Even in celebrity culture, where women can be afforded some sort of agency as ‘independent women,’ there’s no denying “the reproducing woman is no longer cast as a potentially productive citizen, except insofar as she procreates: her capacity for other kinds of creative agency has become an obstacle to national reproduction” (Berlant 153). Otherwise, how could you explain the craze around celebrity mothers?
Beyonce was always marketed as a strong, autonomous woman. The gradual creep of compulsory heterosexuality, then matrimony, then maternity into her music was expected – and if it produced songs like “Countdown,” who could complain? What I didn’t quite expect was how quickly she became and remained Beyonce: Mother. Thanks to Berlant, we can easily read this transformation as a testament to the national fascination with fetal citizenship and gradual submersion of the mother beneath the celebrity fetus/baby.
Even before she was born, Blue Ivy Carter became a gross domestic product and vessel for the dominant public imagination. Following the advent of in utero photography, wherein the fetus can be imagined individually, “the baby circulates as the tabula rasa of consumer nationalism” (Berlant 166). The medico-scientific establishment has done it again! For the kids! Now, fetuses and infants have become “human in an unprecedented way” (Berlant 167). Tell me about it. The newborn Blue Ivy is already featured on a track with Jay-Z. It took Kanye 25 years to do that!
Sure, Berlant didn’t have celebrity babies in mind when she wrote “the celebrity fetus is among us now,” but the logic of the celebrity fetus translates to superstar babies (178). The Carter family must’ve consulted Berlant’s piece when they set up a tumblr for Baby Blue pictures. Jigga remains in focus with his obscured daughter, while Queen B is transformed into the blurry foreground of Blue Ivy’s portrait. I can’t imagine a better representation of hegemonic American investment in fetus-as-citizen/celebrity.
While we’re thinking about celebrity babies, it’s hard for me to avoid the connection to our other reading this week. What better popular image of “‘positive’ eugenics” and “genetic essentialism” can we find than the celebrity baby? America’s greatest celebrities merge their sexy genes and produce superstars!
I’ll close this argument with my favorite Übermensch:
⊗ Patrick beane ⊗