Support First Things by turning your adblocker off or by making a  donation. Thanks!

Her name is Monroe Christine. She is twenty months old. She was born on television.

You see, Monroe belongs to a reality television star and his partner—Jeff Lewis and Gage Edwards of Bravo’s Flipping Out. Her conception, gestation, and birth were part of the drama of the show, and now her parties and wardrobe and babbling continue to be part of the show.

The men will not do business with the woman who gave birth to Monroe ever again. Her name is Alexandra Trent, and she’s suing the men and Bravo.

As part of the transaction, Alexandra agreed to have her ultrasounds filmed while the men who paid for Monroe watched. But, according to Alexandra, she did not agree to having her delivery filmed and broadcast. And she certainly did not agree to the reality star’s commentary on her delivery.

“If I was a surrogate,” he observed, “and I had known there was going to be an audience, I probably would have waxed.” (Of course, he will never be a surrogate. He is a man. And he is rich.) “And that was the shocking part for Gage. I don’t think Gage had ever seen a vagina, let alone one that big.”

Someday Monroe will see the episode of her father’s show in which she was born. After so many years in the custody of men who find women’s bodies by turns amusing and repulsive, maybe she will be disgusted, too. I wonder what they will tell Monroe about her own body when it begins to change. Maybe they’ll tell her to make sure she waxes.

Monroe will not have a mother to talk about her body with. The men never met Monroe’s mother; they picked her out of an egg catalogue. What will the men tell Monroe about the catalogue? Monroe will probably want to know what made her mother special. Do they remember?

And Monroe certainly will not have Alexandra Trent to talk with. “I guess we won’t be using her again,” the reality star tweeted. I wonder what woman they will use next time. Whoever it is, she had better read the contract closely.

A concerned fan of the reality star observed that it was probably a mistake to let Alexandra spend time bonding with the newborn Monroe. After all, Monroe was paid for by the men, not by the woman whose being she had shared for nine months. They probably won’t make that mistake next time. Better to get the baby used to her new reality right away.

Monroe was baptized on television by an Episcopalian minister with a posh accent. Everyone at the event seemed bemused by the rite. (What level of sincerity is required for the renouncement of Satan to be efficacious? For Monroe’s sake, I hope not too much.) But it made for good television—especially interspersed with footage of Alexandra weeping at the ultrasound and screaming during delivery. The men beamed, and viewers sniffled: What a happy journey they had gone on together!

Monroe’s childhood will continue to unfold on television until either the reality star or the network decides it is no longer profitable for it to do so. She might belong to her men, but her men belong to the market. Everybody has a master, I suppose.

Alexandra Trent certainly understands that now. The reality star is upset that Trent’s lawsuit might “tarnish the most amazing experience of [his] life,” which was watching the girl he paid a clinic to manufacture be evacuated from the womb he rented while cameras rolled and he mused about the birth mother’s substandard grooming. He paid good money for that girl; that womb; that experience. He “thought this was over,” like any other temporary contractual relationship.

It may someday really be over for Alexandra. She might move on; a financial settlement might help her do so. But it will never be over for Monroe. She will always have been born on television. Her childhood will always have been a marketable commodity. She will always be the product of the will and the checkbook of two men who wanted a bespoke parenting experience.

Her name is Monroe Christine. She is a little girl who was paid for by two men. Her mother was picked out of a catalogue; the woman who gave birth to her was a contractually obligated guest star on a television show who was publicly humiliated by her father.

Remember Monroe Christine when you hear words like “equality,” “autonomy,” and “identity.” Who is equal, and who is a symbol of someone else’s equality? Who is autonomous, and who is an expression of someone else’s autonomy? Who has an identity of his own, and who is an extension of someone else’s identity?

Who is a person, and who is an accessory?

Who is an end, and who is a means?

Who is a girl, and who is a pet?

That is the question.

Brandon McGinley is a writer and editor in Pittsburgh.

Comments are visible to subscribers only. Log in or subscribe to join the conversation.



Filter Web Exclusive Articles

Related Articles