30 January 2008

Jessica Alba's pregnancy 'not cool' according to young men

Jessica Alba is by far one of the most boring 'A-list' celebrities I have ever come across, and yet her pregnancy has been documented with reckless abandon, as I like to say, since the first moment she revealed her status 'with child'. Nevertheless, in the midst of the glowing admonitions surrounding her burgeoning belly (if I read another interview in which she says the same thing about her body changing or knowing the sex of the baby, I will scream) I was particularly interested to come across a video clip from MTV's TRL thanks to the folks at Defamer.

In this particular clip, Alba is doing another boring interview with the vapid hosts of the daytime video show and of course, as her pregnancy is by far the most popular topic of conversation, strangely enough (or perhaps not?) the male host asks Alba how her male fans have reacted to her pregnancy. Alba of course does her ridiculous 13 yr old girl giggle and says 'I don't know' with a surprisingly puzzled look, clearly missing the point of the question being that her male fans see her as a 'sex' symbol and obviously (*stereotypical cultural assumption*) being pregnant makes her anything but 'sexy'. To add insult to injury, the male host takes an informal poll of the drooling teenage boys sitting in the audience, asking if they think Alba's pregnancy is 'cool', as if their opinions mattered. The teen featured in the clip looks at Alba and says 'Not cool' as if being pregnant was a personal sleight against all of the young men like him who have fervently associated Alba with their every sexual fantasy.

You can watch the clip here: http://www.defamer.com.au/2008/01/male_fans_issue_resounding_not_cool_re_jessica_albas_pregnancy-2.html

I find this intriguing. For all intents and purposes, pregnancy is increasingly being 'sold' through the global media as a desirable and career-changing bodily state for celebrities. From Gwen Stefani to Katie Holmes, a female celebrity's stock will rise considerably in terms of her cultural power as soon as she breaks out 'with bump'. We have been inundated with naked, pregnant cover photos and centrefolds reinforcing the fact that pregnancy is no longer a 'condition' to be hidden; that pregnant women are walking sex and pregnant bodies are objects of desire. One only has to look to the massive market of pregnancy porn to see that flaunting one's fertility is hot. After all, as I discovered in an innocent Google search, Hustler's hardcore fetish magazine Taboo devotes at least a few issues a year to pregnant women in compromising..um..positions.

Yet, in this moment on TRL, the seemingly antiquated theoretical representation of pregnant bodies as abject and monstrous and inherently asexual creeps right back into our cultural dialogues. The message is clear: now that Alba is pregnant, she can no longer be 'sexy'. She has been tainted by a maternal body. She is the property of a man (with the very unfortunate name of 'Cash') and in spite of the market value of pregnancy for a young celebrity, one can see why it is now so pressing for postnatal celebs to get their bodies back into shape in order to keep their position on the sexual cultural mantlepiece. Women like Alba are seen as the epitome of heterosexual desire of which the approval of men, perhaps more so than women, shapes their popular appeal. If Alba can no longer attract young men to her movies, the message seems to be, she is no longer valuable no matter how talented she may be.

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The Baby Bump Project by Meredith Nash is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.