Hot tots

Winnipeg Free Press - Section E - - URBANJUNGLE -

SURI Cruise may have a teenytiny Dolce & Gab­bana trench, a small Fer­rag­amo bag and cus­tom-made Louboutin heels, but does the pre­co­ciously chic child ac­tu­ally have a new book out?

Well, no. Suri’s Burn Book, based on a pop­u­lar Tum­blr and pur­ported to be “a study in Suri and the peo­ple who dis­ap­point her,” is ac­tu­ally by Al­lie Ha­gan, a 25-year-old Wash­ing­ton-based pol­icy con­sul­tant.

Ha­gan of­fers pho­tos and cap­tions from the sup­posed viewpoint of the su­per­star tot, in a tone of equal parts world-weary en­nui and snip­ing bitch­ery, all em­a­nat­ing from the cash­mere-lined co­coon of celebrity en­ti­tle­ment. (“I thought ev­ery ho­tel knows I only drink seltzer with le­mon and diet Sprite.”)

Named for a repos­i­tory of un­kind thoughts from the movie Mean Girls, the Burn Book is hi­lar­i­ously snarky about Suri’s mini-celebrity ri­vals. Ju­nior fash­ion­ista Suri scorns Shiloh Jolie-Pitt’s dressed-down ca­sual style, for ex­am­ple, while liv­ing in fear of be­ing out-princessed by the yet-to-be-born daugh­ter of Wills and Kate. She also has a com­pli­cated fren­emy thing go­ing on with Cruz Beck­ham.

Suri’s Burn Book is un­de­ni­ably a smart, funny in­dict­ment of celebrity cul­ture. But Ha­gan has been ac­cused of cross­ing a line by us­ing a six-year-old girl as comic ma­te­rial.

Ha­gan is hit­ting back with the “they started it” de­fence, which in the case of Suri Cruise could be jus­ti­fied. It might seem that a celebrity child’s ex­po­sure is the in­evitable and un­for­tu­nate by-prod­uct of mom or dad’s fame, but parental re­spon­si­bil­ity also plays a role.

Ju­lia Roberts’ kids are al­most in­vis­i­ble in mass me­dia terms, be­cause Roberts avoids ob­vi­ous photo ops and lives most of her pri­vate life out of the pub­lic eye. Snooki, on the other hand, is al­ready flog­ging her new­born son on the cover of Peo­ple.

In Suri’s case, Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes in­tro­duced her to the world on a Van­ity Fair cover, which was ac­com­pa­nied by an An­nie Lei­bowitz pho­to­shoot and some VF puff-prose about the Holmes-Cruise clan. (“Ev­ery day, all day, I ob­serve Katie and Tom tak­ing on their lat­est roles—as the Ul­ti­mate Hands-On Mom and Dad to their baby girl, Suri Cruise,” gushes the writer.) At the age of four months, Suri was of­fered up as proof of her con­tro­ver­sial fa­ther’s “nice, nor­mal fam­ily man” sta­tus.

Since then, Suri has re­mained highly vis­i­ble, of­ten pho­tographed drip­ping with de­signer swag. “Here the ever-whim­si­cal Suri pairs a Monet-in­spired bub­ble-hem dress with and un­ex­pected golden heel-and-hand­bag pair­ing,” says one fash­ion com­men­ta­tor. Lit­tle Suri out­ranked Lady Gaga and Sarah Jes­sica Parker on Glamour mag­a­zine’s 2011 list of style icons. That can’t be nat­u­ral for a preschooler.

Ha­gan’s other de­fence is that her “Suri” is clearly a fic­tional cre­ation. (A par­al­lel would be the ge­nius tum­blr Fem­i­nist Ryan Gosling, which ir­re­sistibly mashes up gen­der the­ory with Gosling’s hey-girl hot­ness.) Ha­gan’s Suri pos­sesses the eye-rolling cyn­i­cism of a teenager, mixed with the un­gen­er­ous at­ti­tudes of a vet­eran red-car­pet fash­ion an­a­lyst. And what seem to be her snippy re­marks about fa­mous four-year-olds are ac­tu­ally at­tacks on the whole celebrity-kid in­dus­try, which scru­ti­nizes star prog­eny from their “baby bump” de­buts to their first stints in re­hab.

Ha­gan is not per­pet­u­at­ing the celebrity tot in­dus­try, then, but cri­tiquing it. Some of the things that Ha­gan does with ob­vi­ous satir­i­cal in­tent are be­ing done in earnest by the tabloids. Small won­der that fic­tional Suri has a hate-on for Shiloh Jolie-Pitt and Vi­o­let Af­fleck. The real Suri is reg­u­larly pit­ted against the real Shiloh and the real Vi­o­let in Who Wore It Best? gos­sip mag polls. Star mag­a­zine printed a Shiloh/Suri show­down cover story when the girls were only two.

Un­for­tu­nately, chil­dren are the vul­ner­a­ble piv­ots in the love-hate, push-pull of celebrity cul­ture. The fa­mous parade their chil­dren as ev­i­dence that they’re “just like us,” while we pore over the kids’ pa­parazzi shots for ev­i­dence of over-en­ti­tled freak­ery.

The Suri who shows up in Burn Book is a glam­orous but of­ten glum-faced lit­tle girl, seem­ingly jaded be­fore she hits grade school. Who knows what the real-life Suri might be like un­der the ac­cu­mu­lated 21st-cen­tury lay­ers of mass me­dia rep­re­sen­ta­tion? On the sur­face — and re­ally, that’s all we get — she just looks very pretty and ter­ri­bly, ter­ri­bly sad.

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