Friday, May 29, 2009
Madness A-Parent To All
A week or so back, former magazine editor Bonnie Fuller took People magazine to task for essentially making teen motherhood look a heck of a lot more glamorous than it is in reality:
She may not intend to encourage other teen girls to follow her example, but with her picture perfect looks and adorable baby son, she is absolutely now the poster girl for teen momhood.
The inside article, with dreamy full page photos, might as well be titled, "I'm 18, a mom and HOT...and you can be too!" There's not one photo of an exhausted, haggard, harried, unkempt-looking Bristol, reeling under the enormous responsibilities of raising an infant, working part-time — which she is — and hoping to somehow continue her studies. Instead, Bristol appears tanned, rested and already fitting back into her skintight jeans.
Visuals are a powerful force. And more than words, they produce visceral reactions! So while Bristol talks in the exclusive piece about how "girls need to imagine and picture their life with a screaming newborn baby," there's nothing in the People magazine spread to visually suggest that life isn't one big happy bed of roses in the Palin household, where Bristol and Tripp still reside. There's not even a dish out of place, let alone a pile of laundry or an unmade bed.
Gratuitous slaps at Palin's ideology aside, Fuller's overall point is a good one. Despite what the text of the article might say, the pictures make teen motherhood a lot more alluring than it is. Fuller could also add that, one area where criticism for Gov. Palin is fair is in allowing her 18-year old daughter to become a "spokesperson" against teen pregnancy. Earlier this month, Bristol attended a town hall for Candie's Foundation, hosted by NBC Heroes star Hayden Panetterie. Bristol is Candie's "teen ambassador." She's eighteen and has a one-year old child. How is she giving "insights" on teen pregnancy, when there's no way she's figured out how to raise the child herself. But as its spokesperson, the Foundation undoubtedly flew her from Alaska to New York for the event. As Fuller suggests, an impressionable teen-age girl might think, "Hey, having a child right now isn't so bad -- you can get on People magazine, hang out with Hollywood celebrities and fly to New York as a celebrity spokesperson! Cool!"
Talk about mixed messages.
Could it get any worse? Of course!
If teen motherhood can be cool, how about making teen fatherhood sexy? Enter GQ, which makes a cover boy out of Palin baby daddy Levi Johnston in its next issue. The spread includes several pictures of Levi stripped to the waist as he changes baby Tripp's diaper! The feature -- near-Biblical in length -- makes Levi into a hunting stud who's coulda-been father-in-law Todd Palin offered Bristol a car get Levi out of their lives.
Levi got the first brush of fame when he was all cleaned up and introduced to the world at last year's Republican National Convention. After the split with Bristol, not surprisingly, both families traded pot shots at each other. So, he's figuring he's going to maximize his 15 minutes of fame.
Lessons for guys here: If you have to knock a chick up, make sure she's politically connected. At one time, that could have meant a death sentence. In today's culture, it means that you become a celebrity yourself, with appearances on Larry King and a full feature in GQ.
And then there's the most famous baby (not born to Hollywood celebrities) in the world. Tripp gets to appear in two major magazine spreads (one tastefully nude), while his parents present decided mixed messages on what his presence in their lives means. Well, in between the photo shoots, interviews and gala appearances, they do.
Any guesses on how regular and functional his childhood is going to be.
Somebody tell these kids that the best thing they can do for Tripp is to "just say no" -- to the media that is. The only hope for a normal life for Bristol and Levi's child is for his parents to try to start living normal themselves.