Do Unto Others…

Yesterday, Wil and I took the train down to Stone Brewing Company at Liberty Station near downtown San Diego. The ride there from Los Angeles takes two hours and 45 minutes, the same as it would take if we drove without a single traffic issue on the freeway. But since we’re pretty much guaranteed to encounter at least one car accident and more than one construction zone, we opted for the train. The bonus train ride also allows for naps, so there’s that.

We got up at 4:30am to catch the 6am train. This ridiculously early morning would be the second day in a row of Wil only getting 5 hours of sleep because of working on The Wil Wheaton Project. The ride to San Diego was peaceful and the train had hardly anyone on it, so we were both able to nap. We arrived at Stone Brewing Company by 9:15am, and Wil spent the day doing a full hands-on experience of brewing a collaboration IPA with their brew master, which was fun and exhausting. We finished up just in time to catch our 6:45pm train home, both of us ready to nap for the majority of the ride. The train was pretty full and a lot of people were talking, but Wil managed to fall asleep right away.

I had a slightly different experience and ended up not being able to sleep at all. I was seated at the window, Wil next to me in the aisle. The rows of seats are slightly staggered across the aisle from each other, so people aren’t right next to another in that sense. There was a girl seated across (well, slightly up) from Wil, also in an aisle seat. She had looked over at Wil a few times, and I could tell she recognized him, which is totally fine and something I am used to and doesn’t bother me at all.

About 20 minutes into the ride, with Wil asleep next to me, I looked out my window at the sunset. In the reflection of my window, I saw the girl across the aisle from Wil hold her phone up. I could tell she was taking a picture, so I turned around and looked at her because that felt weird to me. Her eyes met mine, but she already had her phone back in her lap, and she made an effort to look out my window casually, like that’s what she had been doing the whole time.

We have been out in public before where people have recognized Wil and snapped a photo of him without asking him first. I get it. We’re all out in public, it’s a public space, freedom to do what you want, all that. I understand and have accepted that. But as a woman sitting next to her sleeping husband and knowing a person sitting less than 3 feet away from Wil in what is clearly a vulnerable position for him  was doing this made me feel very protective and felt like an invasion of privacy.

I was hoping that it was just me feeling a little paranoid on my part, so I thought I should give her the benefit of the doubt that taking a picture of him didn’t just happened. That doubt was immediately wiped away when I saw her settled back into her seat, holding up her phone where I could clearly see the picture of him sleeping with me looking out the window that she had just texted to a friend. And then another friend. And then one more. It just felt, I don’t know, gross to me. I don’t think she would feel comfortable if her husband were sleeping next to her and I snapped a picture of him when I thought she wasn’t looking and then shared it with my friends. This girl was at least 30 years old, so old enough to know that what she was doing may make a person feel uncomfortable if they knew what had just happened.

I didn’t want to say anything to her because what’s done was already done. Plus, the train was crowded and a little loud, so I would have had to talk loudly over Wil who was sleeping to even say anything. I knew how exhausted Wil was, so waking to loud conversation of me trying to politely ask a stranger to please not take anymore pictures of my husband sleeping would have been a pretty awkward way to wake up. I decided to just keep an eye on her and hold up my blanket to cover Wil if she did it again. She didn’t, and she got off the train about 30 minutes after the incident anyway.

Inside, I was still really upset (and Wil was still asleep so I couldn’t talk to him about it) so I said something about it on Twitter which may or may not have been the wisest thing to do when feeling that way. But hey, at least I felt better getting it off my chest. Most agreed with me that it was a violation of privacy, but two people had a different opinion of it. One guy, wording it as kindly as I think he could have, said he didn’t feel that way because Wil is a public figure and these things are going to happen so I shouldn’t let it upset me. Again, I totally get that and 99.9% of the time it doesn’t bother me at all. But one woman said “You can’t have a career that makes you famous and then complain about it when people get excited to see you. #privilagecheck.”

My first thought, which I had to talk myself out of doing for several minutes, was to only respond with “#SpellCheck” but I wanted to stick to the point that I was originally making. Yes, Wil has worked really hard to make a living out of doing creative things that he loves to do. Yes, that comes with a viewing audience that enjoys what has been created and is excited to see the person who has done this face to face. I absolutely get that. But I think the thing that gets lost along the way is this is also a human being, not an object.  He is a person who gets tired, gets hungry, gets sick, and has a family that cares about him,  just like you. I would never consider taking a photograph of a person sleeping near me who was not my family or my friend without asking them first. I would never consider it my right to invade someone’s privacy and then tell their family member to “privilege check” their feelings about such an invasion. That is appalling to me.

