Last night my wife and I watched "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory." You know, the original (if re-titled) adaptation of Roald Dahl's children's classic, with Gene Wilder as that crazy candy man, and the Oompa Loompas with the orange skin and green hair.
Of the four exceedingly bratty children in the film, the worst of the lot is the shrill, self-serving Veruca Salt, who spends her share of the story screaming, whining, begging and extorting her spineless father to give her anything she sees in the possession of another. Coupled with that greed is her insistence on having her desires filled N-O-W. It's unbridled covetousness, the kind only a truly spoiled child can muster.
That same energy drives the "I want mine" mindset that seems to be sweeping through the ranks of female celebrities with increased fervor these days. Not that pop stars and actresses haven't always been spoiled to a degree that poor schlubs like us can't honestly comprehend, but it's progressed from outrageous riders on contracts and budget-busting gift bags on Oscar night to wholesale lifestyle paradigm shifts.
At first, it was just funny. Titillating, even. Consider the whole "lesbian chic" movement. Not the big coming out fest of the mid-90s that left us gasping in disbelief as k.d. lang, Melissa Etheridge and Ellen DeGeneres got their pride on. I'm talking the paparazzi-friendly snogfests and be-seen same-sex accessorizing that makes great front page fodder for the tabloids. It's Eva Longoria mashing on Nicolette Sheridan on the red carpet. Trainwreck sisters Kate Moss and Lindsay Lohan grinding on each other at the Dark Room. It still gets play in the papers because, y'know, lesbians, even if they're just pretend, but the whole dyke deal has lost some edge since Mama Trash smooched Baby Trash on the MTV Video Music Awards.
Madonna's tongue must have the power of mystic Jewish conversion, because not so long after that, Britney was wearing her little red string Kabbalah bracelet like a collar on a happy puppy. Babs, Gwyneth Paltrow, Demi Moore, and Brittany (I'll do what ever Spears does!) Murphy all embraced the next wave, drinking special water, making pilgrimages to Israel and forking over big bucks for spiritual cleansing by high-rolling rabbis. Of course (quoting Kenneth Rexrock here), "For the Kabbalist the ultimate sacrament is the sexual act, carefully organized and sustained as the most perfect mystical trance." So we can see why Madonna was all over it, and therefore Brit 1 and Brit 2 following close behind.
But as Mrs. K-Fed soon discovered, too much ultimate sacrament can have unexpected results. Having whipped through Madonna's catalog of self-reinventions in a fraction of the time, Spears embraced motherhood on her blog, confessing that "my baby is my religion."
Which brings us to the new lifestyle, and the actual point of all the heretofore: Babies are the hot trend.
And suddenly it stops being funny.
The tabloids — print and broadcast — have been having a field day with the baby frenzy over the past year or so, now that so many celebrity couples have been...er...coupling. Bennifer. Tomkat. Brangelina. Whatever they call the amalgamation of G. Paltrow and C. Martin. "People" went batshit insane last month, slapping down more than $5 million for the right to run the first photos of Shiloh Jolie-Pitt. A scandalous waste of money? Maybe not, if we believe that Mr. and Mrs. Jolie-Pitt donated the loot to Namibian charities. I can't fault them for that, leveraging someone else's greed to do some good.
But then, back in the states, Angelina Jolie sat down for an interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper, during the course of which she revealed that she's intending to adopt another child in the near future:
"We don't know which -- which country. But we're looking at different countries. And we're -- I'm just-- it's gonna be the balance of what would be the best for (her other adopted kids) Mad and for Z right now. It's, you know, another boy, another girl, which country, which race would fit best with the kids," she said.
For the love of God, woman, you're talking about a human being like you're talking about shopping for a car! Or a pet! Or a purse! I can hear the deliberation now: "Well, obviously we should go with filling out the whole boy-girl-boy-girl pattern, but I don't want a central African baby, because they're just TOO dark. We might not see him at night. Although the high contrast would look good in pictures. Can we get one in a 'sub-Saharan dusk'? Or maybe we should go European. Good cheekbones, blue eyes?"
And then I read that Jessica Simpson wants to adopt a Mexican baby. Does she even know where Mexico IS?
Having kids isn't a fad, or an experiment. It's not something you dabble with for the cameras (and if you do, you get slapped with cutlines like "Oops, I dropped him again!" and "Losing my religion"). The folie a Jolie encourages a "gotta get 'em all" attitude that reduces needy children to collectible, accessory status, ready to be paired with the right ensemble for the perfect photo-op. That may not have been the intent, but it was certainly the implication. That Angelina Jolie has been able to — so far — raise two children while maintaining a film career and championing human rights and refugees through her work with the U.N. is highly impressive. I can't be too hard on her, despite the stupid things that sometimes come out of her mouth.
