• Fri, May 30 - 11:13 am ET

Charlize Theron Refers To Media Intrusion As ‘Rape’, And For Once You Might Agree

Charlize Theron and Sean Penn landing at LAX May 2014I take a pretty hard line against celebrities — or anyone, for that matter — making light of rape, so you might be surprised to find that I’m not immediately against Charlize Theron‘s use of the word to describe what it feels like when the media intrudes on your life.

She made the statement during a conversation with Sky News in promotion of her new movie A Million Ways To Die In The West. The interviewer was reading out headlines that come up when you Google her name, and Charlize said that she avoids searching her name because of the feelings it provokes in her:

“I don’t [Google myself] — that’s my saving grace. When you start living in that world, and doing that, you start feeling raped.”

The interviewer gives her an opportunity to walk back her answer by saying, “That — that strong?”, but she doesn’t take it, instead responding:

“Well, when it comes to your son and your private life…maybe that’s just me. Some people might relish in all of that stuff. But there are certain things in my life that I think of as very sacred, and I’m very protective over them.”

If you’re feeling offended right now, you’re not wrong. Any reaction to Charlize’s statement is valid, because rape is a very strong word to use. But sometimes it can be a knee-jerk reaction to assume it’s being misused, and we have to be careful with that. Myself as much as anyone.

I stand behind the fact that Jennifer Lawrence should not have so flippantly referred to her ‘rape scream‘ when excitedly greeting Alfonso Cuaron at a party, but for me this is a more nuanced situation. In that case, I believe that Jennifer intended to shock by using the wrong word for the situation, while in Charlize’s case, I believe she intended to shock by using the right word.

First of all, it’s important to understand that although it’s primarily (and most strongly) associated with nonconsensual sexual intercourse, the word ‘rape‘ has secondary meanings as well, namely:

an act of plunder, violent seizure, or abuse; despoliation; violation

And when we’re talking about the word ‘raped’, the potential meanings expand even further to contain:

to seize, take, or carry off by force.

Once you have those definitions in mind, consider the fact that the articles that Charlize is talking about aren’t your standard missive critiquing her performance in a movie or recapping what she wore to an award show.

Because Charlize is a celebrity, some of her rights and expectations of privacy have been seized — or plundered, despoiled, violated, or abused — by the media. Every facet of her life is considered up for grabs, so you can look at pictures of her son and rant about his adoption (even leaking details, if you’re that kind of judge and you’re in the mood) or the color of his skin, speculate on the causes for the end of her nine-year relationship with Stuart Townsend, clamor for the end of her relationship with Sean Penn (as I have, loudly), rehash the murder of her verbally abusive, alcoholic father at the hands of her terrified mother in 1991, admire her body, discuss what you’d do if you ever had Charlize naked in a room, and, if you’re dedicated enough to your cause, probably find her phone number, home address, and potentially hack into her computer or voicemail. Information that you might not have on your closest friend, strangers have access to about Charlize, and there’s nothing she can do about it.

Only if someone steps over the line into printing something that is patently untrue or actually threatening bodily harm can Charlize take the step of pursuing legal action. Her rights have been carried away with her celebrity, and her life has been stripped bare under the gaze of the media. I’ve never experienced it myself, but just writing this piece and realizing how many pieces of information and photos are out there, I’m overcome with a pervasive feeling of a powerlessness and helplessness on Charlize’s behalf. I can’t imagine what that feels like, but I can understand, if not appreciate, her choice of words.

…or, who knows, she might have been being just as glib as Jennifer Lawrence and Kristen Stewart before her, and this whole exploration has been an exercise in futility. All I know is that it feels different to me.

(Photo: WENN.com)

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  • Olivia Wilson

    I don’t know, it seems like, as she says it in the video, she’s weighing the gravity of it and chooses to say it anyway. I feel like she’s using it intentionally and not with the intention of making light of it.

    • Alexis Rhiannon

      Yeah, absolutely. I agree.

  • MeiMara

    So by the definition you listed above Jennifer Lawrence could have been using the context of the word that means “violent seizure” as she was stated in that article describing why she was flailing her arms and yelling so loudly.