If you have ever met Wil in person, you would know that he is very friendly, conversational, and is always happy to take a picture with you if you ask him. If I’m with him when this happens, I always offer to take the picture for them so it’s a good shot. I would think that experience and interaction would be pretty cool if I ran into someone I had always wanted to meet out in public. So, next time, girl on the train, just try that instead. Then everyone involved will walk away happy.

 

56 thoughts on “Do Unto Others…

  1. Yes, Wil is a “public figure,” but that doesn’t give anyone the right to invade a private moment (him sleeping), even if it’s in public. People like the girl who took the photo, and the one commenting, don’t seem to realize that being in the public eye doesn’t mean that the public owns them and can do whatever they want.

    Anne, totally understand why you were upset (in both instances).

    1. Technically, she did have the right, at least in a legal sense. I agree it was rude, but people can take pictures of anyone, including celebrities, without express consent, as long as it’s in a public context. It’s a First Amendment right.

  2. Anne – If Wil were at a Con, or an event and was “being Wil Wheaton in an official capacity”, I say go right ahead and take that picture. However, if Wil is “being Wil Wheaton as a regular person”, you leave him the F alone. It’s not a matter of privilege, this girl simply has no manners.

  3. Knowing Will as I do, I know that he loves to do creative things like the Will Wheaton Project, TableTop, voiceovers and acting gigs. Just because he loves to share his talent, doesn’t make him automatically want to be “famous”, it just means he likes to share the fun he has in this lifetime. That does not give everyone who enjoys the ride the right to go through the glovebox. #prioritiescheck

  4. I sent you my support on Twitter, but I just want to reiterate that you had every right to feel as you did. “Public figure” is not synonymous with “public property.” A human has basic rights, be he a panhandler or the President. One of those is to be asked for consent to be photographed, especially in a less-than-camera-ready light. Sadly, we live in the age of social media and paparazzi and those common courtesies are often forgotten. I hope that Wil doesn’t feel too invaded by this lack of courtesy, and is consoled by the fact that his wife is fiercely protective of him, and is awesome to boot.

  5. If I saw you and Wil out in public I totally would want you in the picture as well, no way would you be taking the picture! I agree even as a celebrity there should be limits to weird violations of privacy ie when sleeping or out with younger children as example.

  6. I really dislike the “check your privilege” movement, because it’s a lazy way to state a much more complicated idea. Also, like most mindless quips, it only serves to infuriate the person it’s directed at, rather than furthering a discussion.

    Anyway, I’m totally with you here. I try not to take pictures of particular people in public. And taking pictures of someone sleeping is weird to begin with.

  7. One thing Twitter has taught me is that celebrities are real people. It sounds silly, and I should have already known this, but I suppose thinking celebrities were on some sort of pedestal made them something “other” than people who are ordinary, like me. Twitter is kind of a little window into the ordinary of people I thought were anything but.

    It it rude and kind of gross to invade anyone’s privacy, regardless of status. Even more so when they are vulnerable while sleeping. :-\ I hope the majority of your encounters with fans are positive, and that this is a rare case.

    Also of note: if I ever had the pleasure of seeing you and Wil out and about, I’d totally want you in the picture. :) Geek girls unite!

  8. Wil is very lucky to have such a protector! If I’d gotten that pic message from that girl, I would have immediately shamed her for it and I can only hope that her friend did the same. I just cannot believe how inconsiderate some folks are. I ask my own FRIENDS if I can take pictures of them. Why on earth would I take a picture of a sleeping person who doesn’t know me? I agree Anne.. it’s weird; I also hope the girl got the message. Thank you for sharing, Anne!

  9. So yeah, I hate the “check your privilege” thing, too. But I’d like to offer an alternative possibility. I could maybe see myself as that person. Not to post a photo of sleeping Wil on the Internet or to be skeevy about it, but in a texting my geeky best friend and saying “Dude, I’m sitting next to Wil & Anne Wheaton on the train and he’s asleep and I don’t want to wake him up and be all fangirl but .. DUDE. The Wheatons!”

    Now maybe that wasn’t this woman’s intent and maybe she was skeevier about it. But I guess I can see how it made you uncomfortable but I can also see the sort of “fan” perspective.

