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.