The case of the 33-year-old California woman still living with her parents, and who just gave birth to eight — count ‘em, eight — babies, has captured the attention of the country, if not the world. As the details of this unusual medical event become known, more and more Americans are expressing surprise if not shock at the manner in which the woman became soooo pregnant, and of her background. They shouldn’t be. The strange case of Nadya Suleman is but the latest example of a society in which the unusual is glorified; the most extreme behavior rewarded; and the most intimate details of human activities plastered all over the Internet, television and tabloids.
Suleman is custom-made to have become the latest pseudo celebrity on the interview-for-pay circuit. She doesn’t work. She lives with her parents even though she is 33 years old. She is unmarried. She already had six — that’s right, six — other young children in addition to the latest litter of eight. And the eight new mouths to feed were the result not of natural conception, but a carefully planned project whereby an apparently willing doctor implanted eight embryos in the woman so she could thereby become a celebrity.
Even as her eight latest babies, born prematurely late last month, remained under medical care, the mother and her parents were jockeying to maximize the money they hoped to receive for the not-exactly-miraculous event. If recent similar episodes by other “celebrities” are any example, Suleman will become rich. After all, does not every Hollywood celebrity couple who adopts or gives birth to a child or children immediately hold a bidding war for the right to photograph the little darlings for the tabloids? Is not every celebrity scandal followed by a rise in the person’s celebrity status and income demands?
Are there not TV “reality” shows depicting the intimate details of the lives of men, women and children for the entire world to ogle; including the enormously popular “Jon & Kate Plus 8″ reality show on TLC? This thrice weekly program follows the daily routine of a family with eight small children. If Jon and Kate and their children are being made rich as a result of the shameless exploitation of their personal lives, why should an even more shameless unwed mother of 14 not be permitted to cash in? Is she not “entitled” to be rewarded for her efforts? Wouldn’t this be only “fair” in light of what she’s gone through?
Is not every function or activity imaginable, no matter how gross, potential fodder for a Guinness world record? Why not, therefore, highlight this latest “marvel” that is Suleman’s brood?
Are we not subject to television advertisements hawking, in not-so-subtle detail and often during the dinner hour, products that will address various heretofore private bodily functions as urination, defecation, incontinence, erectile dysfunction and hemorrhoids? In light of that, would not a program recounting the exploits of a woman who decided to have eight embryos planted inside her just for the heck of it, be rather tame?
Do not Americans pay money to stare at actual human bodies flayed, dissected, preserved, mounted, and displayed in roving exhibits? Compared to such tastelessness, perhaps a story about an unwed, unemployed mother of 14 young ‘uns, should be seen as a welcome respite.
About the only thing not yet the subject of a reality TV program is death. But, how far away can such a program be? How near are we to witnessing on real-life television the activities described in the chilling passages in Aldous Huxley’s prescient 1932 novel, “Brave New World, ” in which school children are taken on field trips to hospitals to watch people die, as part of a program to “death-condition” them? Already in the U.K., euthanasia is being televised; in the Netherlands, where euthanasia is becoming commonplace, it is being practiced on newborn infants determined not to be likely to enjoy a “livable life.” Already, here in the U.S., we have autopsies being graphically performed on television.
If a self-promoting weirdo like Suleman can find a doctor willing to implant eight embryos in her womb just so she can become a television freak show, it certainly won’t be long before someone can find a producer willing to televise in real time the “awesome spectacle of people actually dying.” Suleman is just a woman slightly ahead of her time.