  10. You’re totally right to be annoyed. If I had been on that train and realized that two of my favorite people were there too, I might have felt extremely shy…star struck even. Maybe this girl just didn’t know how to approach you, and so she made a really bad decision. No doubt her behavior was rude, but I like to think that most people are good at heart. I’m shy sometimes so I can picture myself as that girl, racking my brain to think of a way to say hi, and tell you both what I big fan I am. I can’t say that I’d do what she did, but I would surely find a different way to make a fool of myself…politely though.

  11. As a fan of Wil Wheaton, and never have met him…I think it is super rude to have done what she did! I as a fan can not lie and say I’d have been very giddy to have been on a train with him and totally would have let my face book world know I was. But I also would have waited till he woke up to ask (even then, if it seemed appropriate and not awkward) for a picture…..plus I’d have wanted to be in the pic with him lol….as far as what the twitter girl said….that is your right as his wife to feel how ever you choose about it! I couldn’t imagine being married to someone famous, I think that you handle it much better than it think most women would! Keep on being awesome!

  12. I’m wondering if she would have even asked had he been awake. It’s like a taxi: light on for “on duty” – meet all the people and light off for “off duty” – not serving the public at this time. Seems like some people think that all “taxis” are on duty all the time.

    This has been “Object Lessons with Theresa” for the day.

  13. It’s an issue of courtesy, in my opinion. And respect. It’s about treating a person as a person, not an object. I would personally consider it rude to take a picture without asking whether he was awake or asleep, for the simple reason that he is a person. Just because it’s legal doesn’t mean it’s polite, or acceptable socially.

    Just because he’s famous doesn’t make it okay either. He’s a craftsman, and his craft is acting and writing and generally being entertaining. He owes the director, cast, and crew his best performance of his craft on whatever project he’s working on, but he owes me nothing. If I ever got the chance to get a picture of him ‘out in the wild’, I’d treat it as exactly what it is, a favor. I’d (rather shyly) ask if he would mind sparing a moment to take a picture. And I’d only do that if he didn’t appear to be on his way to somewhere else.

    Common courtesy isn’t so common these days, it seems.

  14. That woman on the train was completely in the wrong. How could she not even be embarrassed by doing something like that? Both the man and the woman who responded to your tweet about it were also wrong. Whether someone is famous or not, they are still entitled to their privacy. Your husband was exploited, plain and simple, for someone else’s enjoyment, and that is NOT OKAY.

  15. Public figures and fame have always kinda confused me. One you see the person what they say what they think, or at least what is said in public. Your view of that person is based on what you experience but knowing people though my life I know there is a difference between what the person in public acts vs in private. Sometimes they are close to who they are but there is always that filter.

    With how our society has focused on fame and public figures many people don’t think of privacy. They don’t see people in the entertainment industry as people. Just there roles on the TV and movies. This is unfair to everyone instead of talking or treating you as anybody else you are looked upon more as a object then a person. Objects you can take pictures of with out asking it. You can put them up as this magical thing or toss to the side like trash. Just look at YouTube comments… wait don’t that never ends well. TMZ and all those that follow that line just reinforce this negative way of thinking. It saddens me that people can’t just be respectful of each other.

    It is that almost purely one way communication that makes people think they know you yet as a public figure you know nothing for maybe very little about those fans personally. This creates that disconnect that most don’t even think about.

    With you and Wil I didn’t really follow much. I knew Wil was on Star Trek and that he was writing books. It wasn’t until twitter that I began to follow at first you then shortly after Wil. The reason was that a friend was follow the both of you and the post I was seeing we both funny and reminded me of my wife and I. They were both entertaining and endearing in that odd uber nerd and wife. That year I went to my first W00tstock during San Diego comic con. It was a blast even if Molly was not allowed in the club. As more things I was interested in intersected what Wil was doing I felt that I was getting to know him a little by little. Not in the stalking creeper way but more then an actor that I saw in a role in a show I liked.

    You both didn’t hide who you are and made that gap between public and private very tiny. It makes me feel that I know you more then just a stranger even though you are. It is an odd feeling. I would like to think that we could chat or hang at a place in public but I would never think of interrupting your privacy just to brag ” I talked to Wil and Ann!” That to me is a dick move as much and sneaking a picture of you two or hovering around anyplace you go.

