While some won’t be thrilled that this is another post about Nicole, it’s something we couldn’t ignore. I thought the news about her new baby, via a surrogate, was something people were interested in discussing and indeed it was. The comments on that post are still going strong and have covered everything from the ethics of surrogacy to infertility. But there has been an uncharacteristic amount of vitriol on that post. Uncharacteristic for Mamamia where the quality and tolerance standard of comments are higher than any other website I know but not uncharacteristic for any discussion about Nicole Kidman.
This is interesting to me. Why, more than any other celebrity I can think of, does Nicole Kidman polarise public opinion? There are celebrities you like and those you don’t and many many where your care factor is so low that it falls off the earth and drifts off into space. But very few people are on the fence about Nicole Kidman.
I once wrote a column about this Nicole syndrome myself when it was peaking after the release of Australia. The response on this website and in the community was massive. She is polarising. I have my own theories about why (which I aired in
my column) and I was fascinated to read Bryce Corbett’s thoughtful profile of Nicole in the current Women’s Weekly.
It changed my opinion of her somewhat, I encourage you to read it.
But when Bryce and I were talking yesterday about Nicole and he read the comments on Mamamia, he agreed to write this piece exclusively for us about what it is about Nicole Kidman that makes people go, well, a little bit nuts.
I’m sorry, but exactly what crime against humanity has Nicole Kidman committed? Has she been responsible for a genocide that I don’t know about? Does she lead a life that is so reprehensible, so offensive to common decency, so inexcusably bad that she deserves to be burned at the stake? Because that’s the impression created by the online outpouring of bile that has greeted the happy news that Nicole and hubby Keith Urban have welcomed a new baby into their family.
Going by the comments on this website and others in the hours after the announcement on Tuesday of a new addition to the Kidman-Urban clan, the worst that can apparently be said about Nicole is that she has lied about beauty treatments she may have had (quick! Someone call the International Criminal Court) and that she is “cold” (hardly a hangable offence).
And yet there seems to be something about Nicole Kidman that inspires vitriol in people – especially women. Why has this gangly bloodnut from Sydney’s northern suburbs, an internationally-feted home-grown movie star, become fair game in the new spectator sport of online lynching?
I met Nicole just before Christmas and interviewed her for a profile that is the cover story in this month’s Australian Women’s Weekly.
It was a relatively brief encounter, as audiences with Hollywood royalty tend to be, but it was enough for me to come away liking the woman.
In person, Nicole is warm and engaging. Moreover,
she’s funny. Twenty years in Hollywood, I’m pleased to report, have done nothing to blunt her rapier Aussie wit, her tendency to self-deprecation or her keen sense of the absurd.
The Weekly interview was the only Australian magazine chat that Nicole consented to while she was briefly in Sydney to take part in the great ‘Oprah Does Australia’ spectacular. And while it would be ridiculous to claim some kind of insider knowledge based on a 45-minute encounter, it was nevertheless enough time for a few perceptions about Nicole to be altered, appreciations to be gained and opinions to be formed.
And the thing that struck me as I walked away from the interview was how strange it is that one of our country’s most successful artistic exports inspires such extreme reactions in people.
My question to you, keen readers of Mamamia and enthusiastic members of the online commentariat, is what exactly has Nicole Kidman done to deserve the abuse she so often attracts?
For it seems to me that Nicole Kidman is engaged in what must be a most dissatisfying unrequited love affair with her homeland. She flies to Australia to pimp her country on Oprah. She makes a film with Baz Luhrmann which (whatever you may have thought of the final product) was a massive shot in the arm for the local film industry and a two-hour love-song to her country of birth. She fronts up to G’Day USA every year to flog the myriad wonders of Down Under. And following the Victorian bushfires, she donated half-a-million dollars of her own money to the Red Cross relief fund. What a cow.
