Does being famous make you above the law?

December 9, 2011

Honor, Political Theory


This whole idea of famous people being able to do whatever they want isn’t exactly a new one.  It’s probably the majority of the reason why people want to be famous (in addition to the money, money and the cars, cars and the hoes… I suppose).  It’s often made fun of – think of how many movies comedically display policemen, so starstruck and awed, that they don’t realize that some famous character is doing something illegal… or they’re so starstruck that they just don’t care.  Yet as far as the general public has actual proof of, celebrities are forced to obey the law just as strictly as we are.  We know that’s not true, but there’s not a whole lot we can do about it.  So we’ve accepted the perks of fame and moved on, and as such it has maintained a relatively modest presence in our lives.

But is this attitude of “fame=God” crossing over into areas that are even more unacceptable than this idea already is?  As our society gets more and more lax on rules, so is the willingness of American media is to cover it up.  This has resulted in not only celebrities being able to disobey the law, but also being able to publicly display it – and receive no penalty.  And now we, as the public, definitely know that you’re allowed to smoke weed across the nation as long as you make a million dollars rapping about it (and about nothing else *cough* Wiz Khalifa*).

Have we really gotten to this point?  This point – in which a very just, solid, and easy-to-follow law becomes unjust simply because certain people are allowed to get away with disobeying it?  Or is this a bad application of the qualities of a good law?

According to our lecture, an example of a failed law is one that is UNENFORCED.  I do believe that there are instances in which not enforcing a law is acceptable – such as a 20 year old drinking a glass of wine with their parents (see the debate on this issue:  http://gameofroles.wordpress.com/2011/12/08/drinking-at-your-own-private-bar/).  But the problem comes when an issue that would be enforced in one situation, is not enforced in another.

Take, for instance, reality TV shows.  Oh, reality TV, the epitome of acting dangerously, stupidly, mindlessly, or sometimes just not doing anything at all (I’m looking at you, Kardashian sisters) – and then making money off of it.  I can deal with that.  However, what I can’t deal with is two daughters – aged 11 and 15 – witnessing two women yank each others hair, break dishes and scream “prostitution whore” at each other (side note: really? prostitution whore?) and then appearing across the nation.

This is what LA Times investigated from The Real Housewives of New Jersey.  Although there are numerous child entertainment laws meant to prevent issues like this – including prohibiting minors from appearing in entertainment dangerous to their morals – this episode was still allowed to air, and keep this horrid scene in it.

Why, you may ask?  Probably nothing else than that it was the most epic scene in the episode, and this episode just happened to be the big finale of the popular series.  Producers pretend that the children won’t be scarred by encounter like this, won’t have to relive it every time this show reruns, and won’t walk around with the knowledge that everyone knows that their mother yanked a table straight up into the air.  Unfortunately, most other people pretend the same.

So many other examples appear in our lives.  Underage drinking, use of drugs, stealing, dangerous driving… and this is just the beginning of the list.

Is this ok?  Just because they provide us entertainment, is anyone who has the slightest claim to fame allowed to break the law and get away with it?  Or are we watching our good laws become bad ones solely due to a small population of our country?

 

Information about The Real Housewives of New Jersey was taken from http://www.minorcon.org/safety_net.html.

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9 Comments on “Does being famous make you above the law?”

  1. cchevat Says:

    A fair share of celebrities are able to get away with a lot of things including many of the reality stars that were discussed in the post. But there are many times where these people are held accountable for the negative things they have done. What makes it seem like these celebrities get away with a lot more than they should is just the plain fact that any publicity for these people is good publicity. If you remotely read gossip columns the only time you hear about Lindsay Lohan is when she is being accused of something negative or doing community service. This is all negative, but the fact that you are even reading about her is a good thing in the eyes of her publicist.
    While the actions these people take do seem down right wrong and ridiculous, I do believe most people look at these stars as people that they should not be emulating rather than copying their actions. I do not believe that we are “watching our good laws go bad”. What I do believe that it proves is that this very small percentage of people who have a lot of the wealth have a lot of unfair advantages. Even if these people are convicted, they are able to pay great amounts for bails, lawyers, etc. This is the ultimate reason why it seems like these stars do not get the punishment or jail time they deserve. Ultimately, the television networks will not stop airing these crazy shows but there are different organizations like the Parents Television Council who are ready to criticize when a show has gone too far which does indeed provide a balance.

  2. Danielle Studenberg Says:

    I agree with you that the issue of celebrities being “above the law” is inappropriate and mainly used for entertainment purposes of the media. For example, how many issues of UsWeekly do you think would be sold if Miley Cyrus was on the cover smoking a bong? A TON. And it’s not like she would be arrested or investigated because of it (maybe she would consider stopping if the story were true). Miley’s story would be used to make money and give the public something to gossip about. Same goes for reality television. Wasn’t there a show on E! based around the lives of a group of sisters? And hadn’t one sister broken into Lindsey Lohan’s home previously? If I could have my own reality show by doing something against the law I would definitely rob celebrities too!

    Although, there are some (but very few) cases where the police decide to make examples of celebrities and give them heavier sentencing than normal citizens. Previously this year Jalen Rose was forced to serve jail time for drunk driving.

    Yet, lets not forget that Lindsey Lohan had been sentenced to a month in jail for drunk driving, and in actuality served only a few hours….

    Overall I think that there is definitely a double standard for celebrities due to their extreme power and influence over our country, and I don’t think this can be stopped.