  16. Yes, your husband is ‘famous.’ Yes, people are going to recognize him. No, it’s NEVER okay to snap a photo of anyone-famous or not-without permission. You are a much better woman than I…had it been my husband, I probably would have rapidly devolved into screaming banshee. Followed immediately by fisticuffs…

  17. I think the instant nature of media these days has people forgetting that the world they’re interacting with is actually real. If they lay eyes on it, this now belongs to them, somehow. This is what has always bothered me about sites like People of Walmart. Yeah. Some of those folks are downright strange, but they’re out in their world just going about their business.

    As has been suggested, I hope her intent was innocent and she just was so excited that she didn’t register how what she did was wrong. But it was wrong. And I would be really upset if that happened to one of my loved ones.

    1. I agree with you Anne. . I think it’s rude of people to assume that this is “ok” to take someones picture just because they are a public figure. Everyone is entitled to their privacy no matter what their status in society is. I would be furious is someone snapped my pic or a pic of a loved one without permission. I commend you for your restraint.

  18. It is creepy. However, people take snap shots and video of other people in vulnerable situations all the time. Many times, their intentions are to make that person a laughing stock in hopes the video will become viral and they can make money off it. We now live in a world, where men can video tape a woman accidentally walking and tripping into a water fountain, put the video on youtube (or something similar), and make money off that unfortunate situation. Every one is laughing at the woman (who gets nothing but humiliated) and we are (mostly) ok with it.
    I see pics all the time of people sleeping on buses or trains doing something completely embarrassing and I’m not talking about the posed pictures here. Come on, many of us have seen someone doing something inadvertently or even purposely funny and take a picture and send it out to friends. Who knows where it goes and when it stops?
    Where do you think those pictures of “the people of Walmart” come from? Most of those pics are certainly taken on the down low. If it’s ok to take a picture of them because they are out in public looking “a fool” does that mean we get to take their picture and hold them up to ridicule? Then why just them?
    Sometimes it’s not a humiliating picture. It’s an uplifting picture. Same thing, except we are awing instead of laughing. Is that ok? Is any of it ok? The situation is deeper than just “famous” people having their picture taken. Where is the line?
    Let me make this clear least I get attacked for daring to point out a differing opinion, I agree with you. It’s wrong to take pictures of anyone without their permission. Period. Please remember that this a a much larger “moral” or “ethical” issue of the type of human beings we are becoming.
    I’m sorry that someone intruded on your privacy in such a manner. I just wish more people could see how wrong it is all the way around.

    1. It really bothers me that a thing exists regarding photos of people that shop in Walmart for the same reason. I can’t look at those photos. Taking a picture of someone with the intention of making them look bad to others is awful. :-(

  19. Yeah, no, that’s not kosher, no matter how famous you are. Wil’s still human and his personal time is his personal time. At a con, at an official event, whatever, yes, his job is to be with the fans and interact with them. Something like that? Totally not right.

  20. I’m really glad you made this post.

    I have to admit, I felt a bit weird reading your Tweets the other day. As someone who sleeps the moment they hit any form of transportation, I tried to put myself in Wil’s shoes, but actually found it harder than I thought. I think I wouldn’t particularly mind if the situation happened to me (even if I were famous), unless there was obvious malice intended (such as Tweeting a photo of me drooling an ocean). This mostly because:

    a) I wouldn’t be affected by said photo,
    b) if that picture of me can bring joy to someone else, so be it and, as others have pointed out,
    c) it just kind of comes with the territory – however unfair and unjustifiable that may be.

    Because of this, your RT and subsequent “shaming” of #privilage-girl left a bit of a bitter aftertaste in my mouth. You and Wil both seem like extremely nice, down-to-earth people, and the idea that voicing my disagreement might make you insta-block me kind of changed my view on you. This post definitely adds a tons of context though, and I agree her tact was a bit… non-existent.

    I feel like this may have been a really weird thing to say (especially as you shouldn’t care one iota about how one random guy from the internet perceives you), so apologies for that. But again, I’m glad you made this post and clarified your position on this in more than 140 characters. =)

    Tl;dr: Totally not your fault, but for about half a day I filled in the blanks and thought you wouldn’t entertain opposing views. Awesome post is awesome and restored my love for the Wheatons. /

    1. In my case if someone ever winds up trying to take my picture in passing. I at least want the chance to make it a good one.

