It has only been days since the inauguration and the media and marketing empires of the United States are already speeding to exploit the privacy of the newly installed “first family.” The toy company responsible for the “beanie babies craze,” Ty, came out this week with a pair of dolls mimicking the two “first daughters.”
In reaction to the release of the dolls, (which are named: Marvelous Malia and Sweet Sasha), CNN reported that,
“The first lady’s office said Friday that Ty was out of line “We feel it is inappropriate to use young private citizens for marketing purposes,” said a spokesperson for Michelle Obama in a statement.”
In reply after questioning Ty the news agency reported that,
“A Ty representative told CNN the company generally avoids naming dolls for “any particular living individual” because doing so might interfere with how kids use their imaginations to play with them. But they wouldn’t reveal the source of their inspiration for the new figures, telling CNN that information relating to the development of the merchandise—including how it comes up with products, product names and trademarks—is proprietary.”
It has also come to light that the dolls by Ty are only the tip of the iceberg.
It was similarly reported by Fox News that, J. Crew, who designed the two Obama daughter’s outfits for the inauguration are also well aware of the marketing potential of the Obama sisters.
Fox News stated that, “J. Crew’s phones have been ringing off the hook as moms across the country try to get the colorful coats Malia and Sasha Obama wore to see their dad sworn in as president of the United States.”
What will the new President and his wife do to head off the media and marketing frenzy targeting their daughters? The BBC taking an interest in our new first family pointed out that,
“Before the inauguration President Obama and self-declared mom-in-chief Michelle vowed to protect the children’s privacy while in the White House.”
The English news service cannot help but draw comparisons between Michelle’s vehemence to protect her girls and Diana’s quest to protect her son’s during her tenure as Princess of Wales.
If you remember back before her death in September 1997, Lady Diana, Princess of Wales, following continuous media intrusion into her private life, confronted the British press in a vain plea for privacy for herself and her sons.
Ironically, earlier in 1997, the British Government had passed a Protection from Harassment Act and the Princess of Wales had tried in vain to use it to protect herself. Many freelance paparazzi (professional photographers who specialize in taking photographs of famous people and selling them to the media) had refused to heed Diana’s pleas for privacy, believing that she was a fair target.
It is common knowledge that this war with the unrelenting media was a point of constant aggravation for the “people’s princess” until the day she died. In fact, many believe that it was the paparazzi gone wild who were the cause of Diana’s death.
Looking into the Protection of Harassment Act of the British takes on special interest as we consider the plight of the Obama girls.
According to Wikipedia, “The Protection from Harassment Act 1997 is a piece of United Kingdom law, which, among other things criminalizes, and creates a right to protection from, stalking, and persistent harassment and bullying. Under this act the definition of harassment is behavior which causes alarm or distress. The Act provides for a jail sentence of up to six months and/or a fine for damages awarded in civil court.”
The Protection from Harassment Act was the only recourse Princess Diana had against the stalking of world-wide media and even it failed to protect her. What is equally suprising is that currently over ten years later there is still no explicit right to privacy law in either the U.S. Constitution or in British Law.
A survey of Privacy Laws throughout the world found online at, http://gilc.org/privacy/survey/surveylz.html reports that,
“The Supreme Court has ruled that there is a limited constitutional right of privacy based on a number of provisions in the Bill of Rights and subsequent amendments. This includes most specifically a right to privacy from government surveillance into an area where a person has a “reasonable expectation of privacy” and also in matters relating to marriage, procreation, contraception, family relationships, child rearing and education. However, records held by third parties such as financial records, telephone calling records (and even photos, my add) are generally not protected. The U.S. has no general privacy protection law.”
With this in mind, Michelle Obama will have her work cut out for her as she seeks to protect her kids. As it stands she can expect very little help from the legal system. The BBC in reporting Michelle’s dilemma, quoted Tarshia Stanley, associate professor at Spelman College a historically black college for women in Atlanta as she highlighted the media focus on the girls.
“What we are seeing portrayed in the media” the professor stated, “are little black girls who are respected and cared for – it’s not an image we often see. Michelle Obama will need to be careful the girls are not seen as icons – particularly in an age where there is an obsession with visual representations of people. She will need to ensure the girls are not seen as some version of Disney stars.”
Well, considering such warnings on the part of this professor and others, as we reflect on the developments of the past week it seems that, that Michelle Obama’s job of protecting Malia and Sasha will be a chore that is much easier said than done. Nonetheless the first Mom is reported to be quite an active, involved and devoted mother and it will be interesting to see how she fares against the various forces that are focused on exploiting her young girls. Hopefully, she will be more successful than Diana was!
What do you think the “First Mom” should do? Any opinions on how the U.S. Laws should be changed to better protect its citizens from privacy infringements? Please take the time to comment below. This fight against the media and marketing agencies world-wide is one that the Obama’s are just beginning and it will be interesting to see what evolves!