26. Pretty Baby Brooke Shields: Boundaries in Pop Culture

Boundaries and Brooke Shields

Welcome to a new series we will be introducing: Boundaries in Pop Culture! In today’s episode Mary talks with her sister Chime all about the documentary “Pretty Baby Brooke Shields”.

They discuss the boundary issues that Brooke had from a young age and how that affected her and her relationships through young adulthood. Mary and Chime talk about how Brooke was able to find her voice later in life and set boundaries that set her up for success in relationships with herself, her spouse and her children.

Main Episode Takeaways

  • Signs of people pleasing
  • How we can find our voice and set boundaries
  • Boundaries is a learned skill
  • How Brooke Shields learned to stand up for herself

Want to learn more about boundaries?

– Boundaries quiz HERE
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26. Pretty Baby Brooke Shields: Boundaries in Pop Culture

Mary: Let’s talk boundaries. Welcome to the podcast. Today we are going to discuss a new series and it is Boundaries in Pop Culture. I recently saw a documentary with Brooke Shields called Pretty Baby and I thought it was so fascinating. I called my sister and started talking to her about it, and so I would love to introduce to you my sister Chime, and we are going to discuss together Pretty Baby the Brooke Shields documentary and the boundary issues that we experienced watching that. Hey Chime.

Chime: Hey girl. 

Mary: How you doing? 

Chime: I’m good. I’m good. I’m ready to talk about Brooke Shields and all of the terrible things that happened because she didn’t have boundaries when she was little.

Mary: That’s right. That’s right. Do you wanna tell our listeners a little bit about you before we get started? 

Chime: Sure. I am your sister 

Mary: Like my real sister in real life? 

Chime: Yeah. Like your real life sister. I’m your little sister. 

Mary: Not the littlest. Little, but not the littlest. 

Chime: That’s right. Mm-hmm. I’m littler than you, but not the littlest, that’s for sure. That’s right. Mm-hmm. Yeah. I live in Florida and I talk about boundaries with you all the time.

Mary: I love it. I love it. You’re one of my favorite people to talk about boundaries with, actually.

Chime: I think I am just one of your favorite people? 

Mary: Hmm. I’ll take it. I think that can be true.

Chime: All right. Well, let’s get into it. 

Mary: Yeah. Let’s get into it. Tell me, when you watched this show with Brooke Shields on Hulu, what did you notice? What did you see? 

Chime: I mean, I think I thought what everyone thought, which was what the French toast? I mean my 

Mary: What the French toast?

Chime: Like all of these crazy, terrible things happened when she was little to her.

Mary: Yeah, it, I actually thought that too. What the French toast? All these terrible things. 

Chime: But I also thought, she is one badass girl. Like she just totally took it with so much more grace that I think I would’ve and like has this beautiful life now. It’s just amazing to me. 

Mary: Yeah, it really is a story of triumph and hope and yeah. I love that for her and for us to be able to learn from it. 

Chime: Yes. I know. I feel like so honored that she did this documentary or docu-series, whatever it is, because it is a beautiful story. Like I, I don’t know. I feel honored I got to even listen to it because it’s a really cool story. 

Mary: Yeah, for sure. It’s very brave and courageous of her to share. Brook Shields, good job. I appreciate you sharing. All right. Let’s talk a little bit about her journey. So when I watched this, I just saw the journey of a people pleaser to one of understanding agency and learning boundaries and kind of ending with empowerment and hope. How about you? 

Chime: Yeah, I thought the same thing. I mean I think she just learned super young how to people please. Need to people please and it was just survival for her.

Mary: Absolutely. Absolutely. So some signs of people pleasing that I saw in her, right when she talked about really her desire to make other people happy. Which seems like a really noble and kind thing to do at the time. Right. And based on her age and kind of level of understanding, she had this relationship, especially with her mom that was really kind of codependent or like an insecure attachment To each other. Mm-hmm. 

Chime: Yeah. One thing I remember, and I don’t know if I’m quoting it exactly right from the movie, but one line that I remember her saying in terms of the relationship with her mother was that she felt like her survival depended on her mother. And I think she equated her people pleasing her mom meant her mom was okay, which meant she was okay. You know, like this very weird dynamic of if I rock this boat also because her mom was an alcoholic and wasn’t really stable in and of herself, then I don’t survive. And that’s a really hard and sad place to be.

Mary: Yeah, 

Chime: And she’s smart, so she learned how to people please really well and really fast. 

Mary: Yes. Yeah. So much compassion for her as a child, right? When she got into this relationship, especially the one with her mother, where she felt like there was this codependency, there was this insecure attachment. There was like my safety, my survival, my happiness, our livelihood. All depends on me taking care of this other person’s emotional needs. And she had this real fear of abandonment around losing her mother or the approval of her mother which happens a lot. I see that all the time with women around me. 

