Just when you think the "Octomom" story has run out of tentacles, some new revelation jolts it back into the headlines. Last week, in an exquisite combination of smut and gossip, porn producer Vivid Entertainment offered Nadya Suleman, the infamous mother of newborn octuplets, up to a million dollars to star in an X-rated film.
Suleman turned the offer down, but that's not going to stop this train. The paparazzi follow her from Starbucks to the nail salon. Everyone who's ever known her has been on TV. Face it, Octomom is never, ever going away. This mother of 14 will become a staple of the gossip mags. A diet company will sign her up for the ultimate "body after baby" challenge. And I'm sure that someday we'll see her on "Celebrity Apprentice."
If this woman is going to be part of our everyday lives, like Lindsay and Britney and the rest, we should be honest about why she's there. Because, in truth, we created Octomom. With our glorification of bizarre behavior, we dare the emotionally needy to shock and appall us. And then we slam them. But are we seeing her clearly, or just addicted to feeling superior? Let's take a hard look at the four things about Suleman that ignite the most outrage. That way, the next time some knucklehead captures the national spotlight, we won't be lying to ourselves about why we're so interested.
1. How the @#$% did she think she could support 14 children without a job? And why do we have to pay for her craziness?
Consider this: Maybe Suleman thought she'd get a TV show. If I found out I was pregnant with eight babies, my third call would be to TLC. (The first call would be 911 for the resuscitation of my husband and the second would be to my shrink.) I mean, how do the beloved reality stars Jon and Kate Gosselin pay for their eight kids? Remember, neither Jon nor Kate had a job when they brought their sextuplets home. And I bet that TV money helps out if you, like Discovery Health Channel stars the Duggar family, have 18 kids.
As for the use of "our" money, it is common knowledge that welfare and other programs such as assistance for women and infants (WIC), disability payments and food stamps are programs actually designed to use taxpayers' money to help pregnant women and children in need, right? There is no freak or idiot clause hidden within these programs. They're there to make sure American children aren't malnourished.
I know; it's unfair that Suleman's children are just as entitled to assistance as the children of people who don't creep us out, but let's not forget, they didn't decide to come into the world this way. And besides, Suleman isn't the only one who's getting "our" money for behavior we disapprove of—bank bailouts, anyone? And many of the institutions that got the first chunk of cash under the financial rescue plan haven't even answered requests from the federal government asking what they've done with the money. At least we know that the worst Suleman can do is buy a whole lot of empty carbs and some dairy with all those food stamps.
2. She wants to be Angelina Jolie!
Consider this: I want to be Angelina Jolie, too. She's rich, famous, charitable and unbelievably beautiful. What's not to like? Her boyfriend is Brad Pitt. And she is one of the miniscule numbers of parents who could afford to quit their jobs and raise 76 kids or buy a house right next to a film set so they can see their kids at lunch. I know we don't like to hear it, but money does make the work-home balance thing a lot easier.
3. The woman misused IVF fertility treatments and wound up with eight babies at the same time, and she has six more kids under the age of 7 at home.
Consider this: Cable news and newspapers have been flooding us with experts on how many embryos should be implanted in a woman and so on and such. And while the cost of IVF is usually mentioned, most of these experts conveniently forget to mention how few states "force" insurance companies to pay for IVF treatment.
So the question really is how many embryos would you ask to be implanted if you had a history of miscarriages and limited funds? Odds are that you'd pick more than one; only 11 percent of IVF procedures in this country involve a single embryo. Let's remember that Jon and Kate were already the parents of twins when they rolled the fertility-treatment dice and wound up with sextuplets. That's just an order of magnitude different from Octomom.
And that's the beautiful and exasperating thing about America—our democracy gives people the freedom to have as many children as they want. All we can do is rant and rave while we watch them on TV.
4. Is the porno offer a creepy testament to her Angelina Joliefication, or what?
Consider this : We are all, each of us, one national scandal away from being offered a million dollars to star in a skin flick. Asking the iniquitous and infamous to do dirty movies is how the porn industry tries to stay relevant. Think of it as "Dancing With the Stars"—only naked.
Look, I don't like the Octomom situation either, and each new revelation shocks me all over again. Suleman, just like Dr. Frankenstein's monster, has come to symbolize the ill that arises when humans delve into the realm of creation. Hungry for knowledge, glory, fame and power, Dr. Frankenstein never paused in his quest to create life to consider the consequences of his actions, nor, it seems, did Suleman—when deciding that six was not enough.
Now we're all snickering and feeling superior, but this could be a real tragedy for at least some of those 14 children, who face lifelong emotional and physical challenges that go beyond money. Suleman should be a warning to us: by sensationalizing her, we're inviting more trivialization of the most sacred aspects of humanity. In Britain, a terminally ill woman is selling her death on a reality program. If it's ever broadcast in the U.S., we'll probably slam that woman, too. But trust me, we'll still watch.