So what will they call the show: The Suleman Bunch? Nadya and the Taxpayers Plus 14? Fourteen is Enough, Already?
News that so-called Octo-Mom Nadya Suleman hired an agent fans a sickening scent of inevitability that follows a media circus where there’s no one to clean up after the elephants – or in this case, change the diapers.
She’s enlisted Wes Yoder, who put together book and music deals for the McCaughey septuplets a decade ago and has worked for controversial clergyman Rick Warren. The move came after the publicists who represented the jobless mom of 14 for free quit among a flood of death threats.
The backlash against Suleman, whose case probably has the shrinks scrambling to come up with a new syndrome to describe whatever drives her (a guess: the word “Münchausen” may turn up somewhere in there), should be sign enough for her to fade away and figure out how to deal with the life she’s made for herself.
But no: there she is, her belly bared in a picture snapped before the births; there’s her smiling face plastered on her donation-seeking website; there she is reportedly telling the British tabs she’s been celibate for eight years and plans to stay that way for another 18; there she is hiring an agent to make sure we won’t forget her anytime soon.
All this while the Suleman 8 are still in the hospital.
People, of course, love babies and baby stories. The Dionne Quintuplets, born in 1934, became the first multiple-birth exploitation saga of the mass media era. More recently, the benign “Jon and Kate Plus 8” ranks as TLC’s most popular show, going strong in its fourth season.
But Suleman's story, and her apparent Mama Rose-on-IVF mania for attention is a cautionary tale of the new media and medical age where separate technologies that help us communicate faster and bring wanted lives into the world are being dually perverted.
So let’s hope against hope that the hostile response generated by Suleman will scuttle any pseudo feel-good TV reality shows, movies, books or whatever Yoder is considering.
There are, though, books to be written and documentaries to be made about the medical ethics issues surrounding this mess.
Reality TV shouldn’t come in to play: The word “reality” can’t be used in the case of woman who apparently doesn’t subscribe to it.
Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992.