In the obstetrician’s office this morning (just a shot so no news to report), I was struck as usual by the variety of pregnancy magazines. One in particular had a rather thin pregnant woman on the cover and I couldn’t help it. Suddenly a very nasty thought occurred to me. You all aren’t normally subject to the vileness of the language in my head, but I could only express the feeling as such, “J****S F****G CHR**T, am I going to see Nicole Richie on the cover of one of these magazines sometime soon?” Bon wrote a much more charitable post earlier today than I will. She felt bad about the vitriol she felt towards Richie – the inner desire to see something go wrong. I can’t actually bring myself to write what that would be but you all know what I mean. I also can’t bring myself to feel bad for having felt the same thing.
I’m confused by it. I understand the marketing behind celebrity. I understand the mechanics of its circulation. I understand on a basic level the mass fascination with celebrity narratives – with human interest stories in general. I understand it historically. By now, I have written hundreds of pages on it in a much earlier iteration. I understand that Nicole Richie is both real and not real. I know that it’s the not real Nicole Richie that I wish unkind things upon. And therein lies the source of my cognitive and moral dissonance.
Such is the confusion of celebrity. Certainly we see celebrities engage in atrocious behavior. There are consequences for that. There’s no possible way they escape them. We see it on some level – 82 minute prison terms, bitter divorces, overdoses. We can imagine some of them are bitterly unhappy. Yet the narrative of celebrity problems brings the happy ending too quickly. Nicole Richie drove drunk and high in January. Nicole Richie was until very recently so very thin that the world was surprised she could even ovulate. Nicole Richie and her child’s father supposedly broke up months ago. Now she’s a glowingly pregnant woman and all of those problems are behind her. She’s even engaged! I suppose all of this somehow contains a lesson in positive thinking for all of us. Bullshit.
Instead it pretendts that dangerous behavior and possibly even eating disorders can be overcome between magazine issues.
It’s the narrative that grates me. Maybe Nicole Richie’s pregnancy will be fine. Maybe her baby will be fine. Maybe (haha) she and her boyfriend will get married and stay together forever. Why should anyone celebrate with her? It’s an obstetrician’s nightmare. It wouldn’t work out well for most people – no matter how celebrated they are by the media. If we’re going to hear about this pregnancy at all (and of course it’s easy to say we shouldn’t), it is irresponsible for anyone to discuss it otherwise. For the real baby and families involved, I hope it will work out well. I hope the baby will go to term and not have any disabilities as a result of its mother’s behavior. I’m glad it will have access to great health care.
For the not real Nicole Richie, however, I want the pregnancy to be the disaster it may well be behind closed doors. I want a discussion of how children and pregnancy are not just tabloid fodder. I want acknowledgment that bad things happen to bad parents and good parents. I want realism, not romance.