It started before she was born. Was her mother really pregnant? How big was the bump? Then came her debut on the cover of Vanity Fair at the age of 4-1/2 months, a cherubic face with a shock of dark hair. There hadn’t been any photographs published of her before. People (okay, tabloids) had begun speculating that maybe she didn’t even exist. Which is what prompted the 22-page magazine spread.
Now she has a book named after her, Suri’s Burn Book: Well-Dressed Commentary From Hollywood’s Little Sweetheart, out this week. She didn’t write it, of course; Suri Cruise is only six. It’s unauthorized and written in a fictional voice – caustic, snarky and haughty – that is imagined by a 25-year-old policy consultant in Washington, D.C., Allie Hagan, who has an after-hours obsession with celebrity children.
Go ahead, take it as funny or disturbing. It’s an outcome of the celebrity culture we all partake in – to some degree, anyway. (You’re reading this column, aren’t you?) How one feels about it is a sort of Rorschach test on one’s emotional tolerance for speculation and voyeurism.
“We’re fascinated by the indulgence she’s been raised with,” comments Bonnie Fuller, editor of Hollywood Life, the online gossip magazine. “Scientologists believe you should never say no to a child.”
In July last year, Ms. Hagan began a Tumblr blog called Suri’s Burn Book, named after the famous pink tome that created havoc in the hit 2004 film Mean Girls. Fascinated with celebrity kids, Ms. Hagan decided to use her imagined version of Suri’s voice to write critiques of other A-list children.
Hagan’s Suri expresses exasperation at Violet Affleck’s granny style, and praises the “tweenage couture” of Sasha and Malia Obama. She disses the poor fashion habits – those “elfin boots” – of her own mother, addressed as “Katie.”
Three weeks after its start, it was named one of Time magazine’s Tumblr blogs of the week. By January, Ms. Hagan had a book deal.
The real Suri has a curious appeal that sets her apart, Ms. Hagan claims in a phone interview: “It’s very specific the way she walks, very poised. She stands up straight all the time. It’s very rare to see her running. She’s always walking like a lady. She’s carrying a bag or she has some kind of accessory.”
But it’s not just her mini-Anna-Wintour quality that pulls us in, which sounds innocent enough when Ms. Hagan explains it. There’s a morbid curiosity about a child who wears lipstick and kitten heels, flies in private helicopters and often has a strangely adult expression on her face.
Not everyone has received Suri’s Burn Book in the manner it was intended, especially as the poor little rich girl is seen hiding her face from the invasive cameras. “Too bad this isn’t just sad, unfortunately it is also despicable,” said one commentator on a media website.
Maybe Ms. Hagan, who says she is very careful how she writes about Suri post-divorce, is also having second thoughts. Yesterday, she wrote a column in Huffington Post which read like a feeble justification for her stalkerish obsession with some back-handed concern for her subject: “There’s a twinge of sadness there that I don’t want to poke at – the possibility that Suri is losing her mind, not because she’s a drama queen who just spilled her ice cream but because her life is complicated and evolving right now.”
It feels like a Princess Diana moment all over again. Only this time the Princess can’t defend herself.