      You know, prep myself by

      Messing my hair up to the point it looks like super-saiyan goku’s hairdo.
      Crossing my eyes
      Sticking out my tongue
      Offending every sexy pose fan by horribly mangling a come hither (I’m male) look which will include attempting to drape myself over a couple of sets

    2. I cropped out the name of the person who had sent me that “privilagecheck” tweet because it wasn’t about shaming her, it was showing that even as I express feeling uncomfortable with a situation, there’s always one person who decides something is a privilege and I should just deal. But I get that reading 140 character tweets doesn’t explain the whole situation which may come across as confusing to others. I wrote this post because the situation bothered me (and it very rarely happens which is nice) but also in the hopes that it shows how the person who is having it done to is made to feel when a stranger does this to you. That being said, I really appreciate hearing your side of how you would feel if it happened to you. I think it’s a good balance of understanding the situation either way. :-)

  21. i really liked this–you explained why you were upset(and humorously admitted your inner wrath) very gently. In a perfect world, fangirl would meet you both again while everyone was conscious, ask for a picture, and the three of y’all would share a very positive experience.

  22. My husband and I talk sometimes about what we’d do if we ever ran into you and Wil in public. There have been a couple of times that I was in the same airport within an hour of you (EX. Austin), so there have been situations where it could have happened. My husband thinks he’d be all cool, but I know he’d geek out. I know I’d geek out, too. That being said, I can 100% say that I’d never compromise your privacy or Wil’s privacy like that. He’s a public figure, but he’s not public property. To have taken his picture when he’s in such a vulnerable state is just wrong, and I hope she realized that later. I hope she wishes she could apologize to you and him. You handled it with more grace than I would have. I would have pulled out my teacher voice and admonished her right there. I probably wouldn’t have earned any fans, but I’d be okay with that.

    Also, eff those people on twitter. Okay, no, that’s not okay. But do you see what I’m saying? There’s no need for a privilege check. You and will deserve privacy without people feeling entitled to a show. You voiced that in the kindest way possible, and again, with more grace than I would have. The highest of fives go to you.

    1. Ugh…Wil…not will. I’d love to say I was posting from my phone, but really, I was just typing fast. Sorry….

  23. I think this is spot on. Celebrity or no, there’s something just “stalkeriffic” of someone taking a picture of a stranger while sleeping. I think people are so over-saturated with paparazzi photos and videos, that they tend to forget those public figures are people who deserve their privacy, just like anyone else. Some people don’t know how to react when they see celebrities, and they lose a bit of common sense. I know if I ever see you guys, I would definitely and respectfully ask for a picture- IF appropriate. I may be squealing and jumping up and down as I do so, though I make no guarantees I’ll be able to keep my composure. :-) Oh, and I would want you in the picture too, because I’m as much a fan of you and the awesome animal work you do, as Wil.

  24. Most of us have jobs. Some of those jobs are big. And some of those jobs are small. Some have you seen by many, others by few. Wil has a job. One that people feel gives them the right to their private moments. I hate the tabloids for this reason. When I use to work in restaurants, I have served famous people. I treated them just the same as all my other customers. Why? Because everyone needs to eat. Everyone is entitled to a beer with a bud. Just because you are in movies or on tv doesn’t not mean you are no longer allowed these things. I think the only people who need to always be on in public are politicians. We vote for them to do a job. They need to hold up a persona of at least professional when out in public. Wil should be able to nap. Without the photo shoot.

  25. I am a huge fan of a Wil’s and over the last couple years I found out about your work with PHS and Vandaleyes and became a fan of yours as well. I also respect your privacy and when have seen both of you and, as my friends put it, geeked out a bit but didn’t want to interrupt or imposition by asking for a photo let alone “sneak” a picture. This upsets me as a fan that others do this.

  26. Oh, wow. That was unbelievably rude of that young woman. If I had been in your shoes, I would have probably said some things that I’d regret for ages. As so many here have said, ‘public figure’ does not mean ‘public property’. Granted, I’d probably be fangirling, myself, if I were to ever run into either of you two face-to-face, but I’d at least TRY to settle down and be more respectful. Boundaries, man. Boundaries!

  27. I think it’s creepy whether you’re famous or not famous. I get the same bus to and from work every day and although I don’t know people’s names I do recognize the usual crowd. There are two guys I see on a regular basis one is an Older Gentleman (late 50′s) who always wears a suit to work and the other is a guy around 30 who listens to music and fiddles with his phone. One day I was sitting behind the Older Gentleman while the Music Guy was sitting on a bench across the aisle and ahead of us. I noticed that the Older Gentleman was holding up his phone about to take a picture and because I was sitting behind him I had a clear as day view of what he was taking a picture of: which was Music Guy who was doing nothing interesting except fiddling with his phone and had no idea that his picture was being taken. Older Gentleman snapped the picture and put his phone away.

