"Okay, how's this? One grand. One soft-core scene, six hard-core, but tasteful and I stop comparing you to a pork belly? Hah?"
This is how I imagine Steve Hirsch, head of Vivid Entertainment – an adult-film company – negotiating with Nadya Suleman, a.k.a. Octomom.
In 2009, when her eight namesake babies were born (she also has six additional others), Hirsch offered her a million dollars to appear in one hard-core porn scene. The next year, the offer dropped to half a million for three hard-core scenes. Recently, the media reported that he was offering her still less – dangling before her the $400,000 she needs to stop foreclosure on her house, for who-knows-how-many scenes while giving her this fact of life: "Regrettably, your market value has diminished."
Suleman has also been in the news this week for applying for welfare for her 14 children, even though she swore she never would. (Have any of you never gone back on a promise? I swore I'd never date a man with pig tusks, but things change.)
She also told Anderson Cooper, defiantly, this past week that she is not "ashamed" of having posed topless for Closer magazine, a truly wretched gig that netted her a mere $8,000.
Cooper, for his part, seemed stunned by her refusal to cry and bend to his superior morals.
In fact, she was cool as a righteous breeze when she informed him, "You have to learn to let go of everyone's perspective of you. You can't please the world."
She answers to God, herself and her children, she said – and who are we to argue such pure logic?
Still, as she always was, Suleman remains a target for the most self-righteous, vicious hate imaginable (she didn't kidnap these children!). When the welfare news broke, for instance, it was reported that she was receiving death threats, the news of which led countless online posters, typically, to dismiss her as a "pig" who should get her tubes tied.
The genuine crisis here? It's not the Ugg-wearing, somewhat surgically enhanced supermom herself (a British tabloid accused her last year of sobbing that she hates her children sometimes, making her, naturally, a typical mother).
Instead, it is the Octomom as cultural spectacle. Her many babies, and our initial, animalistic, interest in them were reminiscent of the Canadian Dionne quintuplets, who were taken from their parents and raised in a nursery-zoo.
Her hybrid name is monstrous, as is our proprietary regard of her life. She may be a celebrity manqué, who invited us to watch: she never asked us to participate, like a combination of Children's Services and the Clockwork Orange boys.
Another mom-to-be, Snooki, of Jersey Shore, is just starting to feel some of the weight of such cultural surveillance: In a story sold to the latest issue of Star magazine, Angela, a show alum who miscarried a child and believes that "having a baby is sacred," declared that she is "appalled" that her co-star is enceinte and adds, "Having a baby is no joke and that's how [Snooki]is treating it."
How does she know? Because Fox advertised "fist pumps and baby bumps" for the next season of Jersey Shore? These are working mothers (or soon-to-be), who probably feel, not unusually, that their babies are also sacred.
Yet the jury, the condemnatory, know-it-all lookers-on (even TMZ sighed, as if weary of its prescience, that they saw Suleman's resorting to welfare "a long time ago"), they are perfect, and justified in carrying on like Salem on a bad day.
Don't the haters know they created the very mess they're judging in the first place?
By haters, I mean all mean-spirited voyeurs of pop culture. We are in the middle of an unprecedented baby boom, one that has been pop-stamped for approval for a decade, with "bump watches" and a disquieting obsession with the children of celebrities.
This generation would have Burt Reynolds cover his genitals with a newborn.
This celeb-motherhood fixation is so virulent that every week at least three magazines declare (erroneously) that the chain-smoking, leathery, fortysomething Jennifer Aniston is "finally!" having a child.
We were not supposed to be our parents' grandchildren, Roseanne Barr once said in a stand-up routine. And here's something else this mom-we-miss said, when she first unveiled her "domestic goddess" shtick: "As a housewife, I feel that if the kids are still alive when my husband gets home from work, then hey, I've done my job."
Nadya Suleman has 14 healthy children and no husband. How she ever stops screaming long enough to bathe, dress and feed them is a sacred mystery.
Yet, instead of trying to have a bit of sympathy for this woman, who is, essentially, a bigger extension of every mother you have ever seen trying to drag her screaming kid, its stroller (loaded down like a chuck wagon) and 25 bags up a set of streetcar steps, we stand back and tsk.
We tsk as if the octopus in the seaquarium has glowered at us after we bashed the glass for its attention and shrieked at its ugliness.
At Octomom, the glassed-in curious creature who reflects – hugely, grotesquely – our fascination and contempt.