Dexter’s right to privacy

"Dexter" star Michael C. Hall at the Golden Globes.

At the recent Golden Globes award ceremony, it emerged that actor Michael C. Hall, who won his first Golden Globe for his TV role of “Dexter, has been undergoing treatment for  cancer. Hall revealed that he was in remission from Hodgkin’s lymphoma before the ceremony, so reporters were on stand-by to get the scoop on his health. 

But Hall wasn’t ready to satisfy the voyeuristic appetites of the reporters. They and we the public have become used to an access all areas policy on celebrity lives. The screening of Farrah’s Story last year gave us an intimate portrait of a celebrity “battling cancer”, but Hall has “disappointed” the press with his “unusual” desire to keep his health private.

Reporters both on and off line were reduced to writing copy along the lines of  the following from the Huffington Post:

A hat pulled over his head, Hall thanked his wife in his speech as he teared up. In the press room afterward, reporters couldn’t help but ask after his health. E!’s Ted Casablanca asked first, and Hall said, “I had every intention of keeping it quiet, but because the award shows were imminent, I thought I’d make a statement.”

I admire Hall’s decision. His health is private and should remain so, if that is his wish. Later he may decide to talk about it publicly but his wishes for now should be respected. I often think of the huge pressure on celebrities when facing an illness such as cancer, to be a poster guy or girl for the disease.  If we as “ordinary” folk feel pressure to show the “brave, battling face of cancer” to the outside world, what must it be like for those in the public eye!

I have great respect for those who choose to use their cancer experience to become advocates – I’m thinking of Lance Armstrong, Sheryl Crow, Christina Applegate, Melissa Etheridge, Cynthia Nixon among others – but equally I respect the decision of those to keep this experience private. We are all on our own paths to wellness.