Attack of the Octo-Mom
Just say no...
I was spinning my wheels trying to come up with a post for this Sunday, when it dawned on me that I’m way overdue for a hiatus week. Having been pretty busy working the past month (and very grateful for this little run of work), it's time I wandered off the reservation and let someone else do the heavy lifting -- in this case, the ever-reliable LA Times.
As a society, we readily proscribe all sorts of behavior -- don't smoke here, don't drink there, and don't kill anybody unless the government hands you a gun and says "go." But when it comes to the indiscriminate pumping out of babies by parents hopelessly ill-equipped to provide the long term support critical to raising a sane, well-rounded human being, we seem to have a hard time knowing when to say “no.”
Sometimes I wonder if maybe Nancy Reagan was right after all – not about drugs, necessarily, but concerning our shared lack of common sense when it comes to anything having to do with children.
I can understand why a couple trying to scratch out a living in an impoverished agrarian society might consider having fourteen children a good idea. Without the aid of modern farming technology, many hands are required to coax a living from the stubborn earth, and when faced with a murderous infant mortality rate, the logic of sheer numbers is compelling. Pumping out fourteen babies over the course of ten years might be a bit rough on mom, but life outside the Garden of Eden can be very harsh indeed.
The stakes are high, their choices limited.
Given the pervasive nature and unknown duration of the current global economic collapse, it’s no longer unthinkable that life for us all could devolve to that level over time*, but at the moment, to feed, clothe, care for, and educate fourteen children would be a horrendous strain on any family. The notion that an unemployed single mother -- a woman whose only apparent skill in life is convincing doctors to help her give birth to enormous litters of human babies -- can somehow marshal the resources required to take proper care of eight brand new babies (in addition to her six other children), is ludicrous.
Maybe children number seven through fourteen will grow to up win multiple Nobel Prizes for curing cancer, heart disease, and herpes. Maybe they'll find a way to free Rush Limbaugh from his angry, bloated addiction to Oxycontin, soothe the painful burning itch of hemorrhoids, and alleviate the heartbreak of psoriasis for all mankind.
Or maybe they’ll all end up as serial killers.
We'll find out in the years to come, I suppose, but as the increasingly surreal saga of the Octo-Mom unfolds in the press – and whatever your feelings toward this disturbed young woman, you’ve got to love that comic book moniker – I can’t help wishing that Nathanael West, H.L. Mencken, and Mark Twain were still around to offer their own unique brands of caustic social commentary. But they’re long gone, and when it comes to describing the beyond-the-pale absurdity that so often results when human desire teams up with a modern technology lacking any governing filter of common sense, words pretty much fail me. Add in the 24/7 media frenzy freak-show, and you’ve got another only-in-Southern-California tale of reality gone wild.
Although there have doubtless been further developments in this bizarre drama during the past week (any story strong enough to attract culture-vulture/media whores like Oprah, Dr. Phil, and Gloria Allred has some serious legs), the LA Times summed up the whole sordid story rather nicely here.
"What fools these mortals be," wrote William Shakespeare, in "A Midsummer Night's Dream" -- and the man had a point. I think we'd all be better off if people like the fertility doctor who "helped" Nadya Suleman had the good sense to just say no.
* Even if we recover from these self-inflicted wounds, an infinitely worse crisis looms in the not-too-distant future when we finally run out of cheap oil – and that one really could take us back to the horse-and-buggy era in a very big way...
It's with some reluctance that I recommend you catch or TIVO the Season Two premiere of "Breaking Bad" tonight (Sunday) on AMC -- here in LA, it airs at 10 pm, but check your local listings. Prompted by SF Chronicle TV critic Tim Goodman, I took a flyer on "Breaking Bad" last season, and was hooked right from the first nightmarishly hallucinatory scene. Season One was simply brilliant, and from all indications, Season Two continues the roller coaster ride in style.
So why the reluctance to recommend such a terrific show? Because this is the kind of series you really should watch right from the very beginning. So many layers of character and plot are gradually revealed over those first seven episodes, that coming in at this point just seems all wrong. But that's up to you -- you can always TIVO Season Two as it comes, then hoard it until you've had a chance to watch Season One on DVD's from Netflix or your local video emporium. Whatever you do, check this show out. As of tonight, it's the New Best Thing on TV.
To read an excellent review from the inspired keyboard of Mary McNamara, click here.