It's always been a little too easy to conclude that celebrities are "fair game" for certain treatment at the hands of perfect strangers.
"Fair game" for hateful tweets, for body shaming, for being followed, for having their private lives probed 24/7. Some tabloids have been rummaging through garbage—quite literally—for years, apparently mistaking themselves for police on the hunt for evidence of a crime. And there's always been a faction that believes celebs sold their right to privacy in exchange for the spoils of fame.
Well, they didn't.
But perhaps the most disturbing relic of the "celebs are fair game" flippancy is the pleasure some people take in invading someone's personal space for no reason other than to get five seconds of in-the-moment attention and, in this day and age, about 12 hours' worth of headlines.
Think of how the 1974 Oscars streaker would have trended on Twitter today. The David Niven reaction memes would have been legendary.
Sometimes those who ambush a celebrity claim to have a purpose, such as when two men charged the dance floor after Ryan Lochte's debut performance on Dancing With the Stars earlier this month, shouting "Liar!" in reference to the story he concocted in an attempt to cover up his own embarrassing behavior during the Rio Olympics.
But there's a legal way to peacefully protest people or policy you don't like, and now those guys are facing misdemeanor charges and could spend six months in jail. Even more ironic is that their big accomplishment was managing to do what Lochte was having a hard time doing himself—drumming up sympathy.
More often than not, however, it's women who are the target of these otherwise purposeless, usually inane and often downright malicious attacks. Not only is approaching a person who's surrounded by security endangers everyone involved in the moment, but being approached on the street (or perhaps even worse, at an event where there's the assumption of safety) can cause lasting psychological damage.
Since assault is a crime and there are varying degrees of it in the eyes of the law, it's really hard to understand why someone finds it exciting enough or worth the risk of wreaking major havoc, getting arrested or being the subject of worldwide scorn in order to throw flour on Kim Kardashian or, as persistent troublemaker Vitalii Sediuk tried to do today, flip Kardashian's skirt up in front of photographers.
He was taking a stand for natural beauty, Sediuk claimed via Instagram, adding that he just happened to be sitting at a café in Paris when Kardashian got out of a car in front of him. Meaning, he didn't plan it, he just came up with that bright idea in the moment.
Kardashian breezed right past him, adept enough by now at tuning out the noise around her—as well as confident enough in her security detail—to not feel the need to give him the time of day. Such was the case when Sediuk made a dive for her legs almost exactly two years ago, also during Paris Fashion Week, as she navigated the crowd at Balmain's show with Kanye West and mom Kris Jenner.
Sediuk unfortunately has made a name for himself crisscrossing the globe to see just how close (and it's been scarily close) he can get to celebrities—and just last week he manhandled Gigi Hadid in Milan, managing to make his way through the crowd and lift her off the ground. Once the 21-year-old model wriggled out of his grasp she effectively shoved him away and considered fighting back even further.
How terrifying must that have been, trying to get to her car when she was grabbed from behind?
Yet not only was Sediuk free to go about his business afterward, Hadid's private security detail handling the situation instead of local authorities, but Hadid ended up taking crap in headlines for exhibiting "not model behavior."
So Bella Hadid was compelled to defend her sister on social media and Gigi discussed her reaction—which was entirely understandable, as well as a seemingly cut-and-dry case of self-defense from any angle—more in depth yesterday in Lena Dunham's Lenny Letter.
"Honestly, I felt I was in danger, and I had every right to react the way I did," she wrote. "If anything, I want girls to see the video and know that they have the right to fight back, too, if put in a similar situation."
Meanwhile, Sediuk hasn't entirely directed his unwanted attentions at females. He's stuck his face in Bradley Cooper's tuxedo-clad crotch on the red carpet in Los Angeles (and given the same treatment to Leonardo DiCaprio in Santa Barbara), tried to kiss Will Smith on the mouth on a red carpet in Moscow and rushed Brad Pitt (also, in hindsight, to make eye contact with his crotch) when the actor was with his family at the Maleficent premiere in Hollywood—a stunt that got Sediuk slapped with a restraining order, community service and a three-year ban from Hollywood events.
So he seems to be an equal-opportunity creep, but why was he only banned from events after the Pitt incident when he had previously managed to get on stage during the Grammys while Adele was receiving an award and, just weeks before the Maleficent premiere, poke his head under America Ferrera's skirt while she was posing for a group photo at the Cannes Film Festival.
"It felt like a crazy, weird dream. It was like, I was at Cannes in my dream. I was on the red carpet and Cate Blanchett was next to me, and then some guy jumped under my dress!" Ferrera described the incident later.
"I don't mind an exhibitionist," Pitt said in a statement after Sediuk pleaded to battery and unlawful activity at a sporting or entertainment event, "but if this guy keeps it up he's going to spoil it for the fans who have waited up all night for an autograph or a selfie, because it will make people more wary to approach a crowd. And he should know, if he tries to look up a woman's dress again, he's going to get stomped."
It doesn't appear that Sediuk has learned his lesson; in fact, his behavior—judging by what he did to Ciara and Kardashian just a few months after the Brad incident, and then fast-forward to Gigi Hadid last week—has escalated to being more handsy with women than before. He claimed back in 2014 that he was just trying to hug Kim, but grabbing someone from behind, as he did with Gigi, isn't the normal behavior of a respectfully enamored fan.
It's the behavior of someone who wants attention. And all sorts of people throughout history have done horrible things because they wanted attention.
Perhaps what he did to Ferrera should have been treated more as the assault on her right not to be violated on the red carpet that it was. Looking up a girl's dress, or trying to flip up her dress to expose her bottom, isn't funny. It wasn't funny when we were 4, or 8, or 18 or now. In fact, it can be downright terrifying, whether the guy actually wants to look or if he just wants his name to trend on Twitter. For that matter, the guy-on-guy contact isn't funny either—male roughhousing tends to get a pass in a different way, but dismissing that as frat humor sets a dangerous precedent too.
And worst of all, while Sediuk claims to not mean any harm, and he hasn't caused any physical injuries that we've heard of, there are people out there who do mean others harm—and who have succeeded at causing harm. This sort of nonsense distracts from real threats and, as Brad Pitt pointed out, has the potential to ruin the interactions that stars have with well-meaning fans.
Maybe at one time this sort of incident was being written off as a "prank," but it's just gross—and a violation of privacy and personal space. A glance at comments from the Ferrera story in 2014 exposes a stomach-churning theory that female celebrities who "sell sex" don't have a right to complain about a guy sticking his head under their skirts.
That couldn't be more off-base, and it's obviously reminiscent of Gigi Hadid being accused of un-model-like behavior just last week. Which means that these sorts of ambushes continue to be viewed by some as just one of the perils of being famous. Celebrities are "fair game" when it comes to having their work critiqued and their picture taken on the red carpet, their facial expressions GIF'd when they're sitting in the audience at the Oscars, their words analyzed when they've granted interviews.
Dealing with the fair perils of fame is enough. Anyone, no matter how anonymous or A-list, has the right to walk down the street, go to work and have a life without the fear they're going to be groped or grabbed. No amount of celebrity cancels that out.