In these times of information overload and short attention spans, scandals come and go on a daily basis as the media feeds on sensationalist news. They are like supernovas, burning bright with intense glare only to fade into insignificance after a split moment. From politics to showbiz, from business to sport, we are constantly exposed to scandalous stories that make headlines for a day or two and disappear without a trace. At times, they manage to freeze and focus this daily overflow of information with some kind of deeper reflection about the times we live in by striking a familiar chord, but typically they are elbowed out by the latest developments. In this intensive roller-coaster of events, there are, however, examples of public outrage that outlasted their immediate duration and serve as reference points or milestones in the recent history of celebrity scandal. Here are the strongest contenders in this category.
Most probably, Woody Allen would want to be remembered as a skillful and prolific filmmaker, alternatively as a traveling jazz musician, but his legacy is likely to include his shocking decision to marry his adoptive stepdaughter. It was 1992 when Allen’s favorite actress and life partner Mia Farrow made a stunning discovery of indecent photos that sported her adopted daughter Soon-Yi nude lying around on Woody’s cabinet. Despite a gaping age difference between the middle-aged director and a 22-year-old Soon-Yi, they carried on with their affair amid the raging media storm that accused Allen of anything from shameful adultery to plain incest. The beleaguered director managed to push through maintaining that “the heart wants what it wants” and he could do very little about it and his marriage to Soon-Yi proved much more successful than his previous relationships, including with Mia. The film he completed at the time of the scandal, entitled Husbands and Wives, was successful, too.
She was the most photographed woman in history and she is believed to have met her end largely as a result of trying to escape the pursuit of frenzied paparazzi. Princess Diana’s tragic death under the underpass in Paris produced the outpouring positive emotions towards her fate and criticism of deadly obsession with high-profile personalities like her. The accident in France, even though it was never fully explained, put her life in sharp focus from her disappointing marriage with Prince Charles, his infidelity, their infamous separation and divorce, her problems with bulimia and men. She also part of what many see as the golden age of celebrity gossip that later turned its attention to people of much lesser stature.
A lot of things are special about Bill Clinton’s Zippergate, not least its cataclysmic consequences for the most powerful politician on earth, the then president of the United States. The media attention and the fallout from Clinton’s short-lived affair with his White House intern Monica Levinsky changed the face of American public life and politics. If Internet technology, complete with such tools as a webcam or blogs, had been around at that time, the buzz would have been even more feverish.