Thursday, March 30, 2006

FERTILITY GODDESSES

Living the exciting life that I do, I spend a lot of time standing in lines at the grocery store or the pharmacy. It's an activity many find tedious, but I'm never bored. I check out the kind of food people are putting in their carts and their bodies, piece together random snatches of conversations; and most of all, I think thoughts I'd never get around to thinking if I were more productively engaged.

I also carry out serious sociological studies. For instance, I've recently noticed that it's almost mandatory for any magazine in the check out aisle to feature Britney Spears on its cover, preferably with her navel exposed.

But why? The researcher in me wanted to know. Yeah, the girl is cute enough and she can dance, but there are lots of young singers who fit that description. Why the fascination with Britney? Has she even had a hit song lately? In some photographs, the pop star herself looks fairly perplexed about all the brouhaha surrounding her.

At first, I thought that maybe Britney was just famous for being famous. She somehow captured the national imagination when she went from the innocent brunette cheerleader in her first video to blond vamp; and now her fame is some kind of self-perpetuating phenomenon. Like mold spores.

But then I realized that none of the articles even concerned themselves with Britney's music or her career. They were all about pregnancies--past, and present. That's when it all came together for me. Britney's not so much a singer or a star as she is a contemporary fertility goddess.

Who knows? Maybe the fertility of young women increases in direct proportion to the time spent staring at photographs of the Goddess's navel, or the reading umpteen articles about her various pregnancy dilemmas. It could be true, right?

My theory gained even more credibility when I saw that one of the tabloids or magazines had featured a triptych of the Angelina Jolie, Britney, and Katie Holmes. I hadn't even figured out whether Britney should stay with the troublesome Kevin or tough it out alone, and now they're saying Tom wants Katie to give birth on a ship. A ship?

Apparently, the life of a fertility Goddess is not as easy as it looks.

51 comments:

Stephanie said...

Wow. I think you're really on to something, Patry. They are definitely fertility goddesses and like the gods in general their struggles are immense and far more than most of us would choose.

They all kinda sicken me though....

boulies said...

This is a first for me to be first on your blog. All I know about Britney around our way is from my 11 year old daughter. She says Britney Spears is so yesterday. Sounds like the news media is perpetually trying to resurrect her because they've made a fortune on her. It seems like they'd just need a rubber stamp to make another one of her kind; music, brains, looks and all. Guess they haven't yet found anyone with as much vacant appeal as she has to cash in on. The Britney/mold spore analogy works great for me. I really enjoyed this. Reflected some of my apathy toward all the tabloid hoopla. By the way, I hope you don't mind that I linked you to my blog. I absolutely love your writing.

Lorna said...

While I am not at all fascinated by the fertility of young singers/actors, I do find myself wondering how easy it can be to make a living documenting each trimester, each birth, each naming while making it seem either sensational or at least, interesting

g said...

They have to put something on the cover. No plain brown wrappers here. These are not subscriptions. They are spontaneous purchases, right at the point where people are digging into their wallets.

In a way, all the people passing the display are voters. They either say yes, and buy the cover, or say no, and don't.

I think you have something here about Britney being the fertility goddess. What are young women thinking about, as they pass by the checkout aisle?

JT said...

True, but she was on every magazine cover before she got prego.

I think it's because of what a writer said in a recent New Yorker concerning Playboy magazine:

"Playboy was launched in 1953, and this female image managed to draw, simultaneously, on two opposing trends that have since come to dominate American mass culture: on the one hand, our country’s idea of its Huck Finn innocence; on the other, the enthusiastic lewdness of our advertising and entertainment. We are now accustomed to seeing the two tendencies combined—witness Britney Spears—but when Hefner was a young man they still seemed like opposites. Hence the surprise and the popularity of Playboy. The magazine proposed that wanton sex, sex for sex’s sake, was wholesome, good for you: a novel idea in the nineteen-fifties."

Laini Taylor said...

I think you're onto something: CELEBRITY SPAWN. Is mini-miss-whoever getting a little thick in the middle? Are celebrity genes colliding to form an uber-baby? Bah. I heard a rumor recently that the pregnant brunette in sunglasses glimpsed with Tom Cruise isn't REALLY Katie but a body double, because he and Katie are already secretly split. I'm sure Tom only wanted the baby anyway for some weird Scientology ritual -- maybe his "thetan" is going to leap into it and live forever!

Michael said...

Call me a chauvinist or a man of poor taste, but the fact is that even though I think her image and her music are vapid, I'd rather stare at Britney Spears than the Venus of Willendorf.

Sky said...

well, we need to find out what the demographics are - who are the magazines and the television programming people trying to appeal to? when i see what america prefers to watch on television i am amazed. everything is "reality" something...and most of it is sooooo boring and so absurd! print media is doing the same with magazines. i sound like my own grandmother did many years ago when she shook her head at the america of the '60s and '70s! but, i am sure it all had more substance then. ;)

Amishlaw said...