Chime: For sure. I mean, I think as children we, it’s a natural fear to have this, you want to please your parents, they are the best people in your lives, all of that. I think in her situation, it was just so much compounded because she was also her mother’s caretaker due to the alcoholism, and literally their survival in the world was dependent upon Brooke getting gigs right? Like she paid the rent, she, you know, paid all the bills. I mean, they, she had mentioned at one point, like if she got a job, a modeling job or commercial job or something, it meant they got a car or they got to live in a different place, you know? 

Mary: Yes, absolutely. Yeah. So she was really good at people pleasing, and she was really good at being responsible for the emotional needs of her mother and, 

Chime: do you remember when she was doing those, where they would show those child interviews and I remember thinking like, oh my gosh, like this is exactly what you would, as all of these powers that be, would hope a child would say to these very weird, strange questions, you know, like, how in the world did she learn that? 

Mary: Well, I wonder if she was coached or if she just had the insight and her level of people pleasing was so high that she could already understand what the other person wanted to hear before she answered.

Chime: Yeah, I think it was the letter. I think she really was just exceptional. Like she was smart enough and emotionally intelligent enough to get the gig. Like the gig is you do this, you say this, you be this persona. 

Mary: Yeah. Yeah. All right. So what was the problem with this? Let’s talk about in some ways, people pleasing served her really well, and until it didn’t. So what was the problem? 

Chime: Well, I think the biggest problem was like, who was that? Like who was that little girl sitting and doing interviews? Was that Brooke? Was that even her like, I don’t feel like that was even who she was. I don’t even know if she knew who she was. 

Mary: Yeah. So she talked a lot about feeling detachment. Where she didn’t really know who she was or what she wanted, or how she felt, or what she needed, that she even went into a place of dissociation. Yeah. Which is the problem with people pleasing is you’re so concerned about the needs and wants and feelings of others, that you lose connection to your own being, to your own self, to your own desires. 

Chime: Mm-hmm. Yeah, and it was super exploited. I mean, exceptionally exploited. 

Mary: Yeah. It’s almost an extreme example of what can happen. 

Chime: For sure, for sure. 

Mary: When there are not boundaries

Chime: yeah, for sure. I think all of the aspects of this story and this documentary is just an extreme example of what I think happens to a lot of people. It was just, like to hear about what happened. I mean, as a young child, like she was photographed nude at age nine, again at 11, 15. Like, that’s insane.

Mary: Yeah. So what happened was she became detached, right? She came detached from her own body. She came detached from the process of that and in a way that was kind of her way to cope with what was going on in the world around her. But really the question around boundaries is, What are we willing to participate in and what are we not willing to participate in? And I think that when I watched this documentary, that’s what I was thinking about was, okay, so from the perspective of, they talk about Brooke’s mom, right? Brooke’s mom got a lot of shame and judgment around allowing her child to participate in these types of films when she was such a young age and kind of sexualized media. And what’s okay for a parent to allow their child to participate in and not participate in. And the end of the documentary, Brooke talks about, you know, her daughter asks her, is that something you would allow us to do? And she was like, no, definitely not right? And that’s changed over time. I think the, like the cultural norms around what’s okay for our children to participate in at this stage, right? They talked about, well, that would be considered child pornography, which is not culturally acceptable. But things change over time. And maybe back then it was controversial but not really a like a consensus around what was not acceptable at the time. 

Chime: Yeah, for sure. I mean, they kept saying in the documentary how it was artful, you know, this was done in art and it was very tasteful and all of those things. And so I think that is how back in the seventies when they made this, it differentiated it from being something like a pornography. I think now we don’t consider that as such, right? It doesn’t matter how tasteful or not tasteful or artful it is, if it’s a child we as a society have now decided we have some boundaries around that. Like we know that children are not able to make that decision of what’s okay for their body and what’s not okay in those terms. So we say it’s not okay, which we should. That’s how it should be.

Mary: Yeah, absolutely. So a couple other thoughts I had around the boundaries happening. I think everyone at this time in space would agree that those things were not okay. Right? It was not okay for Brooke Shields or anyone to be photographed nude at the age of nine or 11. It was not okay for Brooke Shields or anyone at the age of 11 or 15 to be engaged in like sexual contact on a film. Right? But my thought about it was even at the time, what was okay or not okay for like the other actors? Right? So there was a 20 year old, 29 year old man who was kissing an 11 year old child on film in Pretty Baby. And she talked about how it must have been awkward for the actor. Well, of course it was awkward for the actor. Right? Well, 

Chime: Like she said, she kept scrunching up her face and they kept having to redo it. And the actor, I mean, it, it comes back to like, we know when it’s not okay. Like our bodies let us know. Yeah. And I think it did for him. Like, cause he said to her, you know, this doesn’t count. This is just pretend like, he understood, I think probably more than she did, which would make sense from a maturity standpoint that this was not okay. This is not what’s supposed to be happening. 

