Almost all of us are guilty of occasionally flipping through a magazine and absentmindedly checking out photos of a celebrity with their kids. Readers might not spend a lot of time thinking about it — but Dax Shepard wants you to start.
The actor, who’s married to Kristen Bell and welcomed a daughter this year, wrote an essay for The Huffington Post, “Why Our Children Should Be Off Limits to the Paparazzi.” In the piece, Shepard explains he recently was at an event hosted by Jennifer Garner about California Senate Bill 606, which makes it illegal “to photograph a child because of their parent’s employment in a manner that ‘seriously alarms, annoys, torments, or terrorizes’ them.”
Shepard clarifies this issue wasn’t even on his mind until 10 months ago, with the birth of his daughter, but he now realizes how pervasive the practice is for celebrity parents. “Last Saturday we went to our friend’s house…I didn’t think we had been followed, but on Sunday morning my mother emailed me pictures of our daughter, clear as day, being carried and put into the car by me. This broke my heart in a way that’s not entirely reasonable. I had charged myself, as her dad, with protecting her. I personally believe, and I understand a lot of people differ on this point, that protecting her includes keeping her life private until the moment she decides otherwise. I think she is entitled to that. I think every minor is entitled to that. My wife and I, ever the approval-junkies, made a decision to get into show business and become public figures, but she has not. She hasn’t even decided if she prefers pureed carrots to peanut butter.”
Shepard then explains that he’s hopeful laws will become a deterrent, but that he feels the only way to really cut down on the photographing of kids is for consumers to demand it.”We pray that one of the classier weeklies, like People*, will enact a no-kids policy, and that they will be rewarded by the consumer for doing so. And we hope that leads to others following suit. It would be miraculous if the situation changed and celebrities’ children got to be just children. And it would be even more miraculous if that change came from the will of the people and not legislation. I think this could be a good step in our ever evolving social consciousness.”
Elsewhere in the piece, Shepard responds to some of the common criticisms he’s heard since he and Bell last week made statements asking fans to boycott tabloids, including the argument that “you signed up for this” and “Why don’t you just post your own pics so it will devalue the paparazzi’s?” (For the record, Shepard replies: “A photo from us won’t satiate curiosity; it will simply introduce a new character into the soap opera.”)
Shepard certainly makes valid points. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of long-term solutions materialize, as more and more celebrities speak out about keeping their children private citizens while the interest in them from the public only seems to be growing. As Shepard points out, with so much money at stake, consumers, not celebrities, might have to lead the way. And for so many individuals, it’s part of a celebrity culture addiction they seem in no hurry to kick.
Read his full essay at The Huffington Post.
*Editor’s note: People and EW are both properties of Time Inc.