    A celebrity has the right to privacy just like anyone else and that is what Charlize is saying by using this word and you agree with Charlize as do I but when it pertained to Jennifer and her use of the word she was persecuted for it because people ASSUMED how she meant to use it.

    And to my point that is the problem, Jennifer’s conversation was suppose to be private but some reporter wrote a satirical article about it with not much context so its hard for me to blame Jennifer for anything as she has no way to defend herself in her actions just like its hard for me to blame Charlize use of the word as she said it an open forum where she backed up why she said it. If Jennifer had said it in an interview and not backed up why she said then and only then do I think the media and people have a right to put her on blast.

    Good on Charlize as well, I have always felt the media and paps are way too intrusive with celebrities, they should have the same privacy rights we have. I really feel some deranged individual is going to act like a pap to get close to their celebrity crush and do something horrendous to that celebrity and only then will some type of change come about for the protection of a celebrities privacy. They understand when they are promoting movies doing interviews, red carpets, late night shows they understand the media crush as that is their job.Just because we the people put them on pedestals doesn’t mean they forfeit their privacy rights when they are not on the job.

    • Alexis Rhiannon

      We have different views on why Jennifer Lawrence said what she did, and that’s fine. I think she used that word as a punchline, and I think Charlize didn’t. It’s okay if you disagree.

    • Isabelle

      I completely agree. I don’t think it’s fair to judge comments that were said in private that May have not even been said. It bothers me seeing people berated by the mob, these people are still just people and it’s sick that commenters or anyone really, forget that

  • Isabelle

    I can sympathize with Charlize but why does GP get so much flack for basically saying the same thing? She said it was dehumanizing and suddenly people accused her of comparing her life to war which she was not doing.

    • Ugonna Wosu

      I sympathize with both.

    • markmywords

      I don’t. I sympathize with none of them.
      In fact, Charlize just lowered herself by whining about people being interested in her instead of being grateful that people like her and spend money in her favor. Both chose the spotlight as surroundings of their work, nobody forces them. If they can’t take it, they should switch careers and look for an “easier” 9-5 job. Just my 2 cents.

    • Isabelle

      Just because someone’s in the public eye, it doesn’t entitle us to judge them or think we are entitled to know everything that goes on their lives. They’re human beings and I think that is sick

    • markmywords

      And you are on a gossip site because….?

    • Isabelle

      Out of boredom mostly. I’m still able to give people of privilege the benefit of the doubt and see the media for what it is. I don’t project my insecurities on other people mostly

    • markmywords

      I have my doubts on “seeing the media for what it is”. It’s a double standard to love gossip and hate the paps.
      Btw, your insults reflect more on you than they do on me.

  • markmywords

    I like you and your articles, Alexis, but I think you’re biased here.
    In the video it’s obvious she’d rather avoid the subject ’cause she knows that her opinion is not gonna be liked.
    Being appreciated and supported by fans as an international superstar is not a threat, making her choice of words very inappropriate for me and her look extremely ungrateful. If she can’t stand the heat of people talking about her, she might consider leaving the kitchen.
    Besides, social media + today’s technology = invaded privacy. This is not a celebrity thing, everyone’s effected. Gossip also is something every other business owner has to deal with. If it’s too much for you, gotta switch careers.
    I just wonder if you’d buy something from a stranger who absolutely does not want you to know them as a person, even feels threatened by you asking, speculating or simply admiring their appearances. That’s effectively what these whining celebrities are trying to tell us: “Buy my stuff but leave me alone afterwards. And if you want to know more, you make me feel raped.” – WTF?

    • Melanie

      I think what celebs are saying is yes my job is too sell you my movie, tv show, music, etc. and when I am on the job all the photos, paps, interviews, etc. are acceptable as they are apart of the job but when I am not working (ie selling a movie, tv show, music) my private life is my private life and no one needs to know when I go shop, what restaurant I ate at, taking pictures of my kids without my permission, following me from my home to somewhere, etc. I wouldn’t call it whining, no one but celebs have to go thru what the paps put them thru.
      As for reading blogs and comments on websites that’s easy celebrities need to just ignore them because the internet is full of both love and hate.

