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The Media's Treatment Of Cara Delevingne Is A Disturbing Reality We Should Have Left In 2007

Did we learn nothing from Britney Spears?

By Jess Pullar
In recent weeks, coverage about British supermodel Cara Delevingne's alleged breakdown has hit headlines, with some tabloids going so far as to publish concerning paparazzi shots of the model at her most vulnerable (and completely unaware she was being photographed).
It feels reminiscent of 2007, when photos of Britney Spears shaving her head were taken by more than 70 paparazzi photographers, sold and published in every outlet under the sun.
In retrospect, many of us can safely say that the coverage of Britney's public breakdown was deeply problematic. Here was a woman who was struggling with her mental health (not helped by years of media scrutiny in the first place). And instead of recognising this, the media leaned into the human impulse to rubberneck by posting the images everywhere for the sake of making money.
15 years later, we're somehow still here.
In August, tabloids began to paint a story told by "friends" of Delevingne's who are "incredibly concerned" for the 30-year-old. They claimed the situation has been "building" for several weeks.
They've also been publishing images of Delevingne behaving "erratically", and just this week, the media jumped at a freshly disturbing new angle: Margot Robbie was pictured by paparazzi leaving Delevingne's house in tears.
Let's just take a moment to put this in perspective: A woman is struggling and her closest friends and family are deeply concerned for her. But instead of giving her privacy, which is what any decent human would do for someone who is really going through it, they're stalking her, creating narratives about her and they're making money from it.
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In the aftermath of Britney's 2007 breakdown, Britney's father placed her under a conservatorship. For 13 years, he controlled every detail of her life — from the people she was allowed to see, right down to the birth control she had to take.
In 2021, the world watched in horror as these details were revealed, and the toll it took on Britney was clear. The world rallied around her in support because of it—at its core, the #FreeBritney movement was a rebellion against the exploitation of her mental health.
Yet this is exactly what the media are currently doing to Cara Delevingne, and they're getting away with it as though the past 15 years didn't happen.
The question of 'what is newsworthy' is one every outlet and every editor asks themselves daily. Do we cover this story? Is it in the public interest? And as society changes, so too does the bar for newsworthiness. In the 1990s, certain tabloids considered it fair game to 'out' closeted queer people, for example; the same coverage today rightly would—and has—every right be condemned.
Is a person's private struggle, not to mention the distress of their friends and family, considered fair game in news? Is it newsworthy to publish images of a private breakdown? We think absolutely not, and we hope for a day where that urge to rubberneck is instantly outweighed by the basic human understanding to allow them privacy. If only paparazzi-driven tabloids would agree.
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  • undefined: Jessica Pullar