But other celebs will gobble up copies of "People" and watch "Entertainment Tonight," or "Anderson Cooper 360" and they'll be jealous of the press and the status and the money and all the other fame that clings to Ms. Jolie because she's become the standard bearer for celebrity moms. And like Veruca Salt squealing for a golden ticket, they will plead with their boyfriend or agent or lawyer or whomever to "Get me a little brown baby...NOW." If that desire comes, and I pray it doesn't, I hope those attention whores can take five minutes and consider the welfare of that child before their own.
If they're still tempted, they should go make out with Natalie Portman.
If the media is the eye on the world, Russ Carr is the finger in that eye. Tune in each month to see him dispersing the smoke and smashing the mirrors of modern mass communication. The world lost Russ on 2/7/12, but he lives on.
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6.28.06 @ 2:47a
Foreign adoptions piss me off in general, because if these celebrities would throw some weight behind our government and the horrible haggled affair that is domestic adoption/fostering, perhaps we could fix some problems in our social services system.
But nooooo. It's much more trendy to get a baby from (insert country here). Jolie, while it seems obvious that she and Brad and their nannies love her children, seems hell-bent on creating a "world family."
Meanwhile, kids in Podunk, PA want a good home, too. Unfortunately, they're just not exotic enough.
6.28.06 @ 8:30a
The Celebrity Baby Circus is tacky. Not only do I find it tragic that questionable, unenlightened people mate (YUCK), but use their newborns to hustle out that extra three seconds of publicity.
So much for dignified or selfless. (Especially with retarded baby names- Bluebell Madonna, anyone?).
In contrast with the hordes of celebrities peddling their babies, Angelina Jolie is an aberration- an actress who's gone beyond Oscar Night goodie bags and acquired a world education. I personally admire her because in 2002, Jolie donated $15,000 to a friend's counseling center in the Philippines along with autographed movie posters the staff successfully auctioned off. When my friend relayed the news to me, I thought, "Wow. She's a real deal."
However, her "we're going to adopt again" comment to Anderson Cooper nearly made me hurl. The selective "which country seems best" attitude smacks of objectifying her kids as world souvenirs, and the immediacy with which she wants to adopt AGAIN seems compulsive. Having Maddox, Zahara, and Shiloh is all well and good, but should be about raising them well and focusing on THEIR needs- not assembling an ethnic picnic basket.
Oops, I meant "world family."
I still admire her work, but feel revolted. "Check out what I picked up in Chile" is just as abhorrent as "Hey, will they put us in Us Weekly?"
6.28.06 @ 8:39a
Remember Marcello Mastroianni's wonderful line in "La Dolce Vita?" "I want children like a bouquet of flowers." Now it seems everybody wants bouquets of children. I agree with Tracey: we have enough needy children right here in the richest country in the world. Every child deserves at least one loving parent, foster or otherwise, but it does seem to be going to extremes these days. Lots of childless couples are going to other countries to adopt because of the incredible roadblocks to adoption set up to foil them here. In Florida and some other states, for instance, gay couples are not allowed to adopt simply because they are gay. That's a real waste of some incredibly good parents for our desperately needy children.
6.28.06 @ 12:39p
According to news reports, but unconfirmed by her publicist, Sharon Stone has just adopted another kid, bringing her grand total to three. The most common wire-service coverage of this story includes that Stone has apparently also sworn off dating men, which suggests that if she'd just start dabbling in Kabbalah she'd be going for the trifecta.
6.28.06 @ 12:42p
They can have my share of kids. I knew I never wanted to be a parent because I'd make a terrible one, long before I even knew I was gay.
As for Angelina "raising" two children....Angelina and her nanny or other employees all help in raising and caring for those kids. She really takes to heart the "it takes a village" theory of child rearing.
Of course I'm not being fair to Angie. After all, don't all parents have nannies, and all other forms of assistance in raising their children?
The trend isn't exactly new. Joan Crawford adopted two children, and I believe Bette Davis may have also adopted. Granted they weren't role model mothers, but then who is?
I agree celebrity adoptions are kind of scary. Imagine Courtney Love deciding she wants publicity via the baby boom. In fact, who is raising her and Curt Cobain's kid? She didn't sell it for crack.
BTW, excellent take on the whole issue.
6.28.06 @ 1:00p
Also going back, Harpo Marx had four adopted children.
I don't think there was as much publicity, though.
6.28.06 @ 1:12p
Adopting children? Good. Adopting children to keep your name in the news, join what you perceive as a fad, or achieve temporary immediate gratification for "doing a good deed" are all capital-B Bad.
I'm also a little torn on Jolie. I think her heart's in the right place, and her dedication to charitable works seems to be genuinely benefiting people... as opposed to celebrities who just make one speech, or Bush-bash for the fun of it, or say "Yeah, charity is awesome" and never follow up.
G. Paltrow and C. Martin: Gwyntin? Chrineth?
6.28.06 @ 3:15p
Josephine Baker adopted 12 kids from around the globe that she called her "rainbow tribe" to prove that kids from different ethnic backgrounds could grow up together. I wouldn't take that as an ordinary example of adoption, though, or one that should be imitated.