    • markmywords

      Those Celebrities are not employees who work by the clock and have a different life after closing time. They are business owners who represent their “brand” and their company and who need to qualify for the dumb masses like you and me (=”the internet”) to open up our purses and buy their stuff. So you could say we’re clients and question is, how do you want to be treated by your sales person? Would you like to be called intrusive, because you have in interest in the company? Would you like it if the company you give your hard earned money to, would complain and put you in a bucket with the worst and craziest people on earth? What would you think about a sales person that would only show up to pitch a product and vanish until the next time there is something to sell? If you like that, I’m not judging. Me, I don’t want to be treated this way.
      Btw, everybody with a smartphone can take a picture of you(r child) without your permission. That’s not Papparazzi, that’s life in 2014.

    • Melanie

      This makes no sense, yes celebrities have the right to have a private life after closing time, I like Burberry clothing and own a Ford vehicle but I can care less about what the owners or workers of those companies do in their personal life. The sense that you think because they are ‘brand’ as you say you can intrude on them personally is wrong to me, maybe its because of the reality celebrity subculture that has brought this on, those celebs put themselves out there and lost their privacy selling out themselves like you say but a lot of celebs that act, sing, etc don’t for lack of a better work ‘whore’ themselves out like reality celebs. And most sales people pretty much show up to sell when a new product is available, I don’t hear from them in between the products. An actor, musician is the same they do interviews, red carpets only when their new product is coming out such as a movie, album. Lastly, I’m sure your not a parent how would you feel with 25 guys with cameras following you around and snapping photos of you as you try to take your kid to the park or store. I can tell you right now if I saw some strange man taking pictures of my 7 year old daughter I would have massive problems with it and confront them about it.

    • markmywords

      Maybe I’m not clear enough in my words. Never have I condoned any kind of breaking the laws. If taking pictures of your child is against the law in your country, you absolutely should take legal actions; of course I’d suppport that. In my country, celebrities’ children usually have blurred faces if their parents are against publishing them (just like on the picture) but I see normal people being extremely open with their children’s pictures. They don’t mind at all and proudly present their children’s pictures everywhere.

      Do you have CCTV at public places? at the train station? on the street? Do you consider taking your childs picture there an intrusion aswell? Because it’s usually private companies who take the footage, not the government (and heaven knows what happens with it). What’s the difference to a single person taking your child’s picture? I’m honestly curious about your thoughts.

      I’m convinced that actors mostly exaggregate about papparazzi and are basically against them because they make money off them without sharing a cut (I heard actors say this in interviews) and because they don’t like the lack of control over the situation on when their picture is taken (compared to a professional set-up) and certainly dislike it when tabloids do not report in their favor (“see blabla without make-up” etc). While I don’t watch any “reality tv”, they at least are honest about wanting to be famous. While reality people are all “look at me”, artists as CT are like “look at me – now don’t – now don’t you violate me by looking at me!”. I don’t like people zig-zagging their way through life and basically prefer people who are straight forward. You either like being in the spotlight – or you don’t.

      Isn’t it funny that people on gossip sites are the first to sigh about the oh so bad papparazzi? Common folks have a desire to read and dream about the rich and famous. It’s obviously an industry with a huge market and consuming gossip on one hand and demonizing papparazzi on the other hand looks like a double standard to me. There would be no papparazzi if nobody was interested in that stuff.

      There is a difference between a faceless giant company and a person who is their own business. As a self employed person you don’t have the luxury to hide behind a big name. You’re the big name yourself – if you’re lucky. And that’s all I’m trying to say. They are lucky people and should stop being ungrateful to the people who are responsible for the life they are allowed to lead.

