So somebody harassed Amy Schumer this week over a photograph, and because of that, the rest of us can’t get them now. The short of it is that a man encountered Schumer on the street and photographed her without her permission. When she asked him to stop, he allegedly responded “No it’s America and we paid for you,” and kept pushing for photos. As a result, Schumer’s not doing any more spontaneous photos with fans. (She’s since walked that back and said that she’ll still do photos with “nice” fans. Also, a person claiming to be the photographer has come forward and contested Schumer’s version of events.)
Let’s be clear about this: the first problem is that somebody (allegedly) harassed somebody else. The fact that the harassee is a celebrity is incidental to the story. First and foremost, Amy Schumer is a human being, the same as you and me, and doesn’t deserve to be bullied any more than your own mother does. Yes, America is a free land, and yes, if someone is out in a public space, the First Amendment lets you photograph them. But there’s a big difference between a casual shot from a distance and running up to their face and claiming they “owe” it to you. They don’t. They still need to eat, grocery shop, and walk around in the street like the rest of us.
We get it: celebrities are fun. They occupy the spotlight and lead much more interesting lives than the rest of us. We all want a piece of that, and would like to be able to go into work on Monday morning and tell everyone that we met a public hero. You know what? Too bad. You don’t get to do that if they don’t want it.
Celebrities can be fun, and many of them have no problem sharing a moment with the fans. Having been to many conventions over the years, I’ve met plenty of screen performers, book authors, and comic book creators. A lot of them are great. I’ve had Sean Astin and John Rhys-Davies write personalized birthday messages for my wife. I got George Takei to write his trademark “Helloooooooooo!” for me on a photo (after he casually chatted with me about being in a Japanese internment camp). I’ve been fist-bumped by Billy Dee Williams. Robin Williams posed for a picture with me at a USO show in Afghanistan. Charles Soule wrote a personalized lawyer-to-lawyer message to me on a She-Hulk comic. Carla Speed McNeil did a personalized doodle for my daughter when she was hospitalized. It’s all a load of fun and boosted my day whenever it happens.
The difference with me is that I ask very nicely when these things happen. In every case when I’ve had a celebrity encounter, it’s been because I paid my fee to get into whatever event was hosting them. If I wanted something special like an autograph or a sketch, I’ve asked very nicely. Many of them are happy to go the extra mile. Some aren’t. I’ve asked a few other comic artists for drawings, and they’ve said no. That’s OK. I don’t need to get pissy with them just because they won’t bend to my fan-wishes. It’s not my problem and it’s not yours either.
I can’t blame Ms. Schumer for instituting a no-photos policy (and I’m glad she’s since scaled it back). A few years ago, something similar happened with comic artist Amanda Conner when she learned that people were hocking her sketches on eBay that she’d given them for free. Until that point, she was happy to provide free pictures for her fans, but she had to draw a line when she was inadvertently financing somebody’s business. Sadly, she put her foot down and stopped with the free sketches.
So, internet, there’s three simple rules for dealing with a celebrity. One, they’re another human being, and you should treat them just like you’d want to be treated. They’re public figures, not public property. Two: if you want something from a celebrity, ask nicely and don’t demand it. And three: if they say no, that’s not your problem. If you’re confused about rules two or three, always go back to number one. If you can’t handle number one, get the hell away and don’t ruin things for the rest of us.