The Modern (Farm) Family

The vintage and modern farm families

Depending on your age, either you or your parents probably formed part of a farm family or knew someone who did.  Stemming from the Great Depression, and moving into the 1940’s and 1950’s, American families continued to feel the effects of scarcity, with government rations on basics like coffee, sugar and flour a not so distant memory.  Seeking a more self-sufficient way of life, one less likely to be jeopardized by a poor economy, living on and operating a farm was a guarantee of two things: a continual source of food/survival, and a big labor demand.  Prior to technological advances that resulted in the creation of machinery to do many of the mundane, yet time consuming tasks required to produce bountiful crops, human labor was required to till the land, sew the seeds, pick the fruit/vegetable, milk the cows, etc. and with a limit on economical resources, hiring migrant workers wasn’t an option then as most commercial farms do today.  So, how does a labor intensive venture operate when there is no money to hire help?  Simple: kids.  Farm families tended to be quite large in the 1950’s, with both parents and every child working and contributing to the survival of the family.  This is what America was built on: the principal that everyone has to pull their fair share and work hard.  If little Jimmy didn’t milk the cow, his family wouldn’t have milk for breakfast the next day. He was directly responsible to his siblings and parents.

Shift 60 years into the future and where do we find ourselves? In political mayhem, ideologically divided as to who should be responsible to ensure everyone has milk for their morning cereal. Some embrace the ‘farm family’ mentality where we as individuals and families are responsible for milking our own cow, and others feel the government should do the work and just send us the voucher to hand to the milkman when he comes on Monday mornings.  Although we could discuss this topic at length (and we will as the 2012 Presidential election draws near), what we find more interesting is the niche community that most embraces the farm- family mentality of  ‘everyone contributes’.

Hollywood. Its a fickle, superficial and money driven world. It’s also very hard working. Everyone has a purpose and is a component of a well-oiled money making machine, known as publicity.  As a society, we are obsessed with knowing who is dating who, what they had for dinner, what they bought at Kitson and any other mundane detail of celebrities lives that make them appear somehow more relatable.  This insatiable hunger translates to big paydays for the rich and famous when it comes to exclusively sharing the big moments of their lives, like marriage, divorce and babies with the weeklies and gossip magazines.  Case in point: the Kardashians.

Led by momager, Kris Kardashian, every family member plays a part in furthering the survival of the unit.  Kim, its star, who recently wed NBA-star (we use that term very loosely), sold her engagement story to People for $300,000, and her wedding photos for much more than that. Khloe, the younger sister, sold her wedding exclusive to fellow NBA star Lamar Odom for close to the same amount and the oldest sibling, Kourtney sold pictures of her son Mason, to Life & Style for 300K just two weeks after giving birth:

Kendall and Kylie Jenner (Bruce Jenner is their dad), are both bringing in their share of the money crop through aspiring modeling careers (Kylie made her New York Fashion Week debut in Avril Lavigne’s Abbey Road show– mind you, she is below the age limit of 18).  Lone brother Rob Kardashian, who has long been criticized for not pulling his own weight by his publicity loving sisters on their reality show, Keeping Up with the Kardashians, has stepped it up and is currently on Dancing with the Stars.   Kris, the mastermind behind the family’s commercial success (the family as a unit is expected to gross $60 million in 2011), is the epitome of the farm- family.

Republican favorite Sarah Palin is another good example  Given her fondness for game-hunting, she may be literally and figuratively the farm mom.  Upon announcing her VP nomination for the 2008 Presidential election, the controversy surrounding who (Sarah or her daughter Bristol) is the real mother to baby Trig, became front page fodder for months.  Not stupid, Sarah and Bristol both saw the opportunity to stay in the media spotlight and make major money by repeatedly selling exclusive coverage of the controversy and Bristol’s on-again, off- again relationship with Levi Johnston, making sure to include Trig and her own son Tripp in every single photo:

Not only did Bristol get a nice check for this cover, but she also used the platform to keep the spotlight on her mother, with a cover mention.

Why should anyone care about a girl from Alaska who got knocked up and graduated high school? Here Bristol makes a buck by stressing the importance of abstinence and yet again, gets her mother’s name on the cover.

This cover speaks volumes.  On the upper left hand side, there are the first pictures of Halle Berry’s daughter.  These were taken by the paparazzi who most likely sold them for a very pretty penny and Halle received no compensation. However, Sarah Palin surely got paid for providing access into her own life and those of her children for the Us Weekly cover.  But shoot, can you blame her? A taste of the good life (like a Valentino suit for $1500.00), makes it hard to go back to shopping at Sears, so someone has to bring in the funds to keep it going.

Many celebrities have sold exclusive pictures of their children to the media as a way of benefiting economically from having to live under the microscope of the paparazzi.  When an exclusive is arranged, not only does the celebrity pocket the funds, but it also essentially cuts off all the paparazzi mayhem of trying to get ‘the first picture’ to sell to the magazine.  More money and less stalking?  You see the appeal:

The formula works. Two of the most successful People covers of all times were Sandra Bullock and her son, and Brangelina and the twins, Vivienne and Knox.  Brad and Angelina got a whopping $14 million for the exclusive, which they donated to charity (enough to make sure entire communities get their morning milk):

Jessica Simpson is the latest to follow suit. Already well-established economically thanks to her uber-successful apparel company,  Jess is holding the official announcement of her already obvious pregnancy until her dad can arrange a $500,000 payday for the exclusive story.  This really is the most extreme of family farming mentality.  Jessica’s dad, Joe, and his wife Tina, live entirely off their daughters.  As Jess’ manager, Joe collects 10% of all her income- which would include any money she makes from announcing her pregnancy to the media. Nice Joe. Why not allow the paparazzi to stalk your eldest daughter, trying to get the money shot, until you get make sure a half million can be made from the little one’s existence:

Jessica Simpson in LA on October 21, 2011

What magazine would pay Jessica 500k for an exclusive that is nothing but obvious to everyone?  If I were Jessica’s agent, I would advise waiting and packaging the exclusive to include the first pictures of her newest money making venture baby, the plans for her upcoming wedding to fiance Eric Johnson and a behind the scenes of her new reality show, Fashion Star.  The combination of all three stories has much more potential than her non-secret pregnancy.  Additionally, there are the “sisters and their babies” and the “how I balance work and motherhood” stories to sell in the future. After all, an empire only lives on if the younger generations take a leadership role once the elders become too old, or uninteresting to bring in the big money.

What do you think of celebrities making money off selling exclusive photos of their children? Is it in bad taste or simply a compensation for having to live under the microscope of the press?  Let us know your opinion by posting a comment below the post.


2 responses to “The Modern (Farm) Family

  1. But the real question is why do we care and who are the people that buy these braindead/headlines that want to know about these worthless people? Are these the 35%-40% of eligible voters who do not vote?

    • Ideally, we would be able to compare the demographics/psychographics of the industry’s readership and compare them to those of non-voters. However, in the world of publishing, only about 30% of all readers are subscribers, the rest being newsstand buyers. However, I know many politically active people who indulge in the gossip rags while at the gym, on an airplane or on a lazy Saturday. Perhaps its a form of escapism?

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