Probably the most troubling thing of all is how greedily we've slopped all this stuff up. But after making celebrity baby covers the biggest sellers for the likes of Us, People and OK!, we get the freakshow news we deserve. Still hungry for more and more babies, we've turned to the circus disaster that is regular lives made alien and shocking when bad choices mixed with a few bits of bad luck and stories were born.
Maybe it coms from exhaustion with all the other media. First it was scripted television shows, and then their high-concept reality descendants. And now we've sifted through every last layer of story until we've gone and found a low, universal denominator. People come out of other people's vaginas sometimes. The more that come out of the same one or the younger the owners of the necessary body parts are, the more we're interested. 220 channels and nothing else was on, so we've settled on the baby zoo currently on display on TLC or sitting in a dimly-lit room across from Ann Curry.
While Suleman's desire to go and get herself knocked up with octuplets when she was already a cash-strapped mother of six probably had far more to do with some murky and deep-seated emotional cataclysms than it did with a desire for fame, the end result has been a raft of high profile TV appearances, implied hopes for a reality series, and a website asking fans or followers or whomever to donate money to this Elephantitis-suffering family. Ms. Suleman has become a rickety celebrity simply by making the wreckless decision to bring many children into this world for whom she had no way of caring. Good for us!
Little Mister Patten may not have been courting fame when he got his young girlfriend pregnant, but now he's likely being paid exclusivity fees by the Sun. And, in the wake of the media frenzy surrounding the unsettling story, two more boys have come forward, claiming paternity of 15-year-old Chantelle Steadman's daughter. There are posed photos of the two boys, aged 14 and 16, on Splash, the photo agency where I find many of the silly celebrity pictures I use for Open Caption.
It had become fairly routine for celebrities to profit off the act of procreation, what with the big glossy magazine industry and whatnot. But now common folks are saying "me too!" and the troubling thing is, if you don't already have a certain degree of popularity, you have to make your babymaking pretty sensational to get any attention. And what's sensational is often ugly. Again these folks probably didn't enter into reproduction with designs on tabloid notoriety, but once the first publicist calls or newspaper camera flashes... Well, the Siren call is tough to resist.
Though humanity has its limits, and the public outcry against Nadya Suleman—and the sad revulsion expressed over the Patten thing—suggests that maybe there is a limit to this mayhem. But we don't suspect it will die down quickly. Prepare yourselves for other strange stories, for other curious and unpleasant parlor tricks of the body. After all, while everything's being torn down around it, Coney Island still has its sideshow.