It seems so strange that a video of a couple having sex is enough to launch an empire. Why do we, as a society, react the way we do when a celebrity releases a sex tape, or their nude pictures get leaked? It causes a scandal, a media frenzy, mass hysteria, and occasionally launches careers. Take Paris Hilton, for example.
While Hilton was already famous before her sex tape, when 1 Night in Paris was leaked in 2001, conveniently three weeks before her new reality show, The Simple Life, it became massively popular, and so did she. However, the most successful career to come out of a sex tape scandal definitely belongs to Kim Kardashian. Like Hilton, Kardashian was already fairly well known before the video leaked, partly for being Hilton’s friend and stylist. However, in 2007 when her video with the singer Ray J was released, Kardashian’s life and career was irrevocably changed. Due to the popularity of the video, only a few months later, Keeping Up with the Kardashians premiered, and the rest is history.
What is it that makes sex tapes and nude leaks so scandalous and so fascinating to us as a society? Perhaps it is the curious nature of seeing famous people in such an intimate act that we wouldn’t usually see them in. Typically, celebrities remain unattainable on a screen or on the radio, and we simply admire them for their work, whether that be their films, TV shows or music, for example. They are distant and impervious; ours to only look at from afar. So when we see these people in an incredibly intimate situation, the dynamic of the celebrity-viewer relationship changes. We see them in a new light; a light that we wouldn’t expect to, and perhaps even shouldn’t, see them in.
It could be this crossing of the line of what it means to be a celebrity and a fan that makes seeing someone famous in such a personal way so incredibly exciting. However, it could also be that people in the public eye are often viewed as ‘up for grabs’ and we as a society believe that we deserve to know every detail of their lives. This attitude has probably been worsened by the increasing popularity of social media, as many celebrities willingly share many elements of their lives, which is always appreciated by their fans. And if the sharing is voluntary and consensual, then what’s the problem?
This sharing, or arguably, over-sharing, has lead to some worrying attitudes when the private becomes public. If a celebrity’s nudes leak, it is their ‘fault,’ for being a celebrity, and if they are famous, then they obviously want the attention. Celebrities such as Jennifer Lawrence and Rihanna, for example, have been victim to hackers who leak their private pictures. Both have been blamed for taking the pictures, and then for being famous, which is obviously ridiculous. So whose fault is it really? It would be fair to say that the people who look at the leaked pictures are almost as guilty as the person who released them, and while it should be easy enough to tell people to simply not look at them, that curiosity will always be there. It is as though we as a society are unable to avoid the drama and excitement that comes with a sex scandal. No matter how hard we try, we can’t look away.