6.28.06 @ 4:02p
There are plenty of celebs who adopt without making a Major Mass Media issue out of it. Brian Dennehy and his wife have two adopted children who are incidentally blood-siblings. Despite all the brouhaha surrounding Tom Cruise these days, his two children with Nicole Kidman are adopted, and I do believe the adoptions were domestic. Rosie O'Donnell and Paula Poundstone are both adoptive parents, lesbian-chic interest notwithstanding. Jamie Lee Curtis and Christopher Guest's children are adopted. And so on and so forth.
I'm not convinced celebrity adoption is so much a trend as it is just something "new" for the tabloids to trot out.
6.28.06 @ 4:11p
Another question is why are they adopting? Obviously Angelina Jolie could have a child of her own, but are some of the others adopting because they don't want to bring another child into the world when there are already enough to go around, or are they adopting because they don't want to take time off from their careers to carry a child, give birth and possibly not regain their movie star shape?
6.30.06 @ 7:12p
This is Kathy. The idea I think stems from the concept that an aging model/actress can make it and keep a career going. Women do have something to prove in any career. Theirs just happens to be in the public eye. Any politician is guilty of dragging their kids into the limelight. Angelina is in a position to live her fantasies. I wouldn't be surprised if she does have a dozen. It's just not Vogue that she's dealing with. She just needs to remember that children pose many realities and realize that she ulitmately is responsible for them.
Separation of job and personal life....that's how I see it.
michelle von euw
6.30.06 @ 11:50p
I totally agree with Juli -- celebrities have been having/adopting kids forever, it's just right now the pop media is all over it, and people are considering it "trendy" and newsworthy and whatever.
And like Jael, I hate to defend celebrities, but I have to say this: Angelina Jolie was moved to adopt her first son when filming in Thailand and experincing the abject poverty first hand; meanwhile, her second daughter's birth parents died of AIDS, which is totally ravaging Africa. While I agree that the adoption system is horrendous within this country, I can't imagine criticizing people with the money and means for making a choice to rescue children from dire situations.
Now, if you want to criticize them for their horrible wardrobe and movie choices, I'm on board.
7.1.06 @ 5:05a
Michelle, I think its more to the point that while Angelina may have good intentions, and truly be a good parent to her children, although she did adopt the first child while married to Billy Bob and retained custody, okay, getting rid of Billy Bob proves a smart move, it's the copycat publicity seeking celebs that will screw up some kid's life just to have a few more mentions of their name in print.
Michael Jackson somehow or other fathered children to be a parent, like those kids aren't living in a freak show, and there are other celebs who will do just as much damage to kids.
Alas, they have the money to help and do good. I wish they would, but for every Angelina there's a Courtney Love or Lindsay Lohan or Tara Reid. Maybe I'm judgmental based upon their implosions of the past. Maybe a child will make them grow up and be real. And maybe the kids will all end up writing tell all books about their childhoods.
7.9.06 @ 12:43p
Hey, just in time, it looks like Madge -- I mean Esther -- is aiming to snip her red thread. Money's too tight to mention, I guess.
7.26.06 @ 3:56p
10.4.06 @ 3:32p
Well, Madge pulled the trigger. I especially like how:
1) She changed her mind between a girl and a boy two weeks ago;
2) A dozen choice boys were set aside especially for her, from which she took her choice;
3) The nation of Malawi is waiving its non-resident adoption ban just for her;
4) She's building an orphanage so all the kids she didn't pick will still get to study the Kabbalah.
So there it is, folks: $3 million will buy you the favor of a nation, subvert its laws and leave its people singing to you like you're Eva Peron...and you get a souvenir boy to keep.
Do you think she'll sell the boy to Michael for a tidy profit?
3.2.07 @ 12:37p
I guess Brangelina made up their minds:
HANOI, Vietnam (AP) -- Angelina Jolie has filed papers to adopt a Vietnamese child, the country's top adoption official said Friday.
A U.S. adoption agency representing the 31-year-old actress filed the papers at Vietnam's International Adoption Agency, said Vu Duc Long, the agency's director.
"She just filed the papers this week," Long said.
3.2.07 @ 1:37p
Jeez. Look at those crazy kids... getting new kids.
3.4.07 @ 3:19a
I'm kind of torn by the whole stars adopting kids. Part of me thinks that while they can't save the world they are helping at least one child. The other part thinks these people are dragging some kid into the Hollywood fantasy where money not only changes everything but it removes them so far from reality they will forget, if they even remembered, what they came from.
It's almost like the kid won the lottery. They get removed from poverty and thrust into a world of private schools and privilege.
In some ways Oprah is educating a bunch of kids and that's a little better than Angelina in some ways, but just as bad in others.
Of course, if she's got the money to take care of a kid that's her perogative. I just wonder if there isn't a better use for that money to take care of more children and help them on a larger scale than one at a time.