The list of celebrities who had their pictures stolen numbers over seventy-five. Some of them aren’t even capitalized; not names, really. They’re just folders where the prizes go.
Jennifer Lawrence is on the list. Perez Hilton posted those, for those who might otherwise have had trouble finding them fast enough. The question went out quick on its heels: Is her career over?
Being a woman with any degree of public life in the age of social media is to be constantly sandblasted; you know the sand was always there, but the sheer force and volume with which it hits you isn’t something you can ever get used to. You have to brace yourself to turn on your computer; stepping out your door becomes a thing you have to armor against.
Many of them are such small things, but there are so, so many, and there are always more.
It’s suggested, often, that women develop thicker skins; before that can happen, of course, the sandblasting would have to stop.
This week, Anita Sarkeesian put out a new video in her series on Tropes vs Women in Video Games, dealing with women as wallpaper in the context of being the victims of violence, to set a gritty scene or serve as motivation for the hero to find the bad guy. In Assassin’s Creed, we follow a fleeing villain through the city; if you time it right and stay far enough away not to engage, he’ll kill as many prostitutes as he has to just to get your attention.
It brought on possibly the greatest-yet volley from gamers who took offense to the idea that displaying the sexualized bodies of women victims was wrong. The argument quickly solidified into “It’s just video games, they’re not real, and they’re only reflecting real-life violence, so it’s the world that’s the problem,” delivered in what one has to imagine is a ceaseless pterodactyl screech of ruined fun.
Some accused her of cherry-picking her examples (from twenty-five games). Others called out factual errors. Regarding Mafia 2: Joe’s Adventures, someone pointed out that Sarkeesian had been misrepresenting the scene in which the men have a firefight over the body of a dead pole dancer; the description was, he insisted, because the player must kill her and drag her body to the stage before the firefight can even begin.
I looked for that comment again. I didn’t find it, but there were several search results.
One, a YouTube tip on game play: “you have to kill her then you can rob the store”.
Another, a list of “10 Hot Exotic Dancers in Videogames.” (The Mafia 2 ladies come midway through the rankings, beneath the women in Yakuza 3: “They’re not the prettiest and aren’t great dancers but they’ll get the job done!”)
Another, a link to a topic on a gaming-questions website: “Why can’t I beat women in this game?”
An excerpt from Helen Garner’s This House of Grief:
“Having recently watched a bunch of blokes pour a concrete slab in my own backyard, I was equipped to imagine the effect of this sight in Cindy Farquarson’s stifling situation. A concrete pour is a dramatic process. It demands skill, speed, strength, and the confident handling of machinery; and it is so intensely, symbolically masculine that every woman and boy in the vicinity is drawn to it in excited respect. Spellbound on the back veranda between my two grandsons, I remembered Camille Paglia’s coat-trailing remark that if women were running the world, we’d still be living in grass huts. ”
From Phil Blankenship on Twitter, a Facebook screencap of someone using the name Daniel Del Pozzo.
“If you call yourself my friend, you will send me links to the pictures with Jennifer Lawrence, Victoria Justice, Ariana Grande (even though she claims they are fake) and Mary Elizabeth Winstead…oh and I also heard Emma Stone was one. Please and thank you.”
He’s updated the post with those he’s seen, as if to reassure everyone it isn’t as if he’s gross, he’s not greedy about it; he’s just choosing off a menu, that’s all.
The last line on the screencapped list of stolen pictures reads, “plus a shot of alison brie and dave franco.” He’s the only guy whose name appears on the list; it’s a content warning, in case you don’t want a guy to ruin the fantasy.
Anita Sarkeesian received what is apparently the usual number of death threats upon release of this latest video. Some, however, were so violently specific that she alerted police, made them public, and left her home. (Those threats are screencapped here, though all possible trigger warning apply.)
Some gamers accused her of making these up. They threatened to kill her for it.
Some people have replied to the celebrities directly on Twitter, a sandblast of shame. What did they expect, taking photos on their personal phones intended only for the recipients? Privacy? Then this serves them right, apparently, somehow.
A screencap by @scotchka, of tweets sent to Mary Elizabeth Winstead since deleted from somoene whose handle begins @JohnnyMP:
“You deserved this because a girl like you would never date me in real life no matter how nice and courteous I was. Karma!”
“Sorry but it’s not fair that only the guys of your choosing get to see the photos while the ugly, less fortunate guys do not.”
Sonia Saraiya is a TV editor at AV Club, (where, for the sake of disclosure, I write TV reviews). Recently, one commenter went through four years of her Twitter and Tumblr to pull comments critical of white men, linked the resulting graphic in the comments at AV Club, and agitated for her to lose her job.
There are a dozen comments in the image (helpfully titled “Sonia’s views on race” and assembled in what seems to be a frenzy of beginner Freudian design). It’s not clear, due to the design, if all of them are hers, or where they’re from. Some are small, clustered together as if to downplay the effort that must have gone into finding them all. Some are displayed prominently and centrally; the prizes. (The comments are not particularly important; the important thing is to remind her she’s being watched.)
The centerpiece, large and offset with framing clips in dark gray that draw attention to this as a significant offense: “let’s talk about how done i am with straight white men trying to explain things to me about GoT or anything else, really”
She didn’t say it; a minor detail.
If Jennifer Lawrence had done a sex scene, her nudity would have been the talk of the press junket; they would have asked how she prepared, how much she dieted (of course she would have dieted, and of course it would come up – the size of her body has been public discourse for a while). Maybe they’d ask what her parents thought, but maybe she’s old enough now that it’s off the list of questions worth asking. Someone would have called up Mystique, and made a makeup joke.
It would be considered one of the many career milestones of a promising actress. The Academy Award gives her the protection to do the occasional nude scene; doing a nude scene can lead to the protection of an Academy Award, but it’s a longer shot. Better to have the statue first.
If Jennifer Lawrence had done a nude scene, it would have been a performance. We would all have seen her body, gotten the usual thrill that accompanies the concept, and been finished.
Of course, it would be overanalyzed and screencapped and fetishized by everything from thinspo blogs to porn sites. But it would not have been as appealing as this crime is, now, to the people to whom it appeals. These photos are in demand because they are a thing she did for herself that got stolen from her. That’s the draw. That’s the prize.
A headline in the Telegraph, this week: “Mother of three poised to lead the BBC”.
Since the stolen pictures were announced, they’ve apparently been the subject of discussion on a subreddit; The Fappening has begun tracking access problems to the “latest release.”
Neetzan Zimmerman tweeted a screenshot of the announcement that the photos had been made unavailable:
The central comment:
“This is the fork in the road.
Reddit is officially a censorship based website.
No more free speech for us.”
Jennifer Lawrence’s career is not over. Scarlett Johansson’s career wasn’t over when her nude pictures were stolen. The advantage of being able to afford legal teams is that you can redress wrongs committed against you.
What she can’t get back, of course, is the feeling that any part of her is safe from criminal commodification. As a public figure, it’s considered a serious possibility that being the victim of theft might endanger her career. As a private citizen – well, she isn’t now, is she? That’s gone.
That’s the appeal of the photos, of course. Photoshops of Playboy models with Jennifer Lawrence’s head pasted on wouldn’t be nearly worth what these are worth. The act of violation is what makes the results so valuable; they’re in demand because she made them for herself, and you can take that from her just by looking.
The lawyers will shut down the distribution, but that’s hardly the point.
Women are being watched. Women are never safe. The goal is always to strip you, of anything, of everything; the hunt is on.
Tomorrow morning, step outside.