Last week we learnt the shocking news that a man had been arrested on suspicion of plotting to kidnap and murder Holly Willoughby, prompting the announcement that she had left her long-running role hosting ‘This Morning’. Given that scandal and rumour appear to have been engulfing the show for the past several years, it’s hardly surprising that Willoughby’s jumped ship. During her 14-year tenure, Willoughby became a national treasure, particularly known for her friendship with now disgraced co-host Phillip Schofield. Now that image has changed and it’s truly sad that her nomination as the ‘Queen of Daytime’ has collapsed overnight. However, considering the carefully crafted relationship with her viewers, a friendly-faced, supportive demeanour offering a life hack here and a smile there, was bound to attract some unsettling attention. This highlights several uncomfortable truths about the relationship between celebrity and audience. This begs the question, should stalkers and online haters just come with the territory of having ‘made it’, or is it a problem that should be taken much more seriously?
“During her 14-year tenure, Willoughby became a national treasure, particularly known for her friendship with now disgraced co-host Phillip Schofield.”
This isn’t the first time a celebrity has been put in danger by their audience. Willoughby’s case is put into perspective by singer Christina Grimmie, who was murdered by a crazed fan in 2016. Furthermore, prominent journalist Jill Dando’s 1999 doorstep murder remains a mystery. Given that television and social media give fans an enormous degree of access to the lives of the rich and famous, this problem has been building. It doesn’t help that TV personalities such as Willoughby build their brand by cultivating such a personal relationship with their audience through a screen. Is it then any wonder why some feel they can violate personal safety in such disturbing ways? Hopefully, this is the year when celebrities start to put up more explicit boundaries because although these types of incidents are rare, they are traumatising for those involved.