The Kids Are Alright
And maybe the target should be their parents.
Oct 22, 2012, Vol. 18, No. 06 • By ZACK MUNSON
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that blogging is not the greatest byproduct of the advent of the information age. (That would be Double Rainbow Guy. Easily.) But it’s not the worst, either (acronyms, Rick Astley, Facebook, take your pick). Over the years, I’ve spent some time reading blogs, usually when I had something else I was supposed to be doing, and I’ve enjoyed my time learning about Stuff White People Like and cats that look like Hitler, among other things.
So I was intrigued when I heard about a snarky, faux-celebrity gossip blog written from the perspective of Suri Cruise, the 6-year-old daughter of erstwhile match-made-in-heaven Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. With Tom Cruise being crazy, the sham marriage, the whole Scientology thing: It sounded kind of funny.
Suri’s Burn Book, written by Allie Hagan, a policy analyst in Washington, debuted in July 2011 and, within a short time, was a hit—or whatever it’s called when a blog succeeds at doing whatever blogs do. After just a few weeks online it was even named Time’s Tumblr of the Week. (Other recipients: Mutant Ninja Noses and Animals with Stuffed Animals. This is an honor not lightly awarded.) Ultimately, Hagan got a book deal, and last month, Suri’s Burn Book (the actual book) was released.
But there’s a problem. Suri’s Burn Book is not funny, as a book or a blog. Hagan’s Suri is a pampered, moody Hollywood snob, quick to be jealous and resentful of other celebrity offspring who might steal some of her spotlight. The posts on the blog feature Suri’s commentary on photos of celebrities with their sometimes oddly dressed and often oddly named children in tow.
Hagan has tried to create a little world for her Suri character to occupy: an on-again/off-again romance with Cruz Beckham, son of David and Victoria; a rivalry with Willow Smith, daughter of the Fresh Prince; a running disgust with Violet Affleck and her parents. But her jokes are, simply put, lame. “Seeing a wealthy person going barefoot in a Target is as unsett-ling as that time Vanessa Hudgens got invited to the Oscars,” she declares about January Jones’s son, Xander.
On the announcement that Vivienne Jolie-Pitt is going to play a young Sleeping Beauty in an upcoming film, Suri crows, “Watching a Jolie-Pitt try to play someone (A) beautiful and
Like a lot—not all, but a lot—of the self-published humor on the Internet, the primary virtue of Hagan's blog is not that it’s actually funny, but that it’s available, now, when you want to spend a few minutes avoiding what you’re supposed to be doing at work. It never really generates any laughter, and it doesn’t need to. It just needs to distract.
And it’s a form that is particularly ill-suited to full-length book adaptation. With chapters on weird celebrity baby names, old money versus new money, and celebrity child fashion, Hagan’s commentary is just a long-form version of her blog: snarky without being clever, silly, absurd, or funny in any of the other ways people can be funny.
“I’ve been criticized for carrying expensive handbags at such a young age,” she writes. “But what do you expect me to do? Put my American Express black card in my pocket?” Ha ha. “Messy hair and menswear are Shiloh Jolie-Pitt’s most well-known features.” Zing. “Try as they may, [Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith] will never succeed at thrusting greatness or talent upon their children, and all you need is one slumber party at Willow’s house to know that she is not that special.” LULZ.
There’s one more thing to remember: These are kids she’s talking about. Suri Cruise is 6 years old. Willow Smith is 11. Blue Ivy Carter is less than a year old. Hagan claims her satirical target is their parents; as she told the Washington Post, “I’m trying to poke fun at how [their parents] trot them out.”
As someone who makes a living making fun of people, I’m sympathetic to her aim. But however obnoxious these celebrity parents may be, however much they may have exploited the birth of their children for money or notoriety, Hagan is still taking aim at the kids—and exploiting them for money and notoriety.