How Celebrity Culture And Carceral Culture Overlap In Ways That Favor Fame And Power

a group of photographers taking pictures of a man on red carpet
Zain Murdock
March 4, 2024

The criminal legal system is not a “justice” system. One example? How the system caters to celebrities and others with wealth and power.

With wealth, financial exploitation is often the response to harm. Money buys silence. Celebrities can pay off their victims with settlements or sue for “privacy” if victims violate nondisclosure agreements.

Incarceration is not an equal-opportunity punishment either. Access to better facilities is one advantage. Another is not doing any jail time at all.

 Believed to be less of a flight risk, many celebrities who can afford expensive bail receive even lower bail.

Beliefs about who celebrities are and what they offer us underlie much of celebrities’ interactions with and beyond the system. 

Police shorten investigations, suppress evidence, or let someone off in exchange for an autograph. Prosecutors drop charges entirely. If a case does go to trial, judges and juries hold biases rooted in a celebrity defendant’s public image. 

Fans also rally around celebrities, creating an unsafe environment for their victims to speak out.

This goes beyond celebrities to the concept of celebrity itself: the idea that people have more worth than others. Some of us matter; others don’t. 

From threatening the victims of A-list actors and powerful politicians to ignoring survivors of abuse from community leaders and school athletes, the dominant culture tells us that speaking out ruins the valuable lives or careers of abusers. But that isn’t true. Their victims and survivors also have value.

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