Suddenly, a young woman was standing nearby. “Sorry to interrupt,” she said, “but can I take a picture of my sons with you?” Her two small boys stood some way off. McCartney, unhappy about the intrusion, said politely, “I’d rather not, actually, if you don’t mind. I’ll shake hands with you. But I don’t do photos.”
"I want to send to my parents-"
"I know, darling, you and everyone. But I don’t do it. That’s why. I hope you don’t mind. I hope you don’t think I’m being big-headed."
"No!" she said.
"But I think your sons are wonderful."
Eventually the woman went away, and McCartney said, “Everyone’s got a camera. Everyone’s got a phone, man. It’s not just the paparazzi - which I’ve had two of this morning. And I’ve had two requests from the public as well, to take a photo with them. And I don’t want to take a photo with every single person in the world - especially when I’m having a private moment.”"
That passage, from John Colapinto’s 1997 profile of Paul McCartney in The New Yorker, reminded me of the fandom kerfuffle today over Benedict’s decline to take a photo with a fan while being interviewed for Out magazine. While I understand the urge to seize the opportunity to approach a celebrity whose work you enjoy, there’s a bigger part of me that wonders, “What happened?” What happened to respecting a stranger’s boundaries, even if they happen to be a well-known stranger? In both cases, the men were in the middle of a conversation with someone and the fans thought it justifiable to interrupt. In both articles, the famous men politely declined the request for a photo, but spent a moment talking with the fan instead. Yet there’s a palpable reaction today along the lines of How dare he. How dare Benedict not take a photo with a random stranger who interrupted his conversation.