Monthly Archives: April 2012

GINK celeb alert: Zooey Deschanel comes out as childfree

Zooey Deschanel: blue eyes, green inclinations, no kids. (Photo by Edgar Barrera.)

Indie “it” girl Zooey Deschanel tells Marie Claire that she’s not so into the whole kids thing.

That’s never been my focus. My sister [Emily] was always very motherly, babysitting and stuff. I like kids, and I like being around kids — but it was never an ambition, something, like, I need … I like working. That’s what I like doing. I like to work.

Add a dollop of greenness and we’ve got a GINK (green inclinations, no kids). From a Mother Nature Network post last year:

“I drive a hybrid, a Prius. I try not to be wasteful. I’m not a major environmentalist, I’m not Ed Begley, Jr., but I think there are little things you can do,” says Zooey Deschanel. “I think the things that we all do every day add up, like recycling, reusing.” On the set of “New Girl,” her new Fox sitcom, “they got everybody reusable water bottles, so everybody has their own bottle. Those things can make a big difference.”

As Grist reported in 2009, “Zooey appeared in the environmental-disaster-themed but critically panned flick The Happening and helped kick off a national T-shirt recycling program last year.” Like the woman said, she’s no Ed Begley, Jr. But she does also like critters. She’s been involved with the nonprofit Mercy for Animals, a few months ago signing onto the group’s letter that called for McDonald’s to stop abusing its chickens.

Alright, so she’s not getting herself arrested to protest a pipeline or testifying before Congress about global warming. Still, Zooey’s greenish and childfree and adorkable. We’ll take her.

Zooey, welcome to the club! Cameron Diaz, Vincent Kartheiser, and the indomitable Betty White are members too, to name just a few.

Is it immoral to have a kid?

To have kids or not to have kids? That is the question -- and Kolbert's article won't help you answer it.

“Is procreation immoral?” asks Elizabeth Kolbert in her latest New Yorker piece, a review of three books. She doesn’t arrive at an answer, and she doesn’t make me want to read any of the books. But her review offers a few interesting tidbits, which I’ll round up here so you don’t have to trudge through the whole 3,000-word essay.

In discussing the book Why Have Children?: The Ethical Debate by philosophy professor Christine Overall, Kolbert hits on one of the best arguments for going childfree:

[L]ots of people offer the notion that parenthood will make them happy. Here the evidence is, sadly, against them. Research shows that people who have children are no more satisfied with their lives than people who don’t. If anything, the balance tips the other way: parents are less happy. In an instantly famous study, published in Science in 2004, the Nobel Prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman asked nine hundred working women to assess their experiences during the preceding day. The women rated the time they’d spent taking care of their kids as less enjoyable than the time spent shopping, eating, exercising, watching TV, preparing food, and talking on the phone. One of the few activities these women found less enjoyable than caring for their children was doing housework, which is to say cleaning up after them.

The environment crops up in the section of the review on Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming Into Existence by another philosophy prof, David Benatar:

“Humans have the unfortunate distinction of being the most destructive and harmful species on earth,” he writes. “The amount of suffering in the world could be radically reduced if there were no more” of us.

But he’s such a gloomster on the larger question of whether life is worth living that you can’t take him seriously:

“One of the implications of my argument is that a life filled with good and containing only the most minute quantity of bad—a life of utter bliss adulterated only by the pain of a single pin-prick—is worse than no life at all,” Benatar writes.

Oh puh-leeeze. No wonder I didn’t study philosophy.

On the opposite, uber-Pollyannaish end of the spectrum, we have Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids: Why Being a Great Parent Is Less Work and More Fun Than You Think by economics professor Bryan Caplan. (I actually have a copy of this book; it’s going to be my primary text when I write the definitive rebuttal to the claim that it’s selfish to be childfree by choice.) Writes Kolbert:

Benatar’s child-rearing advice, if followed, would result in human extinction. Caplan’s leads in the opposite direction: toward a never-ending population boom. He declares this to be one of his scheme’s advantages: “More people mean more ideas, the fuel of progress.” In a work that’s full of upbeat pronouncements, this is probably his most optimistic, or, if you prefer, outrageous claim.

No wonder I didn’t study economics.

Two philosophers and an economist walk into a bar … and have an irritating, constrained discussion on what should have been a fascinating, engaging topic. Sigh.

‘Carnage’ makes childfree living look ever so appealing

Carnage posterI’m not sure why I wanted to see Carnage. Sometimes I seek out films specifically because I want to analyze the pro-natalist or pro-childfree biases (see: Friends with Kids, Eat Pray Love, Sex and the City 2, and Babies). But in the case of Carnage, that angle hadn’t even occurred to me.

I suppose I put it on my list because it was talky, well-reviewed, and had an all-star cast. My partner Matt was having none of it: Four yuppie parents arguing about a playground fight, for 80 minutes? Count him out.

It’s a good movie — not because it’s enjoyable to watch, but precisely because it’s not enjoyable to watch. It makes you feel just as uncomfortable as if you were in the room with the quarrelsome foursome, and that’s exactly what the director intended.

To spare you 80 minutes of feeling awkward, I’ll share with you the most childfree-affirming (or parent-unaffirming) segment. As the two unhappy couples bicker, they gradually shed social niceties and start saying what they really think. Michael, played by John C. Reilly, works up quite a nice rant about parenting:

Michael: If you ask me, the couple is the worst ordeal God has ever inflicted on us — the couple and the family. …

Take a step back and look at the situation we’re in. Children suck the life out of you and leave you old and empty. That’s the law of nature. You see these young couples laughing all the way to the altar. You think, they don’t know. Poor fuckers have no idea. They’re happy. Nobody tells you about this stuff in the beginning.

I got this army buddy of mine, he’s going to have a kid with his new girlfriend. I said to him: A kid, at our age, what, are you stupid? You’ve got maybe 10, 15 good years left before you get cancer or have a stroke, and you’re going to saddle yourself with a fucking kid?

Nancy: That’s not really what you think.

Michael: Of course it is. I think even worse.

The couples in the movie are unhappy for lots of reasons, not just because they have children. Plenty of people love being parents, of course. But if you’re an ill-matched pair or unhappy to start with, throwing kids into the mix is likely to sour things even further.

So should you watch the film? If you want to appreciate fine acting, yes. But probably not for any other reason — and certainly not if you’re just looking to feel good about being childfree. There are plenty of other, more entertaining movies that could give you that. On the dark side, there’s We Need to Talk About Kevin. Maybe that will be the next subject of a GINK film review — if I can work up the fortitude to watch it. But The Hunger Games (kids kill themselves off, reality-TV style!) would surely be a lot more fun.