  3. bmazus Says:

    I found this post to be very entertaining. I think it is clear to everyone that is not a celebrity, and even to most celebrities, that celebrities are not above the law, and nor do they deserve to be. The idea of larger than life figures being above the law goes back even deep into Roman history. This even occurred when Julius Caesar believed he was above Roman law and broke the law and illegally brought his army across its allowed boundaries, into the Italian peninsula. The senate publicly scolded Caesar but did nothing about it, and nor did the civilians of Rome.
    Basically the point that I am trying to make is that celebrities believing they are above the law and in many cases actually getting away with it has been the case forever and probably is not going away. Do I believe this is right? Certainly I do not believe its ok, but there is not much that can be done about it.
    I think these issues have evolved though from wild actions of celebrities into cases of the law being broken but the actions being socially acceptable. I think a perfect example is of someone like Miley Cyrus (not trying to pick on her she was just the first underage celebrity to come to mind) going to a club and drinking for the night. Obviously that’s illegal but is it any different than what many other eighteen year olds are doing today?

  4. habavol Says:

    I think it is completely unjust for people to get away with illegal activity just because they are famous. Lindsey Lohan is a perfect example. She continues to break the law yet gets a mere 7 days or something ridiculously short jail time. It’s not fair. If it were to be a normal, every day person, they’d be sentenced to years. This is a growing problem that should probably be faced because it is unfair, and just because they are rich and famous doesn’t mean they should get away with doing bad,

  5. djavolio8 Says:

    Celebrities I feel often get some sort of special treatment, but I’m not sure it’s to the point where they can be classified as above the law. If one is going to make the argument that say teen celebrities under the age of 21 are able to go to clubs and drink without interference couldn’t you also say that college students are above the law? On football saturdays thousands of underage kids at our school and across the nation are provided with and consume alcohol with virtually no intervention from the authorities. Everyone gets caught up in the fact that a person is famous and that it is because of that fame they crimes are looked over.

    I think if you look at people like Jose Canseco and Barry Bonds, you see circumstances where celebrities (MLB players) were both tried and punished for breaking the law. OJ Simpson is serving hard time in jail, Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, T.I., and Chris Brown are all other celebrities that have received punishment for their actions. Yes, at times the punishments are weak and short in duration that they almost seem negligible, but that isn’t because they are celebrities. In the most recent trial for Lindsay Lohan she faced up to a few years in prison and served less than a week. This was because of overcrowding in California jails. Frankly, I’d much rather see Lindsay Lohan serve less time in prison than say a felon convicted of murder, rape, or armed robbery.

  6. reidmech7892 Says:

    I do agree that celebrities and those of famous status should not be above the law in any shape or form. Though it’s hard not to be star-stuck when you see a celebrity, it is necessary to still hold them accountable for illegal, dangerous, and violent actions. Having said this, I do not believe that all celebrities get off so easy; actually, I believe they face harsher times when facing legal charges than the average american does. When an average American person, let’s say an accountant, is arrested for stealing money from a store, they may be mentioned on the news at best but for the most part will go to jail and serve time without much hype. As for celebrities, if the same thing happened to them the story would be blown up throughout the media, often followed by further investigation of what they may have done in the past, which could ultimately lead to further charges held against the celebrity. For example, when Tiger Woods was involved in a car crash, the media further investigated why he was driving so late at night only to find that he was on his way to an extramarital affair’s home. Not only would this have probably not been discovered if Tiger Woods didn’t have the media on his back, but it seems to have been directly caused by his fame and the media’s curiosity to take advantage of him at a vulnerable time. If it were an average person, however, this story wouldn’t have even broke the 11pm news, where as this story circulated globally and shattered Tiger Woods’ reputation and career.

  7. julieele Says:

    Celebrities should not be above the law, I find this to be unjust. Laws should be obeyed and enforced by all. There is no reason to have inequalities among the people and this does not go for just celebrities. People of high authority or with connections are also in question. They should be held in the same respect when it comes to the law but they somehow manage to avoid the enforcement of laws. The common problem is that these people are placed on pedestals and are viewed as role models to even the people who enforce the law. The enforcers need to be able to do their job and not let their judgment cloud. An additional issue is also that some of these controversial stories may not even be true and that it may waste money for the police departments to investigate all of these stories. All in all, when these celebrities are caught doing illegal activities, they should follow the same protocol as everyone else.

  8. Karsten Smolinski Says:

    Being famous definitely should not make anyone above the law. The laws should probably be stricter for them if anything. What does it say about American society if our most visible public figures get away with breaking the law all the time? Americans see their role models breaking the law and getting away with it and think they should do the same thing.
    On the other hand, I think that you are incorrect when you say that celebrities are the only ones that get away with the type of crimes that they commit. I think that plenty of people get away with all sorts of crimes like speeding, other illegal driving, underage drinking, drug use, and vandalism all the time. It just seems like these celebrities get away with more because they are, as I said before, America’s most visible public figures.

  9. schoemad Says:

    I have unfortunately watched two seasons of this show and I really am glad that I have not kept updated. The reasons I did watch it were because my mom loves these shows and we live like 15 minutes away from these crazy women. I believe that it is really unfair that celebrities get away with everything. They are really not as interesting or fantastic as the common person. These people get unnecessary special treatment that makes other people feel like lesser citizens as a result. The great thing about laws is that they apply everyone and they are used in order to maintain stability. This celebrity anarchy is getting out of hand and people such as Lindsay Lohan doesn’t deserve to avoid prison time just because she knows people in high places and has some special star power. No one is above the law (besides if the President decides to pardon someone…)

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