The celebrity fake baby conspiracy that took over Fandom
According to some internet circles, no celebrity is in control of their own life. They may be rich and famous and have every door open to them, but they are all miserable puppets of almighty PR manipulation. Their relationships are fake. Their emotions are all for show. Even their children do not exist.
Whenever a big celebrity or their partner announces the arrival of a baby, some people seem to lose their minds. When Beyoncé was pregnant with Blue Ivy, conspirators went on a rampage trying to “prove” she was, in fact, carrying a fake bump. The same thing happened to Kim Kardashian and Meghan Markle. Many Louis Tomlinson and Harry Styles tinhat shippers are convinced that the former’s son is not his, that he is a baby plant(?) hired by his label, or that he is acts as a ploy to hide his “real” romance. Benedict Cumberbatch and his wife Sophie Hunter have faced horrific abuse focusing on the idea that she tricked her husband with fake pregnancies and children who may or may not actually be dolls. Atlantic even interviewed a so-called fan who had spent years pushing this lie. Chrissy Teigen, pregnant again following the devastating loss of her son, is a new target. Now even Amber Heard is facing the wrath of this curiously familiar conspiracy, with Johnny Depp fans now trying to push the narrative that his own granddaughter has been hired for publicity. ‘Proof’ for this claim comes from an image of a woman who looks like Heard pushing an empty pram, as apparently there is no other reason for someone to be seen in public with the one of them, unless it was to accidentally prove that their fake baby had to return to the rental location?
☆CABAL BUSTER☆ with Mr. T 💥
It’s moonlight season pic.twitter.com/lMPTSRP6mv
— ⚜Malak of 5th Avenue⚜🕊📯 (@Malakof5thAve) August 5, 2022
We live in a deeply conspiratorial time. The spread of misinformation has never been faster, has never been easier to monetize, has never been more inescapably embedded in our daily lives. It covers every aspect of our being, from politics to academia to, of course, celebrity. Since my area of interest is mostly the latter, I have been aware of some really mundane conspiracy theories involving the most famous people on the planet. They are always ridiculous, often terrifying and rarely easy to explain. They are also, inadvertently, hugely indicative of how we dehumanize others in a relentless search for answers that don’t exist.
It’s fascinating yet profoundly indicative of how often the fake baby conspiracy pops up in fandoms at every level. It’s weird enough that it happened once, but to feel like an unavoidably unavoidable part of a fandom focused on real people is both tedious and terrifying. As with all fandom conspiracies (and, really, those in political spheres too), the basic principles are almost identical from case to case. The excuses are all the same, as are the ways the “evidence” is collected. Nothing can ever be disproved because the goal posts are always on the move. These people could watch a live birth take place in their own home and they would find a way to pretend it was all a false flag operation.
Don’t forget the video at the dogs home in London… you literally see the moon bump audibly reappear after squatting in heels legs together and standing unaided at 8 months… PHYSICAL IMPOSSIBILITY… watch Do you see it ! How that moment was not the end of the masquerade 🤔😳
— SHELLEY (@shelleymalcolm1) August 8, 2022
What is most striking about the false baby conspiracy is how much it is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of pregnancy. All those decades of schools offering questionable sex education are finally paying off, I guess. Beyoncé was always ashamed that she wasn’t actually pregnant because people thought her bump was moving around unnaturally. Sophie Hunter has faced similar claims with various images used to ‘prove’ the erratically changing size of her body. Meghan Markle’s ability to squat during pregnancy was seen as a red flag. All these women do is live through their pregnancies and do exactly what billions before them did. Bodies change and they are extremely prone to weird moves when there is a literal human being growing inside of you kicking your organs like they are in an MMA tournament. They may seem much smaller one day and then huge the next. Perhaps decades of many who view pregnancy primarily through fiction, where skinny actresses wear immobile prosthetic bumps that always have the same shape, have distorted their understanding of how this extremely common phenomenon works. It’s a bit worrying, to be honest. Are we so in denial of our own body? Or are we so resentful of the act of being pregnant and not retreating to a dark room like a damsel in a gothic novel?
