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The internet is breaking today because the daughter of former celebrity couple, Johnny Depp and Vanessa Paradis, Lily-Rose Depp, made a public appearance, at Chanel's Metiers d'Art show in New York, and she looks something like an adult rather than the tiny child we've known her to be until now.
Lily-Rose, who has her mother and father's physical genes and will probably be recruited by Hedi Slimane for a Saint Laurent campaign any minute now, is beautiful in the images from the event – all blonde bob, and matching skirt and boob tube. But she's 15 years-old and the only thing she's done to court media attention is be born to famous parents, so we should probably stop sexualising her, by calling her things like a "megababe" and "stunning", and focussing on her physical features, for her own benefit and for the benefit of teenage girls and women everywhere.
Lily-Rose Depp obviously isn't the first celebrity child to be papp-ed and written about. The phenomenon got so bad that Kristen Bell and her husband Dax Shepard launched a campaign, No Kids Policy, encouraging fans to boycott media outlets who published photographs of celebrity children without the consent of their parents. At the time, Bell called the phenomenon "extremely disturbing" and argued that "the consumption of celebrities is so rabid. And we're here to just talk about the fact that maybe it's a little unethical to be consuming the children in that fashion".
The major ethical problem with photographing the children of celebrities is that the kids haven't consented to this phenomenon in any way. In fact, most of the time they probably don't know what's going on at all, and just find it kind of terrifying that old men wearing hooded sweatshirts follow them around and jump out at them from behind fences and foliage all the time. While I'm of the school that believes actors, pop stars and the like make their bed when they decide to step into the spotlight by starring in that Hollywood blockbuster or release that pop single, I still think the paparazzi are unethical crazy people, and that this, coupled with our gleeful desire for celebrity gossip has created a monster not dissimilar to the relationship between drug dealers and their victims.
Jennifer Lawrence, for example, told Vanity Fair, ""I knew the paparazzi were going to be a reality in my life", but goes on to say that, "I didn't know that I would feel anxiety every time I open my front door, or that being chased by 10 men you don't know, or being surrounded, feels invasive and makes me feel scared and gets my adrenaline going every day". It's one thing to stalk – which is exactly what paparazzi do, they stalk – celebrity adults, who have at least in part opted in to this culture, it's quite another to stalk unwitting children.
Now I know what you're going to say: Lily-Rose is a teenager who, by deciding to attend the Chanel Metier D'Arts show, opted in to this culture, too. On one hand I agree: Lily-Rose Depp decided to attend an event she knew would be covered by media, which probably goes some way to explaining why her outfit is so adorable. The problem with photographing someone like Lily-Rose Depp at something like the Chanel Metier D'Arts show is that it beings to blur the lines between when it is ethically sound and when it's not ethically sound to photograph the children of celebrities. For example, I follow Demi Moore's daughter, Tallulah Willis on Instagram (because she rules), and she was photographed at the mall recently, shopping with her grandmother. Tallulah is actually a model, too, but it's unlikely the media would be interested in taking photographs of her with her Gran unless she was the child of celebrities. Headline featuring these photographs probably read "Demi Moore and Bruce Willis' Daughter Wears Cute Dress While Shopping With Grandmother". If we believe it's unethical to stalk and photograph people who have not courted fame against their will (which we all should), then we should stop photographing the children of celebrities altogether, at least until they opt into the fame game themselves by, you know, working.
While the photographing the children of celebrities feels invasive and unnecessary to me, it's the sexualisation of teenagers by all forms of media, including paparazzi, that's the real problem, complete with very real consequences for teenage girls everywhere.
From an incredibly young age, the children of celebrities get treated like celebrity adults – take these three lists, of the "hottest celebrity offspring", for starters. We all know this to be self-worth hell, involving the evaluation of one's wardrobe, makeup, hair, skin and, most invasively, body. Worse still, because we value youth so highly, when we sexualize teenagers, we elevate their physical characteristics to The Ideal Physical Characteristics in Society, which is The Thing creating unrealistic standards for teenage girls and adult women, and the problems associated with this unreality. All imagery from the modelling industry, from the advertising industry, from the celebrity media industry is part of this Idealization Process, and when we sexualize people like Lily-Rose Depp, we feed this machine.
Lily-Rose Depp is 15, and is currently having her wardrobe, makeup, hair, skin and body evaluated. Lily-Rose Depp is 15 and the evaluation of her is effecting how other 15 year-olds evaluate themselves. Lily-Rose Depp is 15 and the evaluation of her is effecting how adult women evaluate themselves. The American Psychological Association released a report in 2008 called The Sexualisation of Girls, in which it found "The proliferation of sexualized images of girls and young women in advertising, merchandising and media is harming girls' self-image". "Harming girls' self-image" can lead to serious illnesses like eating disorders – 95% of women with eating disorders are between 12 and 25 – and less serious but-still-very-real things, like feeling shitty about oneself all the time.
By photographing, evaluating and sexualizing Lily-Rose Depp we're feeding the unrealistic representation of women today. So we should stop doing it, regardless of how cute her twin-set is.
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