Pretty Baby – the new Brooke Shields docu-series – is evidently full of not-so-pretty revelations. I haven’t seen it yet however it seems super-apt for her imminent Saturn Return – always a time to take stock – and recent Pluto-Mercury ‘voice reclaiming’ transit.
Yet this project, like the childhood it mostly references, is more of a Neptunian mirror labyrinth, complete with glitter-infused disco mist – Studio 54, no less.
The doco title is from Brooke’s 1978 movie debut playing Violet, a 12 year old prostitute in a New Orleans brothel circa 1917. Like many Gen X people who were also children or teenagers at the time, I was weirded out by it.
In fact, my response to this film prompted my first “oh no you wouldn’t understand, it’s artistic,” response. Cue long pervy pretentious rave about Louis Malle, “sensual innocence” and the joys of early 20th Century lingerie.
Pretty Baby had a long half-life and came with a cluster-fuq of similar phenoms: the excrebal Bilitis, vaseline-lensed David Hamilton ‘art’ featuring adolescent girls improbably drifting around in rowboats and dim baroque bedroomsa and the similarly soft-focus, underage Anais-Anais and Jontue aesthetic – “sensual but not too far from innocence.”
Think also Taxi Driver, seventeen year-old Mariel Hemmingway’s character dating 40-something Woody Allen in Manhattan, Roman Polanski fuqing off to Paris to avoid charges of sexual assault on a 13 year-old girl, perv anthems like My Sharona and Don’t Stand So Close To Me being the top hits…these are just off the top of my head.
What WAS the late Seventies astro? It was Neptune in Saggo – yay, disco! -Uranus in Scorpio and Pluto in Libra. The only major, ongoing outer planetary alignment was Eris in Aries opposite Pluto in Libra. I actually cited this as a feminist surge in an Eris post – it was – but were Pretty Baby and Co the counter-insurgency?
So Brooke Shields, a multiple-conjunct Gemini with Virgo rising, was the epicenter of a gigantic, unprecedented pop culture pivot that fetishized pubescent girls. When television hosts are fawning over the sex appeal of a 12 year old, you can imagine the sort of people who are empowered and inspired.
To the typical teenage girl of the time, however, Shields was often infuriating. More accurately, her image was. Six-foot tall, sensationally beautiful with skyscraper legs and huge hair, she was omni-present as a “super-teen,” aspirational beauty icon and/or “dangerously seductive nymphet.”
Her birth astro is super-Mutable – the Sun, Jupiter, North Node, Moon, Midheaven and Venus are in Gemini squaring Uranus, Pluto, Mars and the Ascendant in Virgo. Saturn is square the Gemini stellium and opposite the Virgo one. It’s as if she has the classic Gen X signature (Saturn opposite Uranus and/or the Uranus-Pluto in Virgo) but amped.
Neptune in Sagittarius was in gnarly aspect to literally all of those points above from 1974 until 1982. Although she’d started work as a child model aged 11 months, things went haywire in the mid-70s.
In 1975, a nude pictorial of her was published in a Playboy magazine special called Sugar ‘N Spice, inspiring Louis Malle to cast her in Pretty Baby. Film analyst Julia Kearns has a fantastic, nuanced take on the screenplay, original story and process here.
After Pretty Baby, Brooke went on to star in Blue Lagoon and Endless Love – both of which featured flimsy plots that nonetheless required a tonne of nudity and “just grown-up enough” narrative. They did at least cast her alongside age-appropriate love interests – in the repulsive 1979 “Western” Wanda Nevada, her character is “a fiery 13 year-old” in a romance with Peter Fonda’s 39 year old drifter.
Then in 1980, the 15 year-old essentially made Calvin Klein with her jeans ads implying she wasn’t wearing underwear. If you’re wondering how the hell any of this was permitted, her mother – Teri Shields, the prototypal momager – signed off on all of it. Was she unconcerned because she was smashed a lot of the time, making too much money from her daughter or genuinely oblivious?
I think we can rule out the third option. “They see total innocence, which is totally there,” she says in one of many painful to watch television interviews, describing the ‘secret’ of Brooke’s success, her daughter nestled next to her. “And…they have the sexy child too, they have the sexy person as well — that appeals to them.”
Amidst all the disturbing but sadly unsurprising revelations that have come out of this doco, the most heart-rending is Brooke’s abiding adoration for her mother.
Even the most positive read on her still ends up with the fact that the only thing off-limits for her daughters employers were her iconic lush eyebrows – nobody, not even the supreme make-up artist of the era – the very Leo Way Bandy – was allowed to alter them.
Teri Shields was an active alcoholic who managed her daughters career – controlling the considerable cash flow – from when she was a baby until her Saturn Return. That’s right. Brooke’s first Saturn Return – in 1995 – was the tremendously difficult extrication of her mother from her business life and the second Saturn Return coincides with this docu-series.
They were notoriously enmeshed and incredibly close. “I loved her, laughed with her and respected her,” she said after Teri Shields passed in 2012.
Yet this is also the person who was frequently abusive, accepted $450 for ten year old Brooke to appear in the ‘erotic’ picture spread that she still cannot win the rights back for and even, ludicrously, fat-shamed her.
Poignantly Shields has often talked of trying to win her approval or be ‘good’ enough that her mother would stop drinking. Her Gemini Moon is conjunct the Midheaven and Venus, suggesting not only the obvious outsize role her mother played in her career but the primal intensity and importance of the relationship, however tormented.
Since April 2021, Neptune has been hovering on Brooke’s descendant, an enchanted mirror reflecting herself and all the projections. It crossed her Saturn shortly after her mother passed, perhaps helping to dissolve rigid barriers and has been squaring her Gemini Moon, Midheaven and Venus up until practically the release of this documentary.
Neptune is cinema and also reflected in the Jungian therapy Shields has apparently been doing, yet you can also sense it in the reconjuring of her child self – it’s weird enough to gaze at one’s younger self from a distance but when your child self was sexualized and hailed as a sex symbol, seemingly with the sanction of everyone, it would be beyond surreal.
Notice how the Pretty Baby docu-series photo riffs off the striking photos taken in 1981 – below – only Brooke is now in her mother’s place, juxtaposed against her teenage self. This whole topic stirs up so much – thoughts?