    I was stunned and it freaked me out that this Older Gentleman was going around with a picture of a relative stranger on his phone. Then I started wondering if he had a picture of me or any of the other regular bus people. None of us are famous and we live in a relatively smallish city (half a million people) and it wasn’t like Music Guy was balancing a ball on his nose or something.

    So I totally get why you were creeped out when this girl took a picture of your husband while he was sleeping. I’m sure she was well intentioned and meant nothing by it but still…I get it.

  28. I think you hit the nail on the head with this comment Anne, ” this is also a human being, not an object. He is a person who gets tired, gets hungry, gets sick, and has a family that cares about him”. I was at a charity event this last year where I had the opportunity to spend some time with a “public figure” that I had grown up watching. I would have loved a photo with her, but I could tell she was just exhausted from the the days event. I didn’t ask for a photo, to me it is just proper manners more than anything that should prevail. Had she not been exhausted, I most certainly would have asked for permission first, I ALWAYS ask unless I am at a con and have paid for a photo op.

  29. I already said this on twitter – and I missed the original twitter exchange thing – but the taking-a-pic-of-someone-sleeping is just a whole level of…eeeeww. Celebrity or no, it’s stalker-ish behavior. Gross.

    I met Wil briefly in a press room for Eureka at SDCC in 2011, and he could not have been more lovely. Easy to talk to and very nice. I did manage to ask for a picture with him, and it was a great experience. Even in that appropriate arena, I find it difficult to ask for pictures, so I can’t imagine why someone would do so in public without asking.

    Just…yikes. Bummer that you had to deal with that. :(

  30. Most people are jumping right in and saying that the girl on the train was out of control. I wonder if they would say the same without having read your thoughts first. If I am being honest, I might have been thoughtless enough to take a picture. Hey, its Wil Wheaton! And he is sleeping!

    I am partly playing Devil’s Advocate here. I’ve never even taken a picture of a celebrity. When I have been around a few, I have always left them alone because I assumed they got continually swamped and would be annoyed by the attention. The last thing that I want to do is bother someone that I care about and respect. I might just as easily have recognized his vulnerability and done nothing.

    That said, if I had been thoughtless enough to take the picture, I would have immediately felt TERRIBLE if I had even the slightest inkling that it bothered either you or Wil. Period. I am a fan of both you and Wil and would never do anything to harm either one of you. Now that I know your thoughts, I certainly would not take a picture without solicitation.

    That is my two cents on the train situation.

    The Twitter situation…that makes me angry. Reacting thoughtlessly is one thing, but both of those followers ignored your feelings and even tried to make you feel worse about the situation. That lack of compassion and empathy is one of my least favorite parts of the internet. It gives you a view into a truly awful part of society’s psyche. We get to see what some people truly think…and I think that most of us wish that we didn’t know. Seriously, I don’t know how those people live with themselves.

    Those people are jerks. Don’t let them get you down, Anne.

  31. In Germany, you can actually get into legal trouble for taking pictures of people who didn’t give their permission. Yes, even public figures. And yes, the yellow press hates it. ;) As for myself as a fan, the only circumstance I could think of where I’d snap a picture without asking first is if I wasn’t sure that the celebrity is actually the person I think it is. And I know it would be better to just ask the person anyway (instead of snapping a pic and going home and asking my husband, which is what it would come down to) but I’m way too embarrassed by the fact that I can’t keep my celebrities apart. Ahem. Sorry in advance to any celebrity I might be making a photo of in the future.

  32. I always ask at cons. I don’t take pictures of people unless they’re in my group and a call of “Group photo!” goes out. Also, while I haven’t had the opportunity to see an actor, actress, etc, etc out and about (except for a few local ones), I don’t arbitrarily bug the hell out of them. I will wave hi, and ask how they’re doing if they respond in kind.

    It boils down to one simple thing. If you are uncomfortable with it, it is wrong. It doesn’t matter what society thinks. Society isn’t a single person. Every day it is what the individual is comfortable with vs what they’re not comfortable with. The person had no right to take the photo.

    1. The local ones are 1) My father who has been in a few things including an un-released rap video he stood at a podium in while a rapper lip synced over him 2) a college student who was a main character in a movie he was too innocent at the time to know the implications of. 3) a friend who is an extra in the third hunger games.

      If I need to geek out temporarily I can just talk to them about what they remember about working on set.