Apparently, Frasier has magical powers to “spot a fake baby bump.” pic.twitter.com/BLhnzvLGY2
— Kayleigh Donaldson (@Ceilidhann) August 9, 2022
The doll aspect is particularly macabre. We are long past the era of celebrity where famous people were encouraged to take their kids out at red carpet galas and for the paparazzi. Indeed, the invasiveness of these towards the offspring of celebrities has been considerably limited by various legislative changes, which is why you are more likely to see their blurred faces in articles than not. Even Hollywood’s biggest names keep their families out of the spotlight. Wouldn’t you do the same if you knew how many weirdos want to invent hurtful theories about their existence?
It’s here ? Can fuck right now.https://t.co/Vu7XJ8P3J6
— Kayleigh Donaldson (@Ceilidhann) August 8, 2022
Of course, the longer they’re kept out of the spotlight, the more the fires are fueled (it’s not a direct trajectory, more of a reminder that there’s no way to win against someone who plays according to the rules they make up and change every single day.) When we see their faces, these people scan them for genetic markers or ways to “prove” they’re not even alive. It’s more believable to these outsiders that a hugely famous person fakes a pregnancy, keeps it out of the press for months, pretends to give birth, and then lugs around a toy in full view of photographers than, you know, just be pregnant.
Not all parents get pregnant, and not all parents become pregnant on the same trajectory. Amber Heard’s daughter is constantly used as a conspiratorial punching bag by Depp followers who can’t decide if she’s a doll, a plant for hire, or the result of surrogacy through Elon Musk. This is all another way of pretending that Heard is a liar, a sociopath on the level of a serial killer. She is compulsive, she invents everything, including her own offspring. Nothing Heard does will sit well with those who have spent years trying to ruin his life. And she’s not the only one who’s had to struggle with it.
The majority of conspirators in this field, at least in my experience, are women, usually middle aged and not teenagers who are considered the majority behind such reasoning. The bizarre fandom conspiracy pipeline at QAnon Central is short and truly deserves closer examination. It would be easy to write it all off as jealousy, but I’m not sure that covers everything. Sure, I bet a lot of these women are mad that Cumberbatch or Prince Harry or Louis Tomlinson didn’t get them pregnant, but it’s not like their friends in these fandom hives would change their minds or approve of a woman. in this position. No woman can win.
By imposing this kind of unbearable fury on any woman, they only reinforce a broader societal shift that has led to a conservative-led battle to do anything but criminalize the act of being pregnant. The way we talk about pregnancy and parenthood with celebrities only echoes our larger issues and attitudes. This encompasses many areas of contempt: the judgment of Rihanna’s wardrobe while heavily pregnant, the pressure many women feel to “return” to their pre-baby bodies; the way Meghan was scrutinized for “holding her bump too performatively”, and so on.
Pregnancy as a whole is viewed with such suspicion, and celebrities who experience it for the world to see must live with staggering pressure to meet impossible expectations, which many regular parents believe they must imitate. Their bodies are considered public property and that includes their children. For these conspirators, there is no way to make pregnancy right, which is not so different from the attitude of the media towards celebrities. The fake baby cycle is just the highest version of this rage. In a world where every movement of women is judged, where being pregnant (or choosing not to be) has become so irrevocably toxic, why not throw a moonshot or two in there to really hammer your hatred?
Much of the anti-choice discourse is based on the idea that no woman is capable of making decisions about her own body. We are all too fragile and stupid, so the state must step in to make sure we don’t mess things up. To be in possession of a uterus is to become a public good, a little more than a pet to be passed around like a broodmare. It’s no wonder celebrities have become a socially acceptable way for so many of us to debate these stifling regulations. A fake pregnancy plot may seem silly on the outside (and it’s totally bullshit) but in a world where we face relentless surveillance and legal demands on our bodies, such plots can only seem inevitable.
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Header image source: Frazer Harrison via Getty Images