When there is no escape from prying eyes
- Actress Yammie Lam was not only the victim of sensationalist media but also of a film industry that essentially ruined her life
The tragic life and death of actress Yammie Lam Kit-ying has caused some soul-searching among Hong Kong people. Arguably, the 55-year-old was the victim of two industries that ruined her life even though they made her famous: the film industry and the tabloid press.
If Hong Kong had a genuine #MeToo movement, she would undoubtedly have been prominently featured. Alas, abusers, long whispered about but rarely named, continue to escape justice while the victims are mostly ignored or silenced.
A widely circulated Facebook post, filed by one Ho Hong-wai, reprinted negative headlines and unflattering photos of the actress from the tabloids that had pursued her relentlessly over the years, long after she completely withdrew from the film industry and should no longer be of much interest, however salacious, to anyone.
All the tabloids were, in a sense, “guilty”, Ho pointed out, but some more so than others.
By the time Lam declared bankruptcy in 2006, her TV and film career had long ended. She suffered from serious mental health problems and her conditions were deteriorating.
But for the next decade, those tabloids would track her down everywhere, from being badly dressed while shopping at a supermarket to smoking a cigarette while squatting on the side of a road. One report identified her as “one of the four crazy kings” of show business.
At one time, the petite Lam, once renowned for her youthful beauty, was reported to have suddenly grown obese. It turned out she was wearing bulky clothes.
Then in 2013, she unwisely gave an interview in which she alleged she was raped by two well-known figures in the local film industry. But Hong Kong, then as now, was not America in 2018. Lawsuits were threatened. Instead of following up on the alleged assault, the media focused on Lam and her mental health.
The relentless publicity sent her further into a downward spiral. By that time, her life was like a slow-motion train wreck. And thanks to our tabloids, we could watch it almost in real time. Of course, Lam wasn’t the only victim of the tabloids. She was just the most pitiful, swallowed whole and spat out by two remorseless industries.