  33. I can understand taking a candid picture if a person is walking down the street, but I can’t understand taking one when the person is doing something private, like sleeping or eating. That does feel like an invasion of privacy.

  34. As someone who works in Theater, I understand “Public Time” and “private time” which does NOT depend on the celebrity status of the person. Private time is with family, doing normal things and IS OFF LIMITS TO ALL FANS. Public time is TOTALLY about the fans.
    Train girl should grow up and learn the difference. Then everyone wins. And Anne, you were so right to be upset. Me? I would have said something to Train Girl right then and there.

  35. I’m so sorry that you had to go through this. I’m sorry that we’ve created a society where this young woman didn’t feel ashamed enough of her actions (she obviously felt some shame: she wouldn’t look you in the eye) not to do the thing she was ashamed of. I’m sorry that we’ve made it okay and that you’re caught up in it now. I’m sorry that success for Wil — something I think we all hope for — means that this is likely to happen more often. On behalf of everyone, I’m sorry you were put in a situation that made you feel this way.

    I’m going to soap-box for a second all over your comments field and I’m really sorry.
    The current celebrity-worship culture bothers me quite a bit. I try to keep in mind that these famous folks — about whom gossip shows and columns talk as if they were characters in some drama — are not characters written for our collective amusement. These are people like me. How would I feel if Perez Hilton made fun of me because I threw my hair in a pony tail to run to the grocery store? How would I feel if E! News commented on my weight because I was period-bloated? If I had to look my best every single time I went out, I’d probably stop going out at all. How would I feel if that was my life?

    Just because it happens to celebrities *more often* doesn’t make it *more okay*; in fact, I think it makes it *less* okay.

    It’s a minor rebellion, to be sure, but I’ve made a few decisions to try to contribute some weight to the “other” side of the issue:
    I absolutely (categorically) refuse buy magazines like People, Us Weekly, Life & Style (etc.).
    I refuse to read online/click click-bait for stories that I feel are invasive to a person’s privacy.
    I won’t give them page views for talking about (these are random celebrity-random event pairings here) Jennifer Aniston’s baby or Jennifer Lopez’ breakup or whoever’s whatever. Those are none of my business.
    I won’t give those sites page views if the pictures are (a) obviously candid shots or (b) obviously paparazzi photos.

    I will give a site page views and link-backs for stories that (I think) are obviously informed-consent (e.g., an interview Wil gives specifically about his show or a Q-and-A after an awards show wherein Jennifer Lawrence won an award). A time when this person (1) knew they were going to be in the public eye, (2) prepared themselves for it, and (3) explicitly (NOT “implicitly,” as you and Wil on the train) consented to be so. As much as we grumble about celebrity stalking and worship, if we continue to buy, click, watch these magazines, links, shows, we are perpetuating the problem.

    And I won’t lie: no giving someone money is easy; not clicking links is hard. Sometimes there’s a celebrity I really like, celebrating a cool event, and I’m curious. I have to remind myself that every single click matters and I have to stick to my principles if I’m going to have any effect whatsoever. Maybe my individual effort has no effect, but I can hope that if enough people start changing the way we behave, it will.

  36. That was a total invasion of privacy. I don’t know where people get off thinking that just because someone is a public figure (or famous), that it gives them any right, at any place, at any time to just walk up and start snapping photos (and then posting them all over the internet or whatever)—-unless, of course, it is a public event designed for publicity sake, or if a fan asks for permission. I really do think you hit the nail on the head by saying that celebrities are people, too—just like the rest of us out here. On a side note, I don’t understand the ‘check your privilege’ comment—really, I’m stupid and I don’t get it….lol (sorry)

  37. I think your reaction was reasonable and very diplomatic. I think many of us probably would have flipped out on the photo sharer and shamed them in person (possibly creating a “scene” as a result). People react based on their emotions sometimes, whether it’s excitement at seeing a celebrity or anger over having their personal space/privacy violated. You have more experience than most of us with situations like this and I appreciate the thought that went into the way you handled it in person and when you were writing about it later. This really brings up a great point: we have a lot of really cool gadgets available today that allow us to communicate in ways that were simply unavailable 25 years ago. Many people have little tact when they use these tools (either haven’t learned what’s appropriate or don’t follow the guidelines they have learned). It can be a problem. It should be part of our ongoing discussion as people living in this shared society.

