Way back in January…at least it seems way back…Ethics Alarms used a shocking photograph of retired actress Bridget Fonda to raise the question of whether it was ethical “to take unflattering photos of former performers and celebrities and publicize them expressly to invite cruel comments and ridicule.” The fact that it was offered as a quiz indicates that I was torn on the matter.
On one hand, such photos could be legitimately called newsworthy, although their main attraction is prurient and mean. There is also a fair argument that if one profits by fame and celebrity on the way up, taking the hit during one’s decline in career, popularity and allure is part of the price.
Never mind all that, though. I’ve made up my mind. The practice is unethical, and a blatant Golden Rule breach. I shouldn’t have made the question a quiz.
Why the change of heart? Yesterday I saw photos circulating in social media, and in various memes, showing Sylvester Stallone in his back yard looking every inch of his nearly 76 years and carrying an enormous gut that made him resemble Don Corleone if he had just swallowed Luca Brasi. This caused much hilarity on the web (“Look! I can finally say I have a body like Rambo!”) but it is just cruelty.