When Enough is Not Enough

NEW YORK – The US dollar is plunging, the economy is imploding, and a crisis of identity is shaking countries around the world. So, what are Americans obsessed with at this critical moment? “Octamom”: the saga of Nadya Suleman, a young single mother in Los Angeles who, having already given birth to seven children, underwent fertility treatments and is now bringing home octuplets.

The story would ordinarily be a mere curiosity. But, ever since Suleman hit the news stream, dozens of media outlets have begun to report, with a kind of obsessive revulsion, on her every move. And, as if being called “Octamom” weren’t bad enough, pop stars such as Cher have come forward to denounce her; blogs have been created to track the details of her plastic surgery; and entertainment Web sites have sent reporters to stalk her and write shaming exposés of her sojourn at an expensive cosmetics counter.

It is true that there is plenty to condemn: Suleman’s family lives on food stamps, the children already at home don’t have enough baby furniture, and her own parents are giving interviews to the media in which they criticize her choices. Her publicist quit, calling her “crazy.”

There have been plenty of oddball flash-in-the-pan media stars in US popular culture before Suleman. But her story just goes on and on, and the emotion that attaches to it seems strangely furious and vengeful.