She gives and gives to this country and we so often offer up nothing but contempt in return. God knows she could have turned her back on Australia a long time ago. They love her in the US where she commands millions of dollars for every film she appears in. Yet she remains a proud Aussie expat, willingly flying the flag whenever and wherever she can while back here at home half the population is busily white-anting her at every opportunity.
Please tell me it’s not because she attributes her youthful good looks to diet and exercise when we all know there’s a bit more going on. Maybe it’s because I’m a bloke, but really: who cares? Why does it matter? And why do people take personal offence? So what if she refuses to disclose the intricacies of her beauty regimen. Some people dye their hair, others wear wigs, some women never the leave the house without eyeliner, others still are closet cosmetic surgery addicts. Whatever gets you through the day, I say.
Perhaps some of the disdain has to do with her marriage to Tom Cruise. A man who (how to put this delicately?) appears to have a decidedly casual relationship with that which you and I might call reality.
Living reminders of that ill-fated union are in the shape of the couple’s children, Isabella, now 18 and Connor, 16. They live with their father, are rarely seen in Nicole’s presence and their perceived treatment at the hands of their mother is frequently invoked as the reason people don’t like or warm to Nicole.
“She’s abandoned her children!” the armchair experts cry. But what do we really know
about the relationship Nicole has with Isabella and Connor? Or the post-divorce agreement she has with Tom, for that matter? What do we know about the access Nicole has to her own children, the forces that are at play and the pain it may be causing her?
During our interview, I asked Nicole about her eldest children and she spoke frankly about them, her love for them and why she resolutely refuses to discuss their lives in public.
And this seems to be part of the problem. Because she refuses to divulge the particulars of her private life, and because the celebrity-infused culture in which we live has conditioned us to believe every famous person is contractually-obliged to share every detail about their life whenever we demand it, we get annoyed. And into the vacuum left by Nicole’s silence we pour our own fanciful theories.
Call me naïve, but on the subject of Isabella and Connor, I feel nothing but sympathy for Nicole. As I write in The Weekly article: “Two little people she reared, two little sets of hands she held and two warm little bodies she hugged to her and comforted when they stirred in the middle of the night are no longer a part of her daily life. And not even Hollywood superstar status can render a mother immune to the acute pain of that.”
And as for the criticisms so many people have felt entitled to heap upon Nicole because she and Keith chose to produce their latest child via a surrogate, I find it infuriating.
It is the height of arrogance to assume we know what particular medical conditions might have precipitated that decision. As many in the Mamamia community were quick to point out amid the maelstrom of online abuse that was flying in Nicole’s direction this week, dealing with issues of infertility is an intensely personal – and often painful – experience. Ultimately, it’s nobody’s business but Nicole and Keith’s.
Together with my wife and two kids, I’ve just spent the past ten years living and working in Paris.
I used to tell anyone who would listen how the difference between Australian and French women was the complete lack of a sisterhood in France. After a decade living among them, I was struck by how few French women supported one another. But I have to say, I’m starting to wonder if Australia isn’t just as bad.
Here’s a thought: let’s be just a little bit kinder to one another. I know it sounds crazy, but let’s try not to pass judgment on another when we don’t know the full story of their life. Let’s try to operate from a default position of compassion rather than cynicism and aggression. Let’s give people the benefit of the doubt rather than think the worst of them from the outset. And here’s a wild thought: let’s celebrate the success of others. Let’s buy into the concept, however zany it may sound, that the success of one of our tribe elevates us all. Or if not celebrate them, let’s at least acknowledge their achievements. Let’s, moreover, just leave people to lead the lives they choose to lead.
As Nicole herself said during our chat: “I think I’m at a point where I’ve just had so many things said about me that I just ignore it. I’m 43 now. I live my life knowing who I am and knowing that it will play out over however long it is that I have left to live. I would hope that at the end of it all my authenticity will shine through and my life will shine through. All I can do in the meantime is live my life the best that I can and take care of the people in my life the best that I can.”
And not even the most hardened hater can find fault with that.