These days, we are used to the fact that a number of celebrities purposely don’t show off images of their kids. SheKnows, as well as other publications, has a policy of not purchasing paparazzi photos of celebrity children. But this wasn’t always a standard. It’s something that came about after famous moms like Jennifer Garner and Halle Berry started to stand up for their children’s safety and privacy. In an exclusive clip from her interview on the new PBS series Tell Me More With Kelly Corrigan, airing Monday, Garner describes the scary chaos that led them to take legal measure to stop the paps.
“For 10 years there were, at the very least, six cars and often 20 outside of our house and outside of school and at the pediatricians,” Garner said. “And you’re begging them, ‘Please, step aside from the pediatrician’s door; I have a sick kid, please.'”
Garner acknowledged that to many, this would seem like a “dumb celebrity problem” and not a huge social issue.
“Unless it’s your child going through it, it’s not worth anyone’s attention or bother — it’s the cost of doing business,” she said.
But the photographers were so aggressive that they were becoming a public safety hazard.
“They were causing car accidents all the time,” Garner recalled. “I would go through a yellow light and there would be 15 cars that would go through the red light without compunction. … My one daughter tried to play soccer, and it was such a zoo for the [other] families that they just said, ‘Can you please not?’”
That sounds like quite a nightmare — all for the sake of a few photos of her and Ben Affleck’s children trying desperately to live like regular children. But Garner and other celebrities had all but given up on fixing the problem until Halle Berry came up with a way to tackle it from a legislative standpoint.
“She had an idea of a different way to look at it,” Garner said, giving Berry credit for the law they eventually passed in California in 2013. Rather than impinge on photographers’ First Amendment rights, they said that people should not be allowed to harass children by lying in wait for them.
While working with State Senator Kevin de Leon to pass the bill, Garner said she had interviews with various local sheriffs and police officers in her home. At one point, her daughter, who was 5 at the time, got to express her feelings on the matter.
“She had written a speech about ‘this is what it’s like to be a little kid and to have all these huge cameras running toward you, running toward your mom, running after you when you try to go to school and having other kids scared of it. … And I’m scared of them, they look like guns.'”
While testifying before the state legislature, Garner also described her fear that someone stalking her and her kids might be able to blend in with the press.
“There are violent, mentally-ill stalkers who can now get close to my kids by simply following mobs of photographers and blending in,” she said at the time. “Like the very man who threatened to cut the babies out of my belly. Who was arrested waiting behind our daughter’s preschool, standing among the throng of paparazzi. That man is still in prison, but I have no doubt there are others like him still out there.”
Can you possibly imagine that level of fear? This was not celebrities being precious about getting snapped without makeup on. Thankfully, after the law passed, Garner told Corrigan, things improved. And every time we see a photo of a famous kid, we will think twice about how it got there and what the kid is feeling, too.
Watch the rest of Garner’s interview on Tell Me More with Kelly Corrigan, Monday at 9 p.m ET on PBS.
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