The Morning After: Eight Is Too Much

TV Arts

Posted by James Poniewozik

This is not something a good TV critic likes to admit, but I made 
liberal use of the fast-forward button watching last night's special 
Octomom: The Incredible Unseen Footage. I have an excuse, in that I had 
a Top Chef writeup to do, but also enough of the show was devoted to 
Suleman's unhinged 911 calls that I could blessedly speed through and 
read the captions.

This creepy, dispiriting special was the perfect show to watch on DVR, 
actually. If you recorded it, you may want to zip through and simply 
watch the commercials.

If there was any hope that the show, mainly using access Nadya Suleman 
granted to Radar Online, would show her as a misunderstood, sympathetic 
figure, it quickly vanished. Pitiable, yes. In need of help, probably. 
But sympathetic, no. I don't want to join in the pile-on of judgment on 
her decision to bear eight in vitro children on top of the six she 
already implanted had as a single mom—at this point the judgment pretty 
much takes care of itself, and Fox's special only added to the evidence. 
But whether touring the cameras around her house or berating her mother, 
she only came across self-deluded, rationalizing her choices, driven by 
some childhood-compensation needs and a vague, unsubstantiated faith in 
the future, that something—fame? her undefined career plans?—would make 
everything all right in the end.

Suleman seems to know at some level that she's messed up--her life and 
possibly her kids'--but she kept returning to the theme that there was 
no point in dwelling on it. "I can't regret it now, because I love 
them," she said. "They're here." And: "I've moved past my [makes air 
quotes] 'mistake.' ... I'm just going to keep moving forward." The kids 
are a fait accompli. No point playing the blame game. Actually, this 
seems to be one case where the blame game is worth playing, if only for 
the sake of the 14 kids drifitng in and out of the frame—if accepting 
blame, or anything, could shock Suleman out of her self-deceptive haze.

I do have to give the special credit for being upfront about how ghastly 
and exploitative the filming (and thus the watching) of Suleman's 
experience was. The entire two hours hyped the climactic Never! Before 
Seen footage, arranged by Suleman, of her delivering the octuplets in 
the hospital. The raw video unreeled interminably, as the nurses 
announced each baby's arrival—"Baby A," "Baby B," all the way through 
"Baby H"—and the camerawoman argued testily with the medical personnel 
trying to shoo her out of the room.

It was the beginning of life as the bloody assembly line for media 
product, the eight babies being handed off one by one in an ugly and 
hostile spectacle. This isn't how anybody should have to come into the 
world, or live in it. For the sake of Babies A through H, and their six 
siblings, let's hope this is the end of the incredible unseen footage.
I think the moniker "Octomom" doesn't quite have the necessary
negative connotation.

How about "Octopussy"?
Octopath. Cause she eight times the crazy of a sociopath.
We have a winner!