Jennifer’s Body: Stealing Lawrence’s Image(s)

I’m furious about recent developments involving Jennifer Lawrence. She has worked hard to establish herself as an A-List actress and this did not happen overnight. Now the internet wants access to her body for free.

Illegally downloading films and images needs to stop. Internet users are flooding the internet with images of Lawrence in David O. Russell’s American Hustle (2013). In this film Lawrence wears several revealing outfits and images such as the below are easily accessible to anyone with a web browser.

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These images must be paid for by consumers. Russell and Lawrence did not intend for us to freely access the film – both director and actress took time and energy to create this film and we should pay to see it. But Jennifer’s body isn’t merely for aesthetic pleasure: her character Rosalyn was dressed to highlight certain qualities of that character. Thus any viewing of the film or sexy image is not only out of context, but is clearly theft.

Lawrence labored in the making of American Hustle. Throughout her career she has crafted a particular image of angelic purity, whether as Katniss or Rosalyn, even if the latter has a bit of edge. Images such as the above break our preconceived notions of that purity: Katniss would never pose so sensually, nor would we like to believe that the actress portraying fictional characters has anything like a sex life. Lawrence would like to maintain this facade – her career depends on it and we as her faithful fans want such out of context, and stolen, images taken down from websites.

If actresses choose to show their bodies, and the producers intend for audiences to pay a fee to see the star’s body, anything less than the full price of a theater ticket (or DVD rental) is unethical. I know I wouldn’t want my images stolen by internet perverts. Clearly I can understand Lawrence’s plight because I wouldn’t want my privacy breached, and further, I wouldn’t want my images circulating the internet and global news. I can imagine myself getting such press and attention due to my success and fame. In fact, as I am imagining myself as a celebrity figure, I feel a great sense of pathos with Lawrence.

The following flow chart can help you decide if illegally downloading movies is the right choice:

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NB: This is satire if that wasn’t clear.

It suggests that the debate about Lawrence’s privacy is misguided, and crazy. The questions we should be asking are: what are our relationship to celebrities, what kind of product is being sold to us (“Jennifer Lawrence”), and how do we consume the product “Jennifer Lawrence.”

Our response to hacked photos, as an invasion of privacy, is really our response to poor labor practices: since we accept that celebrities can show their bodies onscreen for a fee, and we subsequently fill the internet with these images, what we are really upset about is that Lawrence was not ready (and not paid) to present her nudity for public consumption. We know that A list celebrities reserve their nudity for art cinema, not cell phone pics. (Cf. Scarlet Johansson in Under the Skin [2013], for a recent example.)

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