Mary: That’s right, that’s right. But it brings into question what’s okay and not okay for the directors, right? The producers, the filmmakers to participate in, in terms of creating a film that’s depicting a child being brought up in a brothel who’s having sexual experiences with adults. Like I get it that this was back in the seventies, but it still was a question in my mind, like, really? What are the boundaries of those individual people? And how were they able to justify participating in something like that? 

Chime: Yeah. And it might not have necessarily been something that they were okay with but they did it. So, I mean, I feel like that’s, it’s a really unfortunate place, or I just don’t know if it’s place to be, but thing that happened. Right? Because maybe it’s not okay for you and you still did it. I mean, it just makes you feel like crap afterwards.

Mary: Yeah, for sure, for sure. Another thing that was discussed in the documentary that to me felt like a boundary issue worth exploring was around the Calvin Klein ads. What did you think about that? 

Chime: I mean, it was just like the next thing that I felt like was kind of inappropriate, you know? Because she was still so young. Very sensual. I mean, that was the purpose of them was to be sensual. 

Mary: Right. And I am thinking specifically about the conversation between Diane Sawyer and Calvin Klein, where Diane Sawyer asked about like, these are, you’re using very young teenager to sell jeans in a sexually provocative way with lots of kind of innuendo. And Calvin Klein just said, well, Okay, so I’m a bad boy and it works. There’s a 300% increase on sale of Calvin Klein jeans. So that’s so interesting to me, like the decision making around that at the time. And I wonder what would that be like now, or in what ways does that… 

Chime: I don’t know if that’s much different now. I mean, feel like now it would be frowned upon, but I don’t know if we are in a place where it would be totally shunned to have a teenager in something that has sexual innuendos in terms of marketing and I also think we do still have TV shows and marketing where they may not necessarily be adolescents or underage at the time, but they certainly look like they are. Or the actors are playing a character that’s an adolescent and having very sexual scenes. So I wonder if that will continue like in 50 years, will that still be a thing? Will we still be okay with that?

Mary: Yeah. Yeah. Which brings into question like a bigger issue of there were some networks that chose not to play those ads. Right? For kind of their own reasons. And I wonder, the bigger question to me is like, my boundaries decide what am I willing to participate in and what am I not willing to participate in, right? So if I don’t want to support like the sexualization of young children, right? Then what am I willing to do or not willing to do? What does that mean? Does that mean I, you know turn the channel or turn the TV off? Does that mean that I speak out? Does that mean that I, what? You know, I mean, I think that that’s where like my personal boundaries around it come into question. What are your thoughts about that? 

Chime: Well, I think it’s a whole new world in terms of there’s so many avenues that these things happen, you know, especially on social media. Absolutely. There’s just so much. I think, I mean, people often feel like they don’t have power in these big social circumstances that happen, but we certainly do. I mean, we have money and we can put our money where our mouth is. You know, you can choose not to see that movie. You can choose not to watch that TV show. You can also choose not to follow someone on YouTube. You can choose not to follow someone on TikTok. You can choose to be vocal. I mean, I feel like in addition to you know, what you decide to do with your time and your money. There’s also so many avenues of how to speak your voice. I mean, through social media. And I think also just with your social group, you know, I mean the friends that you talk to, your colleagues, your coworkers. I think it’s good to say, I’m not gonna see this movie for this reason, because it doesn’t feel okay to me. 

Mary: Yeah. Absolutely. Absolutely. Well, that brings me back to the idea of empowerment. Brings me back to this kind of journey of Brooke Shields, through the documentary where she talked about the turning point for her, right? And she went to Princeton and she had some space kind of from acting and from her mom, and she really used that as a way to get to know herself and tell me a little bit more about what you saw in that phase of this story. 

Chime: I loved that phase. I feel like she still kind of looks back on it as like this weird time in her life and her career was weird, but I feel like, I can’t imagine who she would’ve become without it. Like, it was just so pinnacle for her in her life. So, I mean, she went away to college, so she had a little space from her mom. And she was safe, right? Like she had always thought that this unhealthy relationship with her mom sort of was a determinant of her wellbeing, her safety, her security. But here she is in college and even though maybe her social network was not feeling great for her, she was safe, right? Like she had the things she needed and it allowed her to kind of explore who she was, which was a big deal. Like she had some teachers who were really supportive of her. She was in these improv groups and, and that was big.

Mary: Yeah, absolutely. She talked about a professor who talked to her about creating her own hypothesis and that that was the first time she really understood that she got to have an opinion. She was able to find her voice there and kind of speak her mind and I love that for her.