  38. I got to meet Wil in the credit union one day, and even in his “private” life (doing his banking), he IS one of the sweetest human beings you could ever encounter. I DID geek out when I saw him, but his responses to my geekiness were nothing but gracious. I have to agree with the others who say that if there were a photo-op, I’d want you in the pic, too, Anne! Love you both. I hope the folks who suggest that the girl was just too shy to ask are right. I hope she did get shamed by one friend, so she’ll learn the error.

    You have a total right to your feelings and reaction. I’d never have held it in long enough for twitter or a blog post, personally. ;)

  39. I don’t understand how some people feel about celebrities, at the end of the day they are human, I have always found it interesting how fan react when some one famous makes a mistake, they behave like it is the end of the world but they are real, fallible people. I think you are right, there are times that are private, sleeping and using the bathroom is on that list, people need to learn that they do not own the people in huge public arena! There needs to be some boundaries and this woman was clearly old enough to know better.

  40. Bravo for standing up and letting others know your feelings. Everyone is entitled to privacy, personal space, courtesy, an opinion and even to act like a fool or be a jerk. It seems the only way we as a society learn some rights and wrongs is through trial and error and the sharing (educating) of our experiences. You may not have been able to reach fangirl, but be assured your post has touched countless others and already made a difference.

  41. Some years ago, a friend of mine ran into one of my very favorite actors in a bar. They ended up hanging out and bonding over gin, of all things.

    I was a five minute walk away. My friend never texted me or told me of this until after the fact. She said she was tempted, but didn’t want to be “that guy.”

    And you know what?

    I’ve never been upset by that. Because they were just two folks hanging out in a bar, having a drink. That’s not newsworthy, and everyone deserves that.

    This is the same way. A guy riding a train is just a guy riding a train. Leave them be.

    Just my two cents.

  42. Love your blog, Anne…and Wil’s too for that matter. I get that this upsets you, and thanks for your reasoned explanation. I also get that Wil really dislikes paparazzi, because of reasons…and I suspect that feeds into your stance on the matter. That said, I don’t fully understand your perspective – most likely because I haven’t walked a mile in your shoes. As a fan of The Wheatons I would likely take the picture, so I could show it to my young kids who are fans of both of you (Wil for the games and you for Wheatoning TTR). Given your reaction I’d probably try to explain and would delete the photo if asked.

    I think it comes down to intent. Taking a picture of Wil drooling all over himself on a train to embarrass him or poke fun isn’t cool. You’re right about the Walmart pix…though I’m guilty of looking at those (#ashamed). But if it’s someone who’s excited to be nearby…and who isn’t going to pass the images along (to someone who might use the photo to embarras/poke fun) it seems largely harmless.

    Lastly though, the Girl On The Train wasn’t honest with you when confronted…and that’s not cool…so…having worked my way through it, I suppose I’m not against the picture in principal…it’s all about intent and the context as you present it doesn’t feel great.

    Good for you for not ranting and going FLAME ON!

    Keep on being you – we’ll enjoy from afar.

    #friendofafriendofafriend

  43. So sorry about the incident, while we are asleep we are vulnerable, and you, as a good wife, were protective. I might have geeked out in the same situation – Wil and Anne Wheaton! but I hope I would have simply waited till the ride was over then asked if I could take a photo of the two of you. Living in Burbank I have come across all manner of celebrities and have to this point not taken a single photo. However, at JPL or lectures given by them I admit to snapping a few candids of OMG scientists!

    If I am lucky enough to see you at a local place, I promise not to take any photos without asking.

  44. That is uncomfortable and rude and I’m so sorry that Wil’s fandom was represented in that way. Just because your (wonderful) husband’s (amazing) job sees him on television, YouTube and film doesn’t mean his privacy should be invaded like that. It’s creepy and weird.

    I just don’t have words, other than I wish that hadn’t happened. You have my support, lady. I’d prefer to meet you and Wil and ask permission if I wanted a photo. (Because MEETING Anne and Wil Wheaton, amirite?!)

  45. Kind mrs. Wheaton, I would like to apologize. Not for being that person on the train, but because I could have been her. This is not a thing that I have done in the past, but a thing I could see myself having done. I’m sorry. Thank you for your post. Although generally I think I’m a decent, well brought up woman, this made me realize there’s a part of me that needs work to be more considerate of others in the future.

    (Sorry for any possible grammatical errors, English is not my native language)

  46. You are right on your thoughts. It was rude and should not have been done. Maybe you should have taken a picture of her warning others of this person? Interesting thought.

    The other item is from one who works many hours with very little sleep; Thank you food letting your husband sleep.

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