Celebrity is something people like to read and talk about. Many like to look out for slebs. Some dream of hanging out with them, but for most, they are an other-worldy species, existing behind security gates and kept away from public gaze. They travel at the expensive end of the plane or train. You do not see them on the Tube. They have personal shoppers and trainers. This colours our attitude to them.
Nigella and a between-meals minor snack option
So when Nigella Lawson and husband Charles Saatchi were observed engaging in what many would classify as a “domestic” outside a Mayfair eatery, all of that may have come into play, making other diners and bystanders wary of intervening. One snapper took the easy option of standing well away and taking advantage of the outside and daytime location, so there are photos of the incident.
When something that looks very much like domestic violence enacted in public happens, it is an all too predictable reaction. Folks are wary of (a) getting physically involved in any scrap, (b) getting sued by either or both of the participants, or even nicked for their trouble, and (c) ending up in the same papers as the slebs, which in this case has been the Sunday People.
The People has allowed its readers to see a selection of photos, which do not make for comfortable viewing (the Mail, on the other hand, despite being eager to lift the copy, has confined itself to only describing events), the consequence of which is bound to be that old bully Saatchi has been roughing up his wife in public, and not just verbally. He is also battling previous public perception.
And that is that, although few actually know Nigella, they perceive her as one of those slebs who are likeable and inoffensive. Many have one of her books on or near the coffee table. Her TV shows and other appearances are undemanding. Her Dad may have been a politician, but she isn’t. So even if Saatchi didn’t do what it looks like he did, he’d be on the wrong end of public opinion.
But should Nigella’s clear distress be played out so publicly? The debate can certainly be had, but the reality is that slebs are by definition a sort of public property, and in any case, the speed at which information travels nowadays means that distress is already out there, and the debate has moved on from whether the photos should have been published, to the involvement of the Metropolitan Police.
Indeed, the Mail – not that it wants to be judgmental, you understand – has now got photos of Nigella leaving the marital home with a suitcase, along with a reminder to all readers who do not know which way they should think that Saatchi’s last wife divorced him on the grounds of his unreasonable behaviour.
None of this, though, will stop our lack of willingness to intervene in domestic disputes, however unpleasant. Perhaps it should. But that doesn’t drive reality.