I agree with the other posters that you're on to something. Have you seen the photograph that Yahoo has been featuring on its homepage? It's of a lifestyle sculpture of Britney giving birth. You can see it here: http://tinyurl.com/q3ab2

Rexroth's Daughter said...

Interesting perspective, Patry. I hadn't thought about these women as fertility goddesses, but I think you really have the subtext of these magazine covers. There does seem to be some obsession with pregnancy, and it is handled the same way these magazines handle sex-- thoughtless, empty-headed, vapid and thoroughly devoid of meaning.

andrea said...

Heehee, this made me laugh. I don't understand the facination either. Great write, and I enjoy studying people too.
a.

Mary said...

Same phenomenen here - I tend to catch up on these magazines in the doctor's or dentist's waiting room ..I wouldn't buy them to save my life but I admit they exert a horrible fascination nonetheless.

I am baffled by the whole thing.

Patry Francis said...

stephanie: interesting perspective on the "struggles of the gods in general". I hadn't thought of that.

boulies: I think your 11 year old daughter is light years ahead of the media. Thanks so much for the link and the kind words.

Lorna: I'm not looking for the help fertility dolls either, but I agree with you: the ongoing documentary fascinates.

g: You're right; they're always positioned directly across from the candy bars. Though I never fall for the tabloids, I can't resist an occasional Nutrageous.

jt: You might have put your finger on Britney's lingering allure. Thanks for your comment and welcome!

laini: Celebrity spawn! Where were you when I was thinking of a title for this post?

michael: Apparently, the public--both male and female--agree with you. The Venus of Willendorf is just not our kind of fertility goddess anymore.

sky: what amazes me about the reality shows is that they all have scripts and directors. Doesn't sound much like my reality.

amishlaw: Thanks for the link. Amazing!

r.d.: I'm thinking of your recent post about a fantasy CNN headline: Supermarket tabloids replaced with thoughtful commentary on real issues.

andrea: I'm happy it made you laugh! Love your recent paintings by the way.

mary: I'm wondering if you're obsessed with Britney in the U.K. too, or if you have your own fertility goddesses...

Brenda said...

Beautifully written! Just enough tongue-in-cheek to leave one smiling. And it's true, 'we' do have a need to worship our own fertility through our 'fertility goddesses'! xo

Dale said...

There's been a whole crop of female icons in the last decade or two that baffle me. It's difficult to find women who don't appeal to me, but magazines manage to do it regularly these days. I'd much rather look at most of the women in the checkout line than at most of the women on the magazine covers.

It's probably the photography I'm responding to, rather than the women, of course. Maybe I'm just past the generational window -- maybe it's just that the iconography that was developed specially for me is obsolete now.

I've noticed the obsession with fertility too -- it seems to have ramped up lately.

I don't know, it's all very mysterious to me.

floots said...

britney who? :)
it was good to get this perspective
i'm too busy checking the BOGOF offers (buy one get one free) on all the things which are bad for me
no time for people watching
mind you - if this fertility goddess has cookies i'll pay more attention
thanks for brightening up a rainy evening
cheers

kenju said...

So funny! I for one, will be happy when Britney is yesterday's news and no longer shows up on every tabloid in the store.

Sarsparilla said...

I don't know. You certainly have something there. All over the world, newspaper and magazines use celebrities as a vehicle to sell their main product: advertising.
Teh vehicle has to be aspirational. If it's unachievable, it's as aspirational as it can be.

(I recall seeing a perfume display in a store in Singapore, where each bottle was at least $75 at cheapest, showing a twelve year old girl, half naked, and sultry. The women who could afford to buy that perfume would pretty much all be over 30. It suddenly dawned on me that 'unattainable' was the point.)

But in the UK, the fascination has a nastier aspect. We want our idols to have feet of clay.
We have Britney, and we have Posh, and we used to have Di. The point seems to be that there neds to be a tragic side.
That necessary sense of tragic waste, of a life without contentment seems to accompany the fertility thing quite equally.

Perfect Virgo said...

Perhaps if Britney got a new naval she may claw her way back to media darlingship... If she leaves until the blubbery folds of middle age have concealed it altogether then all is lost for her.

I like the way your post carried a serious edge Patry yet permitted impertinent observations too.

colleen said...

A ship? I'm still laughing.

I'm also annoyed at the way they force feed the public Survivor and now American Idol. They assume everyone is hooked and needs the latest ongoing news every few minutes.

Anonymous said...
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Simply Coll said...

Standing in line allows me to practice yoga by standing in Mountain pose. :-)

MB said...

Like mold spores.
HA! ... you are funny Patry.

My daughter says Britney is out out out. But who listens to the children? More of us should, methinks.

Grace said...

yes, exactly

Grace said...

and angelina jolie is like the Orisha, Oya (African Diety)

Mohammed Ali is like Chango
(African Diety)

Brad Pitt is definitely some Greek or Roman god...

Archetypes are so much fun.

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