      Hope I could get my point across any clearer. :-)

    • Melanie

      Its much clearer and I will still disagree with you over the privacy issue when it comes to the paps. I know a celebrity who while not super famous is easily identifiable due to her industry working with professional wrestling and she is the reason I feel the way I do. She (I am sure most celebs) understands that people want to get a selfie or autograph when they see her and she obliges as much as she can when not eating in the restaurant or in the airport, outside the restaurant, shopping, on the street she is fine. We spent 20 minutes one night outside the restaurant for her to take pics and sign things because it does help her with her job but then we had paps follow us for 2 hours yelling disgusting, disrespectful, sexist comments to try to get at her so they could get a better shot to tell some story with the video or pics they took. Strange guys running around your car, banging on the window, getting pissy because you won’t answer their question or refuse to pose as they ask. You have to see the paps first hand to understand how bad they are, yes there are probably decent paps but most of them are bad. We got to the hotel and they stayed there waiting for hours for us to come back out, she has told me stories of them waiting at the gates of private residences cat calling and what not. I still say if a celeb goes to the store or park by themselves or with their kid they should have the right to not be followed by paps, if some fan notices them and asks for a picture they almost always oblige. I live in the US and believe it should be a law that paps can be arrested for stalking a celeb around town. If the paps stayed at the hotspots got some pictures and didn’t follow well that is one thing but when the chase you down its another. Anyway that is how I feel, I hope you see why I feel the way I do. Thanks for the convo.

    • markmywords

      Thanks for sharing this story. I can see your point of view.

      Doesn’t your friend have a bodyguard? ‘Cause that would be the first thing that I would invest in, if paps are like that to me. I live somewhere in Europe where it is illegal to stalk anyone, no matter if pap or not. Stalking here begins with text messages an unwanted lover sends you.

      When I was younger I had the “pleasure” to often meet a group of people that would be behaving very similarly. I understand it can be scary and I get that it’s annoying to be followed around, but – here comes the but – isn’t that something you get used to when it happens on a daily basis? Ignore them, look the other way, act like they’re not there? Of course I felt molested but I wouldn’t spare any more thoughts on them, cause they thrived on the imortance you gave them. But maybe it’s different with paps, I don’t know, I’m not famous thank god. :-)

      I am a mother and my take is that it mostly depends on how you teach your child to deal with stuff.
      Certainly I’d be furious if that kind of people would have acted that way with my child around. But on the other hand, it’s my job to prepare my child to be a grown up with common sense one day and while I’d go “Halle Berry” on the paps, my focus would be to teach my child how to behave towards jerks like that.

      Thank you for the civil conversation on this controversial topic. :-)

    • markmywords

      Forgot to mention the sales people.
      Maybe the american companies I’d worked in where the absolute exceptions but isn’t it common to know your customer and have a good relationship with them? That’s honestly one the many things I like(d) so much about the “american way”.
      Someone who only “knows me” if there is money to make, would make me feel played upon and I think I deserve better. Maybe that’s just me.

    • Alexis Rhiannon

      I don’t know that she’s whining though. I think she was asked a question and she responded with what she feels. She knows that it’s an unfortunate cost of being famous and that she’s made the choice to take that on.

      Regardless, I appreciate the opportunity to have a conversation about it.

    • markmywords

      Thank you and likewise. I appreciate having a civil conversation about a controversial toppic.
      Why is it an unfortunate cost? Her popularity is paying her bills, providing for herself, her family and her employees. I can by no means see anything unfortunate in that.
      I call it whining, because it’s just pictures and opinions. I’m sure you heard the expression of opinions being like assholes, ’cause everyone’s got one. Doesn’t mean it’s of any importance, might be a reflection, might be a sincere complaint, might be a trend, popularity-wise. There are professionals for that kinda thing.

      Celebrities like CT make the mistake of connecting a good thing – being popular – with bad things – immature individuals, who like to shock by writing sick comments and fan letters. And I’m sorry to disagree again; to me the “rape” comment looked nicely rehearsed.
      But we can agree to disagree :-)

    • Alexis Rhiannon

      I think I see fame as a double-edged sword in this case. That you sign on for having your picture taken, and technically understand that you won’t always WANT it taken, but don’t really realize the full extent of that until you’re in it. And especially being responsible for her son as well.

      I have no problem if we end up on opposite ends on this, because I absolutely see your point.

    • markmywords

      A double-edged sword, we can agree on that. Nobody’s representative 24/7. I think the main aspect of being a celebrity is being appreciated. They should be looking through the immature behaviour of a few crazy heads to see people’s care and not feel so threatened. It’s unfair towards the people who support them.

      It comes down to what you teach your child how to deal with jerks. CT’s son is still little, but sooner or later he’ll have to learn to always walk with confidence and ignore them.

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