Five years ago, you'd be hard-pressed to find a major news outlet shaming you for looking at hacked nude photos of Jennifer Lawrence or the other famous women whose private property was stolen from them and shared online.
When Perez Hilton launched in 2004 and TMZ quickly followed in 2005, a new kind of celebrity-obsessed culture developed. Since then, you've been compelled to "LOOK, LOOK, LOOK" every time a celebrity falls, has a wardrobe malfunction or when their nude photos suddenly appear on the Internet.
This past week, we saw a different conversation emerge. The media stood up for Lawrence in a way we hadn't really seen before: Many writers explained that she was not to blame; this was not a scandal, and you should probably be ashamed of yourself for looking at stolen personal property.
Forbes declared: "Jennifer Lawrence Nude Photo Leak Isn't A 'Scandal.' It's A Sex Crime."
HuffPost Women reminded us: "Jennifer Lawrence's Leaked Nude Photos Remind Us How Crappy The Internet Can Be For Women."
Vox explained: "It's Not Just Jennifer Lawrence: Women In Pop Culture Are Under Attack."
BuzzFeed proclaimed: "Those Jennifer Lawrence Pictures Aren’t Scandalous."
And after all that, it turns out there are a lot of people who don't want to be told they should feel bad about looking at Lawrence's naked body, or Kate Upton's, or Victoria Justice's, or McKayla Maroney's, who it turns out was likely underage when her photos were taken.
Along with 4chan, Reddit's "The Fappening" and "Fappening" were the major threads for sharing hacked photos, and its members have been closely following the media coverage in the days since the leak (Reddit finally banned the groups on Sept. 6, nearly a full week after they were formed and had already delivered millions upon millions of pageviews). Not surprisingly, these Redditors aren't fond of Gizmodo referring to them as "snot-gobbling basement dwellers," and they don't appreciate the collective shaming, since they believe the media is nothing more than a big hypocrite. What's worse: They kind of have a point.
It has been posited that perhaps the media's response to this specific hacking would not have been so sympathetic if it happened to a less beloved and respected celebrity. These kinds of hackings have been going on for years, but it took someone hacking America's sweetheart for people to speak out and recognize that this kind of incident isn't a scandal; it's a theft and maybe even a sex crime.
This was not the conversation that was had two years ago when Scarlett Johansson's nude photos were hacked and posted online along with many other stars. While Christopher Chaney, the man found guilty of nine counts of computer hacking and wiretapping, did face serious consequences (he's currently serving 10 years in prison for his crimes), there wasn't the same moral outrage reserved for those who looked at the hacked photos, nor was there as much sympathy for the victims of the hack.
But Redditors are calling the media out (specifically this very website) for being hypocritical because we cover celebrity news.
On Sept. 2, Stephen Colbert took aim at the hacking on his show: "I stand with the Huffington Post, which posted a searing Op-Ed shaming anyone who looked at or shared these photos. So do not -- I mean that -- do not go look at these photos. Instead, go look at the sideboob and nip-slips at HuffPost's actual 'Sideboob' page."
Yes, The Huffington Post has a Sideboob page (which is simply a collection of tagged stories, not a vertical dedicated to sideboob, as previously reported. Thanks). Also, HuffPost hasn't written about sideboob since January, because sideboob is so over. But in all seriousness, there is an ongoing conversation regarding our celebrity coverage at HuffPost Entertainment, and sideboob is something we are no longer interested in writing about.
Redditors also wanted to highlight the apparent gender hypocrisy between the coverage of leaked photos. In fact, they directly pointed to a HuffPost article from 2010 covering NBA player Greg Oden's nude photos.
Similarly, this was Deadspin's headline:
And of course, Perez Hilton:
HuffPost wouldn't run that headline if Oden's photos leaked today, nor would we run a poll asking readers their thoughts on his penis. Four years after publishing this article, our standards have changed. In Oden's case, he claimed an ex-girlfriend sent the photos to WorldStarHipHop. If we were to cover this today, perhaps it would be viewed as revenge porn, and we would have likely handled with more tact.
But another example that's being used to decry hypocrisy and sexism is that, just two days before the massive hack, 5 Seconds of Summer's Calum Hood sent a naked Snapchat video of his penis to a random fan, who in turn filmed the clip and uploaded it to Vine. It's fair to say this was treated with a more flippant attitude than perhaps it deserved, but Hood also tweeted jokingly right after it, writing, "Least ya know what it looks like now," and "I'm still just a teenage kid learning from mistakes :)." Where this differs from Lawrence's hack, however, (and this is a slippery slope of an argument) lies in the base expectations of privacy. Sending a naked video to a random fan on Snapchat is quite a bit different from a group of hackers plotting to break into a private account in search of nude photos. Still, whether it's Hood or Lawrence, you should probably feel equally as bad for looking.
It's hard to deny that male and female victims of photo leaks are treated differently, but the majority of the male celebrities have fallen victim to their exes rather than hackers. Regardless, it doesn't make it any better; they are still victims. The following image turned up on Imgur in the days after the hack and it's apparent that hypocrisy is a hot topic:
And it's not hard to understand why people are frustrated with messages that they shouldn't be looking at Lawrence's photos. BuzzFeed, for example, said "Those Jennifer Lawrence Pictures Aren’t Scandalous," and offered up "21 Photos Of Jennifer Lawrence You Should Look At Instead," but also previously published topless photos of Kate Middleton taken by paparazzi, as well as former Disney star Dylan Sprouse's leaked photos.
Yes, the hypocrisy is real. The media has been encouraging you to look at leaked photos for years. But it's also apparent that with this new round of hackings, it's a message the media would like to change.
What's not going to change, however, is covering celebrities news and culture in general. That doesn't make us hypocrites, as some have claimed.
Covering celebrity news/culture means writing about what Kim Kardashian is wearing in various locations. It means writing about who is rumored to be dating whom. And it means writing about sexy photos. But it's important to understand that it's all part of an ecosystem. Celebrities need press to promote their projects, and their projects require a celebrity behind them to be marketable. These are very symbiotic relationships.
Can writing about celebrities be invasive? Yes, there is no doubt, but again, there are some things we at HuffPost Entertainment and other news organizations have done to minimize that.
Months before Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard called for a boycott of magazine's that publish paparazzi photos of celebrity children, HuffPost Entertainment made an editorial decision to only publish photos of famous children shared by the parents themselves via social media accounts, or in a context of an official photo shoot done with parental approval.
Likewise, within the last year we also stopped purchasing paparazzi photos featuring stars without makeup where the sole purpose would be to direct attention to a celebrity that doesn't look red carpet-ready. Instead, we cover makeup-free photos that celebs have personally shared, because no one should feel bad about walking around in public just because they decided to let their skin breathe for a day.
But do we cover nude photos? Yes. Nude photos are most definitely a part of celebrity culture, and the media historically has covered all of them: Hacked nude photos. Leaked nude photos. Accidentally tweeted nude photos. And overly Photoshopped "nude" photos in magazines that aren't really nude photos. But if there is one thing that seems to have come out of "The Fappening," it's that at least some parts of the media finally seem ready to make a major shift to respect celebrity privacy on the most basic level, which is something that doesn't seem so hard to do.