Vanity Fair’s Illegitimacy


                        By AG Moore July 29, 2011

The Neglected Daugher — an Affecting Tale  1804

Illegitimate: unlawful; illogical; spurious. Can a person be illegitimate? More to the point, can an infant not yet cognizant of its surroundings or personhood be illegitimate? According to Vanity Fair it can; the August 2011 issue uses the word illegitimate to refer to a child.  This child is, in effect, collatorial damage in a piece engineered to smear Prince Andrew, Duke of York. Authored by Edward Klein, the Vanity Fair piece constructs a case against Andrew which rests as much on innuendo and suggestion as it does on solid fact. Klein characterizes the child in question as “illegitimate” merely because the infant’s mother happened to be an associate of Andrew.

In an age when David Letterman, Salma Hayak and Natalie Portman, among a legion of others, have decided that a formal marriage ceremony, or lack thereof, does not in any way affect the integrity of their offspring, Edward Klein disparages an infant. Because this gives him the opportunity to use the word illegitimate in the same sentence with Andrew’s name.

There was a time in Western culture when the lord of a manor could ride across an estate and encounter any number of unacknowledged offspring, offspring who were described as illegitimate – or worse. That era of patronymic tyranny, as Klein well knows, is long past. But in classic tabloidese, Klein cannot resist a low blow, even if that blow lands foursquare on the shoulders of an innocent.

So Edward Klein is careless about the well being of a child; what’s up, though, with the editors of Vanity Fair? What were were they thinking when Klein’s copy landed on their desks? It’s not as though the magazine represents the moral majority. As a matter of fact, on this very matter – children born without benefit of a marriage certificate – the magazine takes a tolerant position in its March 2011 issue. In that issue, Juli Weiner refers to Mike Huckabee’s comments about Natalie Portman’s pregnancy as “misguided moralizing.”

Exploitation: victimization, abuse, profiteering. Can a writer and a magazine, in a crass effort to appeal to a shrinking subscription base, be guilty of exploitation? Yes. But it is one thing to troll for dirt in the life Prince Andrew – his poor decisions are inevitably fodder for public comment. It is quite another thing to drag a private citizen, an infant with no stake in the Prince’s affairs and no power to resist the smear brush, into the sordid mash of convicted sex offenders, corrupt dictators and deadbeat debtors.

Every now and then Vanity Fair runs an article that attracts publicity – I can’t recall which article it was that induced me to subscribe to the magazine. But, whatever this magazine has to say, I’m sure I can read it elsewhere, eventually. There’s not enough between the covers of the publication to compensate for its poor taste and bare-knuckle sensationalism.

In the future, Vanity Fair will not be able to count me among its subscribers. I recommend others follow my lead.

Georgetown University on the Patronymic Rights of Children:

Encyclopedia of Children and Childhood:
A Case of Indifference?

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