'Celebrity mothers like Jennifer Garner are useful emblems of just how entitled and exploitive women can be, when the laws permit them to be so.'By Note: There aren’t a whole lot of links in this, because I don’t want to contribute to how these children are being used
I don’t watch advertisement supported, cable television of any kind – we have Netflix and HBO, which are both ad free at the moment. Despite taking no active interest in ‘celebrity’ culture, I have an astonishing awareness of a lot of it. The simple act of standing in line at the grocery store, surrounded by gossip magazines, or reading online sites like Gawker, Slate, Salon, etc., means I can name the children of celebrities without knowing exactly what a lot of these people are famous for.
It’s the height of irony that Jennifer Garner (don’t think I’ve ever seen one of her movies) testified before the California State Assembly that paparazzi photographers represented a danger to the children of famous people, when she is one of the most egregious offenders when it comes to whoring out her children for publicity. I can easily name and identify her children, and trust me, I take no particular pride in that, it’s just that those children are everywhere. Usually accompanied by Jennifer Garner.
Some might say that she’s famous, she lives in Hollywood, she simply can’t avoid photographers or dampen their interest in her life. But I call bullshit.
Lots of people much more famous than Jennifer Garner live in Hollywood and generate tons of public interest, but their children hardly ever appear in gossip mags. I know that Julia Roberts, for example, has three children, but I couldn’t pick them out of a line-up. Madonna’s children almost never appeared in magazines in the past – they are more visible now that they are so much older. Her teenage children are regularly featured, but not her two younger ones. Johnny Depp has children. I’ve never seen them. Meryl Streep has four children. Never seen them. Julianne Moore has children. Again, very rarely seen in paparazzi photos.
I made a quick list of the women whose children appear in gossip rags on a regular basis and it occurred to me that these children all have mothers who have a product to sell or a brand to maintain that has little to do with talent and everything to do with understanding how to capitalize on their fleeting fame. The four big ones are Gwyneth Paltrow, Kim Kardashian, Tori Spelling and Jennifer Garner. Paltrow used to be a respected actress (she won an Oscar for Shakespeare in Love) but is now more famous for her website GOOP. I’m not sure exactly what GOOP is, but it’s her baby and her real babies are peddled out to photographers so mommy can get her clicks. Kim Kardashian is famous for being famous and doesn’t appear to actually do anything other than be herself. Her children are also regularly trotted out to promote the Kardashian brand. Tori Spelling, like Kardashian, also doesn’t appear to do anything other than parade her seriously fucked up life for public consumption and her four children are props she doesn’t hesitate to use.
Jennifer Garner is an interesting one. She is married to Ben Affleck, and does not need to sell anything, since her husband provides amply. She sells her children to maintain her ability to work: she is America’s favorite wife and mother, or she tries really hard to be. Garner is not particularly talented or attractive (by Hollywood standards, not normal people standards) and her career would have been long over had she not snagged Affleck. She had to divorce her first husband, but they had no children, so no harm done, right? Garner dresses like a frump, in ill-fitting, mismatched clothes, and can usually be spotted bumbling around the farmer’s market, buying organic vegetables and cut flowers, with at least one of her children in tow.
Often the Affleck children look terrified by photographers, but rather than make different choices, like Julia Roberts, Garner keeps going back to the same places, over and over again. Julia Roberts is way, way more famous than Garner, and yet she manages to protect her children just fine. Garner is exploiting her kids for her own gain, and this leads me to two questions. First, what the hell are the men who married these brazen little opportunists doing, and why do these women get a pass for how they are treating their own children?
Paltrow is divorced from her children’s father, and he obviously cannot dictate what she does. How interesting that Chris Martin rarely appears in pap photos himself, never mind with his children in tow. Could this be because Martin is a talented musician who can sell his product based on its quality? Martin doesn’t need to whore out his children for album sales. Kardashian is married to Kanye West, and he is just as willing to use his daughter to promote his brand and sell what he has to sell. He is complicit. Tori Spelling’s husband must be the most hen-pecked husband in history. He left his wife, with a new baby, to take up with Spelling, and he is regularly subjected to demeaning lectures from his wife either in print or on television. His own career is deader than a doornail, so he has to go along with his shrewish wife, or he doesn’t eat.
But what the hell is up with Ben Affleck? Why does he permit his wife to use his children the way she does? There are rumors that Affleck is thinking of running for public office, so perhaps he needs his wife to appeal to the minivan demographic? Or maybe, despite his wealth and influence and fame, Affleck is in the same boat as every other American man with children: if he wants to see his children, he will bow to his wife, because she owns those kids and has the courts, the law and the police to back her up? Celebrity couples lay bare the complete insanity of 50-50 property laws, because there are such huge amounts of money involved. Robin Williams had to pay ex-wives tens of millions of dollars to make them go away. Williams has children. Has anyone ever seen them as little kids? Did Williams whore his children out for money and fame? He didn’t need to, and his wives had nothing to sell, so they didn’t do it, either.
The real, sickening irony is that 50-50 property division laws are not accompanied by 50-50 child custody laws. Women get to take half of everything their husbands earned, and keep their children, because legally, children are not property (nor should they be). But for all practical purposes, children are indeed property – property women feel they personally own. A few celebrity woman have felt the sting go the other way, but not many. Halle Berry’s ex has custody of their daughter, and she has to pay him child support. Naturally, Halle considers this terribly unfair and wonders why the lazy fucker can’t get a job, but no one seems to make the same demand of celebrity wives. They’re not lazy, gold-digging whores – they’ve earned their money.
Bullshit they have. The legal situation, if we were concerned about justice and fairness, would be exactly the opposite of what exists: property would be divided according to contributions, and children would be shared by default. I write this as woman who has spent the majority of my adult life dependent on my husband. Yes, me being at home has given him the ability to excel in his career the way a man with a working wife cannot, but it is beyond ridiculous to believe that I am entitled to half of what his talent, hard work, and dedication produces. Bill Burr, I think, does a great job of questioning why we allow this to happen:
I googled ‘Ben Affleck quotes’ to find something to end this little bitch session with, and look what I found!
Be careful with your wife, Affleck. She can make certain your future is very romantic indeed.
Lots of love,