Caitlin McBride: At 19, Paris Jackson isn't fair game for criticism - she's not her father
Paris Jackson is something of an enigma, but then again, weren't most of us at 19 years old?
What were your late teens and earlier 20s but being a bit lost, a bit tragically dressed, obnoxiously ambitious and well-intentioned, but largely clueless? Unlike the rest of us who were allowed to make countless faux pas, embarrassing fashion mistakes and just getting in general trouble privately, this aspiring actress and model was born into a life of superstardom she didn’t have the luxury of choosing for herself.
Paris and her brothers Michael Jr and Blanket were heavily guarded as children, with their late father Michael Jackson famously covering their faces every time they were pictured publicly. At the time, it was considered further proof that he was losing his grip on reality, but in actuality – he may have been on to something, no matter how bonkers it looked.
This week, Paris was lambasted by the Australian press after her now-controversial appearance at the Melbourne Cup: she was guest of honour, invited by Myer for a rumoured (AUD) $100k fee, and reports soon began emerging that organisers were disappointed with her choice of ensemble and behaviour on the day.
The behaviour in question? She stuck her face against a window. It’s undeniably odd, but since when is attacking a teenager for doing something a bit weird par for the course, especially in this adult world of ours where serious crimes worthy of our passion and interest go unreported and untried?
Australia's The Herald Sun ran the pictures with the accompanying headline 'Wacko Jacko 2.0' with a time stamp to clarify the downfall of their approved behaviour. For her arrival at 12:35pm, there was a photo of her looking ladylike and by 4:30pm, it was window time.
"cute. You guys are f***in’ cowards. Bet you don’t have the balls to call me that to my face," she tweeted in response, tagging two journalists for the paper.
"I couldn’t care less what they call me tbh, but adding “2.0” is their way of dragging my father into it and THAT I will not stand for."
Paris is in the unique position of having to defend her own innocuous behaviour, while protecting the memory of a ghost, her late father whom she speaks about rarely, but on those occasions, with love and admiration.
The issue isn't that the paper ran the photos - they are salacious enough to pique the interest of most celebrity editors as it served as a reminder of her father’s troubled past, including dangling her then nine-month-old brother Blanket from a balcony in 2002. Not forgetting the savvier editors who published her response as a back-way of running the pictures while maintaining the moral high ground.
The issue is the ease with which increasingly young celebrities are being considered fair game and in Paris' case, being punished for the sins of her father. Paris isn't a one-trick pony. She began using her voice as a means of good from an early age, which is a tough task for anyone, let alone a teenager with the eyes of the world on her.
She has, rather admirably, spoken about being sexually assaulted and her struggles with substance abuse problems - problems that aren't exclusive to Hollywood, but are certainly exacerbated by access and money – as well as attempting suicide "multiple times".
"It was self-hatred. Low self-esteem, thinking that I couldn't do anything right, not thinking I was worthy of living anymore," she told Rolling Stone earlier this year, crediting a residential therapy programme and attending a therapeutic high school as the reasons behind her recovery.
Meanwhile, Demi Lovato, who has also spoken out about overcoming drug addiction at the same age is largely considered a saint among women and generally off-limits to negative press.
The focus on celebrity teenage behaviour in general, masked as coverage of ‘Young Hollywood’ makes me increasingly uncomfortable. Case in point: Chloe Moretz (20) and Brooklyn Beckham (18), and the stories around their "public debut as a couple" this week.
It was the same with Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen in 2004, when a number of dedicated websites were launched to count down the days until their 18th birthday. Afterwards, one respected news website ran the headline, "Mary-Kate & Ashley: Jailbait No More". After being sexualised from such a young age, it’s not exactly difficult to understand why both are virtually recluses now that they're in their 30s.
But you can’t help but feel particularly sad for someone like Paris Jackson, a young woman who seems rather lost in a world she didn't create, who is, at the end of the day, little more than a child.
It's not unlike Kendall and Kylie Jenner, who first appeared on Keeping Up With The Kardashians at 12 and 10, respectively, as they were born into a tv dynasty which granted millions of viewers an access all areas pass to their lives. Kylie’s view of the world seems black and white in a way that only a young person's can: the insight into her private life is what has given her phenomenal success, but it's something she speaks about as if mourning the loss of a loved one.
"I've been famous for what feels like my whole life. I just want to know what it feels like not to be," she told Complex last year. "Fame isn’t bad … [Growing up in public] is probably the hardest thing. You don’t know who you are. I didn' t know who I was a year ago, and I still don’t know exactly who I am now. You’re trying to grow up and make mistakes and everybody’s watching."
This comes in the same week that Sophie Turner dutifully hit out at adult obsession with the Stranger Things’ largely under-18 cast and their treatment by the paparazzi.
"It doesn’t matter if they are an actor…they are kids first. Give them the space they need in order to grow without feeling like they owe anyone anything for living their childhood dreams," she wrote as part of a lengthy thread attacking the behaviour of adults, both photographers and fans, who should really know better."
Because they should and if they don’t – why not?