Last week, Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt and their newborn twins appeared on the cover of People magazine in a carefully staged portrait of domestic bliss: mom in a demure nightgown, a baby nestled in each arm, dad gazing lovingly over her shoulder. Inside, a nineteen-page “family album,” features various combinations of Pitt, Jolie and their six children in seemingly spontaneous poses. People–along with a UK tabloid, Hello!— reportedly paid a combined $14 million for exclusive rights to the pictures, the most ever paid for celebrity photos.
This eclipses the previous record of a reported $4.1 million paid for the first images of Jolie and Pitt’s other biological child, Shiloh, born in 2006. Although the pair donates all the proceeds from these sales to charity, it seems absurd that in the intervening two years, as the real estate market has collapsed, the price of oil has skyrocketed and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan drag on, the apparent value of a few baby pictures would appreciate so wildly–especially when the price was already obscene.
And the Jolie-Pitts are not alone. While most of us can barely feign interest in pictures of a co-worker’s baby, B-lister Matthew McConaughey, his unfamous girlfriend and their baby boy were on the cover of last week’s OK!. Their pictures reportedly went for $3 million. A few months before that, Nicole Richie sold her baby pictures for a reported $1 million. At just a few weeks of age, these babies have already earned more than many Americans will make in a lifetime. Talk about consolidation of wealth.
Meanwhile, one of the key “beats”–if you can call it that–of the celebrity weeklies is the “bump watch,” a chronicle of every aspect of a starlet’s pregnancy and the corresponding weight gain. The very moment she appears looking slightly heavier than usual, the pregnancy rumors swirl. If it turns out that the given celebrity is not just over-indulging at lunch, the reporting continues unabated until the “bump” is actually born. Soon after, the inevitable first pictures arrive (either courtesy of paparazzi or through more respectable channels.) Finally, the mother’s baby weight miraculously disappears, spawning yet another news item. A cursory glance at any of the celebrity weeklies would suggest that the American public has a boundless appetite for “bump” news. Consider the following recent headlines: “Hollywood Baby Horoscopes,” “Real-Life Hollywood Moms,” “Bodies Bounce Back After Baby,” “Summer Bumps” and, yes, even “Baby Bumps for Obama,” chronicling pregnant celebs at a political fundraiser.