Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Celebrity Moms

We live in a society that is obsessed with celebrities and motherhood. From the initial "bump watch" to the first published photos of "baby makes 3" and heated discussion of the post-baby weight loss, we can't seem to get enough of celebrity mothers. It may come as no surprise that our celeb-crazed culture would become fascinated by something as (seemingly) unsexy as Liv Tyler in a sandbox, but the extent to which the media covers this topic is incredible.

I have a few theories about why we're so fascinated by celebrity motherhood. First, the main audience for celebrity and fashion magazines and blogs are women, and we love the idea that we can finally relate to an otherwise gorgeous, rich, perfect woman. Pregnancy doesn't discriminate based on beauty, wealth or fame- everyone gains weight and experiences physical and emotional changes. I think the gaining weight part is important, because even as our idea of beauty has shifted to acknowledge pregnant women as sexy and feminine (the prime example being Demi Moore's famous Vanity Fair cover), to many people, a pregnant woman is still not as sexually appealing as she was when she wore a size 2.

I also think we're glued to this coverage because, perhaps secretly, we're curious how becoming a mother will change a famous woman. Will it change who she is and how she's identified? Angelina is a good example of this, Kate Moss is the opposite. And importantly, how will her femininity, beauty and sexuality be perceived after this?

We also know that once she has children, the celeb still has to through the process of losing weight, starting work again and raising children (even if nannies are doing most of the work). Just as we identify more with celebs who are victims of a bad breakup, like Jennifer Aniston, Louise Parker and Sienna Miller, three actresses who enjoyed a spike in attention after getting dumped for other women, motherhood makes even the most untouchable woman more human. Both experiences are major, often difficult, events that affect most women, whether or not they're famous.

Another possible theory is that the creation of "MILF status" has extended the sex-sells doctrine to celebrity mothers. Once they've had the children, celebrity mothers are judged by the media on their ability to lose weight quickly and get back their old jobs, like Heidi Klum, who walked in the Victoria's Secret fashion show just 34 days after giving birth. In response to this pressure, most celeb moms are back to looking like their super hot selves within just a few months, with a new and improved image softened by their new role as mother. A great article in last week's New York Magazine discusses the MILF phenomenon, though I think the writers, sexperts Em & Lo, underestimate the important role that sexy celebrity moms have held in popularizing this idea.

In response to this flood of media attention on celebrity moms, the celebs and their publicists have taken advantage of the coverage to use their children to remake their images. One needs to look no further than Angelina Jolie, who was previously known for cutting herself, drinking her husband's blood and making out with her brother (among stranger things), but has recently become a figure of international motherhood. Bragging about her goal of having ten children of many different races and nationalities, Angelina has used the media to ensure that she's associated with the positive qualities of motherhood, instead of her risque past. She's saving the world's children, one adoption at a time... how can anyone criticize that or question her intentions?
Personally, I'm conflicted when I see celebs using their children to manipulate their public image. In a lot of cases, it's hard to determine whether it's the fault of the media by fixating on the topic or whether the celeb and her publicist is pushing it non-stop. I tend to have a lot more respect for celebs who (at least attempt) to keep their private lives private, but I really don't know when to blame the celebrities for exploiting their children to boost their image. Why shouldn't they want to show off and talk about their children, just as any other mother would?

What do you think?


franki durbin said...

Meg, youve done an excellent job of articulating my thoughts and fears. You are right, at the core we want to see how a glamorous woman handles her pregnancy. Does she let herself go? Is she still seen as sexy? How much weight does she gain? And...more importantly for she able to get work afterwards?

Why does any of this matter? because these are the same things we wonder about in our own lives. Will I be able to lose the weight? How much will I change? Will I still be sexy?

For me it is not about the baby, but all about the celeb mom. I have to admit, even I have to thumbs through the magazines to see how this one or that one looks.

I think it makes some of us feel better about pregnancy and ourselves. It familiarizes us with the stages and the changes. As long as we realize we're still looking at a woman with a fleet of people helping her look her best. A luxury we will not have! I'm a realist, but I do enjoy the pregnancy (and post-pregnancy) celeb photos. Best of all: the trainer's tips afterwards. Best part!

My two cents...

Kristen said...

Great post! I however do not feel the bond of womanhood with celebrity women that become pregnant. I honestly think the attraction for me is how materialistic they will become to make us believe they are untouchable even in pregnancy.