October 25, 2011

Paparazzo Drift

Like most governments, South Korea keeps more regulations on the books than it can afford to police. Its solution: offer small bounties to private citizens who report commercial infractions. The result: a growing industry of so-called “paparazzi” who, with video cameras in hand, act as freelance inspection officers. (NYT link.)

First, this presents us with a lovely example of linguistic drift. The term paparazzi originates in a work of fiction, the iconic Federico Fellini film La Dolce Vita, in which a photographer who hunts local celebrities and gossip figures with his camera is nicknamed Paparazzo—which means buzzing fly. It soon entered the English language, transmuted into a general term for celebrity-stalking photographer. And now it has mutated again, moving to Korea to describe these for-profit regulators.

South Korea’s film industry has been on a roll lately, turning out great genre flicks. How long will it be before this real-life situation, rife with cinematic promise, supplies the premise for a movie—and what genre will it tackle?

Crime drama: A budding regulator winds up over his head when he records the wrong infraction at a mob-owned factory.

Spy thriller: A paparazzi flees North Korean agents when his tape of food stall infractions accidentally captures their activities.

Comedy: The cat and mouse game between a paparazzi and his business owner target turns into an escalating series of reprisals.

Romantic Comedy: An unlikely pair of freelance regulators fall in love when they compete to expose the same dumping scam.

Horror: Terror abounds when a team of young paparazzi discover that the secret hidden of an abandoned factory is something far worse than drums of toxic waste...