By now, you’ve likely seen or are aware of a viral video of a baby—10 months old—whose mother sings Rod Stewart’s “My Heart Can’t Tell You No” so heartfeltly that the child’s eyes quickly well up and tears drop down her dewy cheeks. The girl bites her lip. She quivers in agony. Or is it sweet emotion? (Oh, sorry, that’s Aerosmith.) Or is it fear that makes her so glossy-eyed?
Or, could someone possibly be peeling an onion out of frame?
Before she begins an a capella rendition that could also serve as an audition tape for American Idol, the mother asks her sweet, bald-headed girl, “You want mommy to sing you a song, honey?” As if the kid has a choice. As if any mother ever asked their baby for permission before launching into a big number (I for one have never asked for a green light before serenading my child with This Land Is Your Land or Twinkle, Twinkle…permission is an implicit perk of this whole parenting gambit, innit?)
In this case, the baby is strapped into a high-chair, captive to her mother’s showboating.
And wow. Kudos on the tremolo, lady, but the self-involvement you demonstrate is deeply troubling. I’d wager that the mother’s egotism—and somberness—isolates the baby. That may be why she cries so.
It is heartbreaking to see the child cry—no matter what it is that causes her to do so. Some people who’ve posted this video have remarked on the beauty and power of the child’s reaction to her mother’s voice. Parent-child bond blah blah blah. But what might have been an intimate familial experience is totally degraded by the twin acts of filming and posting the video. There is no intimacy here, and its lack renders the whole episode false and manipulative.
People, we’ve been emoticonned.
When the mother finally stops singing toward the end, she asks her baby, “Are you crying?” It’s a pose of incredulity. I’m not buying it. “Oh, you’re crying, monkey,” she continues. But she knew all along that tears would come—that’s why this woman filmed it in the first place. How she came to that knowledge, I don’t even want to venture.
Sara Ivry is the host of Vox Tablet, Tablet Magazine’s weekly podcast. Follow her on Twitter@saraivry.