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02.12.09

Mother of All Disasters

That picture of octuplets' mom's obscenely large bulge represents an epic pop culture meltdown.

Oh, no! Look what Demi Moore hath wrought. I never believed back in 1990 when I published Annie Leibovitz’s famed Vanity Fair cover picture celebrating the fecundity of a naked pregnant Demi Moore that it would spawn 19 years of star knock-off pictures that culminated in today's epic moment of pop-cultural collapse— the sight of octuplet mom Nadya Suleman on TMZ bearing her ballooning 16-legged implants to the world.

The worst thing about the Suleman story is the way the freak-hungry media has rewarded her delinquency every step of the way. The sit-down star interview with NBC’s Ann Curry, the magazine covers, the hype for her PayPal web site, the impending book deal. Suleman's duvet lips are in themselves an homage to all the photo spreads she has seen of Angelina Jolie whom she so closely resembles.

Movie stars today are as greedy for additional kids as bankers are for bonuses. It’s the new badge of authenticity.

Movie stars today are as greedy for more and more kids as bankers are for bonuses. It’s the new badge of authenticity. The problem is it's also a movie star myth that raising an ever-escalating tribe of screaming infants is no sweat, no cost, no impediment to doing absolutely what you want. They can do it because they can, but there's nothing cool about it for a single mom already freeloading on disability. (One of Gov. Sarah Palin's many missed opportunities was that she never told us how she was really coping backstage not just with GOP handlers drilling her with foreign affairs cliff notes, but the friction of a boot-faced pregnant teenager and a school-deprived seven-year-old made to tote around her dazed four-month-old baby brother.)

That's why I wanted to throw a shoe at Anderson Cooper's toothy blonde co-anchor Randi Kaye Monday night when, after Cooper's admirably deadpan account implying the many ways that Ms. Suleman was clearly deranged, Kaye gurgled to camera, "Oh, but come on, they ARE really cute, aren’t they?"

Yes, the eight tiny preemies are very sweet indeed, lying there in their ICU unit festooned with tubes to keep them alive. It’s why it’s so sad that these same cute babies will almost certainly have an array of lifelong medical complications or disabilities they don't deserve. Like many kids with disabilities they'd no doubt be valiant, but these will compete for love and care with three other siblings who've inherited disabilities due to their mother's reckless conduct, and they'll share with eight others their mother’s resources in utero and one-fourteenth of her attention (and childrearing budget) from now on.

Who’s going to want to do photo spreads on eight socially-deprived adolescents with learning disabilities raised by a crazy mother? P.S. Brad and Angelina will probably be split up by then, too.

Tina Brown is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Daily Beast. She is the author of the 2007 New York Times best seller The Diana Chronicles. Brown is the former editor of Tatler, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, and Talk magazines and host of CNBC's Topic A with Tina Brown .