Opting in, celebrity style

In a break from my attempts to understand conceptions of reality, let’s have some gossip reportage.

How great is the A.V. Club? I could read their feature essays all day. One new feature I absolutely adore is Then That’s What They Called Music!, a track-by-track review and analysis of the once ubiquitous compilations CDs that capture all the hits of the mid 90s and early 2000s. I was in middle school and high school at that time, so this series allows me to revisit some highly embarrassing song obsessions with a (slightly more) critical eye. It’s even more embarrassing considering I owned most of the CDs in question. Ouch.

Revisiting your pop culture past also allows you smugly judge (or pity, as the case may be) the artists in question. Two singers featured heavily on the NOW! compilations, Christina Aguilera and Jennifer Lopez, are both attempting to regain the popularity they had at that time.

Both women took time off to have babies, but today are everywhere, pouting and preening on magazine covers and talk shows, promoting albums (Aguilera and Lopez) and movies (Lopez) that really aren’t doing too well.

Now I work at a company that employs a lot of women, and from what I can tell, most mothers have to be back at work less than a year after having babies. Aguilera¬†and Lopez are both trying to opt-in to their industries after taking some significant time off, and finding it’s HARD – even for multimillionaire celebrities. Aguilera, with her signature blond hair and tech-y videos, is accused of Gaga-copying (now Gaga-feuding). Lopez can’t seem to connect to the bland romantic comedies she once dominated, let alone the dance club music that she was known for (and what her voice has the capability for, really).

There really shouldn’t be any schadenfreude in their predicaments. Women need to be able to take the time to bond with their babies and raise them, and re-enter the careers they left. But the real world doesn’t work that way, especially in an industry as cutthroat and celebrity-hungry. While they were gone, we got more pop stars to entertain us, romantic comedy leads to charm us, and reality stars to allow unfettered access into their boring, boring lives. It doesn’t make me happy that they aren’t doing well, or at least, not perceived of as doing well, but part of me is happy that they, too might see the plight of a working mom who wants to take off that time, but really, really can’t. Celebrities: they really are just like us.