Is it wrong to paint someone’s portrait without their consent? Portrait of a Lady on Fire presents this ethical dilemma for an eighteenth century portrait artist. The film is deep on many levels, but one of the most important is how it asks us to think about portraiture, privacy, and consent.
Once upon a time, your home was considered your castle, a sphere of absolute privacy, where you could reliably escape prying eyes. No one, except perhaps the constable, dared even enter one’s home without permission.
What will life be like when every road you travel, every device you own, every building you enter is connected to the internet? Will these developments transform our world in ways that enrich our lives? Or will they just create more opportunities for hackers, corporations, and governments to pry into every aspect of our lives?
What ethical obligations do the makers of reality TV have to prevent harm to their willing participants? Or do reality TV participants give up certain rights when they agree to allow their lives to be commodified?
We have a tendency to desire at least some degree of privacy, allowing us to live part of our lives outside of the public eye. Is privacy foundational to our lives? How much does privacy deserve to be protected when greater safety often comes with its sacrifice?