Magazine article The New Yorker

Hot Tots

Magazine article The New Yorker

Hot Tots

Article excerpt

HOT TOTS

Last month, Ashton Kutcher took to Twitter to blast news outlets for publishing a paparazzi photo of his infant daughter: "Why is it so hard for publications to respect that I would like the identity of my child kept private for safety reasons?" he asked his seventeen million followers. He joined a growing chorus of similar pleas, spearheaded by the actress Kristen Bell, who last year launched the hashtag #NoKidsPolicy, requesting that publications respect the privacy of children who happen to have famous parents. Even Perez Hilton, the blogger who earned fame in the aughts for outing closeted celebrities and for doodling semen and cocaine on paparazzi shots, announced a year ago that he would be adopting a no-kids policy on his Web site, and would henceforth favor images of celebrity offspring that had been taken on the red carpet or had been shared on their parents' social-media pages. "I am humbled and honored to be the father to a one year old son," Hilton, whose real name is Mario Lavandeira, Jr., wrote on his site at the time. "The #NoKidsPolicy intersects my personal and professional worlds in a very complex way."

How, then, to respond to a publicist's invitation to join Hilton and his son, Mario Lavandeira III, who turned two in February, on an outing one recent afternoon? Perez and Mario were scheduled to visit "The Wonder of Learning," an exhibit about the Reggio Emilia progressive educational method, at a preschool in Williamsburg. Where might the ethical boundaries lie in reporting on a toddler who happens to be the child of a celebrity celebrity-watcher?

When Mario, perched on his father's shoulders, extended his hand for a high five, should that have been interpreted as his giving consent to being the subject of an article? Then again, is a two-year-old capable of giving consent, especially a two-year-old who is receptively bilingual--Hilton speaks to Mario in Spanish and English--but remains largely preverbal?

Fortunately, Mario eased the reportorial dilemma: after hugging his father's leg a few times, he absented himself from the conversation, choosing to sit under a draped canopy in a corner of the room. Hilton, beaming at his son, discussed the pleasures of fatherhood, which he had achieved with the help of an egg donor and a surrogate. "You don't know what your child is going to be like until you meet him," Hilton said. …

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