Tweet and update your celebrity baby blog, for he hath been proclaimed George Alexander Louis, the Prince of Cambridge. Yes, the Royal Baby has been named—and snappily so by monarchy standards: Grandpa Prince Charles waited a month for his name. But with the number of births in England per year at around 688,120, why do we care about little George to the point of worldwide frenzy?
Prime Minister David Cameron described the baby’s birth as an “important moment in the life of our nation” which, as Prince George is third in line for the throne, makes sense if you think the monarchy is important to begin with. (Where would we be without slideshows of the royal corgis?) But for the rest of us who are not subjects of a queen, the answer likely lies with an all too familiar obsession with tabloid-ready infants. As Washington Post reporter Monica Hesse aptly notes, Prince George sits at “the intersection of celebrity worship, royal worship, and the burgeoning baby-industrial complex.”
In The Handbook of Gender, Sex, and Media, Erin Meyers argues that our interest in famous kids is drawn from our desire to see celebrities—who reside in a seemingly unattainable world—in an identifiable situation: motherhood. While we don’t often weekend jet-set to Bora Bora, we have pleaded with a one-year-old to not eat dirt. Meyers says the “celebrity mom profile” grew with the magazines of the 1990s, when celebrity moms began to “embody a highly romanticized and idealized vision” of motherhood as a “pinnacle of ‘natural’ feminine achievement.”
Twenty-first-century media coverage expanded our celebrity interest to unabashed scrutiny of the hot-or-not bodies of the famous. This naturally led to the now-common search for the baby bump, which Meyers says lead to the discovery of a “potentially inappropriate pregnancy” or “always inappropriate weight gain.” Fellow scholar K. Megan Hopper furthers Meyers’ point in her paper, in which she writes that “the impact of the sexual objectification of pregnant celebrities” has led to a discussion of “what type of pregnant body is desirable and what type of pregnant body incites discussion and criticism.”
We can see this in the gossip media coverage of Kim Kardashian and Kate Middleton, who have been juxtaposed by different outlets because of similar due dates. Kardashian was memorably described as “HUGE” during her pregnancy, while Milddleton was a “slim duchess.”
So it makes some sense that, after judging celebrities’ pregnant bodies for months, that our interest would transfer to their kids. Yet, an obsession with celebrity pregnancies and births doesn’t do us any favors. In Hopper’s research, pregnant women were asked to evaluate themselves after looking at pictures of pregnant celebrities. When the subjects studied the pictures they began to see themselves as objects that should also be evaluated for ideal beauty. For women 28 to 30, looking at a full body of a pregnant celebrity especially lead to increased self-objectification.