Written: 16th Nov 2005 | Last Updated: 16th Nov 2005
What some people do for a living!
In the press yesterday (The Australian, 15/11/05) - news of a private investigator who rummages through other people’s garbage in pursuit of a story. This trash-for-cash “research” thing has been standard procedure for years for hungry paparazzi, various Hollywood tragics and PIs looking for evidence in fraud and divorce cases. But in this particular instance, the prying private eye aimed a little higher - at demystifying, discrediting and embarrassing Australia and Denmark’s current media darling, Crown Princess Mary. Then, as singleton Mary Donaldson, she was white-hot news for Danish magazine, “Kig Ind” - so it hired a Sydney-based PI for $1300 a day to track down dirt on C.P. Frederik’s pretty Aussie squeeze.
In order to get meaty insight into the “real” Mary as her romance with the Crown Prince bloomed, her garbage - disposed of from her digs in Sydney's Eastern Suburbs - got trawled for treasure by one Ben McDonald, according to journo Emma Tom (whose own unauthorised book about Mary gets launched today). Revealing video footage, old photographs, shopping lists, bills and letters were souvenired in the name of reportage, and unfortunately for Mary, very personal details ended up in unscrupulous hands.
It’s all very well to claim such action as a legitimate intrusion - Tom’s story defends scrounger McDonald's rights by quoting the President of The Australian Institute of Private Detectives (really!) who explained that once placed on the verge, garbage ceases to belong to anyone and is therefore freely available for perusal and pilfering. But by scraping the bottom of Mary’s “barrel”, her sly, contracted hunter only proved two things - first, what a nasty piece of work he was and second, what an open, natural, normal woman she was.
While doing what we all do once a week - putting out the garbage - unpretentious Mary didn’t for a minute suspect her privacy would be violated. She wasn’t expecting to have to shred her rubbish in order to prevent it from finding its way into tell-all books or half-truth magazines. She put her junk out like the rest of us. But ah…unbeknownst to her, she was being watched.
Nicking Mary’s bin round the corner, then dumping its contents into a plastic garb-bag, McDonald snuck his bounty home so he could sift excitedly through it like Indiana Jones on an archaeological dig, picking out torn snippets of photographs and recomposing them…watching tapes of a young woman trying a shot at modelling/stardom…piecing together his own version of what his subject thought, felt and did in her life. He stalked her, judged her then sold his perspective.
This man’s undignified actions - and those of money-throwing, sensational publications - should be universally condemned for their tastelessness, disrespectfulness and randomness. Have we become so obsessed with fame that we’ll take it, consume it and digest it any way we can? Even if it's garbage?
Must everything - and everyone - be a commodity?