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
(B) capable of lying still for long periods of time is going to be hilarious.” And about a recent shot of Blue Ivy Carter and her father, Jay-Z, Suri quips, “Going barefoot in Paris is like showing up to the Oscars in a denim miniskirt.” (Hmm, that sounds familiar.)
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.
In that same interview, the Post quotes an online conversation Hagan had with a friend just before starting the blog: “Omgggg that is exactly the kind of thing I want to post—honest truths about these privileged children. LIKE THAT THEY ARE BORING.” Is this really necessary? Do these kids really need some 25-year-old with a master’s degree going after them for her own (or anybody else’s) amusement?
Were Hagan to point some real satire at these kids’ parents, or the fans who obsess over them, and were she to do so in a way that is actually clever and funny, she might be forgiven for commandeering the identity of a little girl who had the bad fortune to be famous before she was even born. Until then, I’ll just have to find some other way to make it through the workday.
Zack Munson is a writer in Hollywood.