our society then it would not have such a hold on us, voyeurism would not be so prevalent.

    The rights of the people who’s pictures have been ‘shared’ have been violated. The rights of the copyright holder have also been compromised. The ‘freedom’ of the net is like the wild west any thing goes, but we still have to live in a society so rule must apply.

  4. That very photo of Jennifer Lawrence you’re all so concerned about is being shipped….life-size….to an art showing in Florida.

  5. I have zero sympathy for any of them. It’s part n parcel with all that fame and FORTUNE that they’re all striving for. -hello ? it’s been around since the invention of the camera.
    But America wants their up-n-coming sweetheart to atleast “pretend” to fight back, afterall, she is an “actress”, right ?
    lol, It’s the PR imaging aspect of all this that is obviously being milked for all it’s worth.
    I’m sure the Perez Hilton’s, and Hollywood, and ALL their PR’s get along just fine.
    Notice how the ehmm “release” of all these was timed perfectly, right after Hunger Games, actually “hunger games” is a very apt subject for all this crap right now too.

    Hey JLaw, accept your own line: (from Queen): “…You brought me fame and fortune and everything that goes with it…”

  6. The arrogance of good looks and fame – sometimes a little good manners and modesty will keep you from getting into trouble.

    No pity about this from me.

    Want privacy? Put the camera away.

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