Chime: You know, when she was talking about that, in almost the same breath, she did also talk about how she found her voice, right? She discovered that she has opinions, but also how that’s not great in Hollywood. Yeah they’re not that interested in a female who has opinions. 

Mary: Yes. And that there are just some industries that are more conducive to people blazing and some industries that are more conducive to you know, speaking out and being empowered. And it kind of reminded me of there was a quote by Drew Barrymore, who also had a child actress experience in her life. And she said, you are in a job that requires you to put all of your boundaries down and a public life that requires acceptance of no boundaries. And so speaking really to the industry standard of hollywood and child actors and really kind of, that was the expectation for them back then.

Chime: Probably the expectation now, right? Like I’m sure the industry still would like to have full control. Like I would like to control what you do. I would like to control what you look like, I would like to control what you say, I would like to control your social media platforms, you know?

Mary: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. So let’s talk a little bit about how she found her voice and how she was able to step into her own power. And I think that in some ways it seemed easy and in some ways it was not a smooth road for her. And I love that she shared openly about that. 

Chime: I feel like the biggest one that really struck home for me was when she had her first sexual experience with her boyfriend. Mm-hmm. So they talked, 

Mary: It was Dean Cain by the way, who’s Superman.

Chime: I know. I know. Which is horrible. But you know, she talked about she had done all of these movies, right? Where she’s like on scene naked having these sex scenes, but she had not actually had sex herself. So now she’s in a committed relationship, she feels safe, able to be vulnerable. She has sex for the first time and then she runs screaming out the room. You know? And her boyfriend comes to follow her and she’s, this was the quote from the documentary. She said, I feel bad for that girl. She was old enough to own her own body for real and just couldn’t get there at that moment. And I just find that heartbreaking because it’s true. Like she should be able to own her own body and the like notion that, I mean, she’s now in her twenties, the first time that she has ever even had this moment of feeling like she has ownership over her body, like over her body. That’s crazy to me. And it’s like evident, like that’s how she got through all of those years before is that she had just given up ownership of her body. She gave it up to her mom, she gave it up to these film directors, to these photographers. She just didn’t have it. 

Mary: Yeah. Yeah. And it really does speak to like the level of detachment that she had with herself and with her body and, and this idea that like somehow other people owned her. Somehow her being belonged to someone else. And then it also reminds me of what she shared about her first husband, right? Andre Agassi, who was a popular tennis player when I was a child. And, and how like she went from this insecure and codependent relationship with her mom to getting married and really kind of cleaving to her first husband in an unhealthy way which I see happen all the time with women that I coach. And, and it’s really like a borrowing power strategy. When she talked about like, well, Andre and his team decided like, we’re gonna go in and gut the building of all the stuff, because I didn’t know how to do it any other way. So she didn’t know how to have a healthy detachment from her mom, and so she kind of allowed her partner at the time to go in and just, you know, gut it.

And I see that happen all the time. Like when we want to start setting boundaries and we don’t have the skillset yet. It’s like we just borrow power or we just go on about it in a way that doesn’t feel good to anybody. Because boundaries really is a learned skill. 

Chime: Mm-hmm. Yeah. Yeah, for sure. 

Mary: Yeah. So let’s talk a little bit about the positive outcome here, because I really think that Brooke Shields has done a great job of finding her voice and stepping into an empowered stance and leaving us with some hope for her and for all of us for the future. So how did she learn to stand up for herself?

Chime: Well, I think her journey to coming into her own was lots of small steps and trying things out and working on it over and over again. And I think that’s the same journey for a lot of people. I mean, she certainly at a young time, didn’t have control over her body. She didn’t have any boundaries of that. But there are things in everyone’s life where someone is trying to control some part of it. Right? Like my time or lots of other things that happen in our lives, right? So I think that that’s a, you know, we can see that extreme in her situation, but it can be true for the rest of us. And you know, she severed that relationship with her mom with borrowing power from Andre. But then the next relationship was better, and it’s like everything, like she just built getting better and better and better. It was a great story. 

Mary: Yeah. She talked about her, her husband, that she is currently married to Chris. And they have two children together about how she felt like he was the first person who made her feel like she was worth it and she could be herself around. And I love that for her. I love that she found her person. 

Chime: I know, I know. Me too. Me too. And I love, you know, seeing her daughters at the end and how she’s choosing how to parent her daughters. She’s choosing what feels okay for her. You know, they said, would you ever let me do those films? She was like, no, never.

Mary: I love it. Hard no. And it wasn’t super smooth sailing. I mean, she did talk about with her first daughter how she experienced postpartum depression and she received some criticism from that. And I kind of think, you know, the experience that she shared around, you know, Tom Cruise criticizing her and kind of questioning the mental illness diagnosis of postpartum depression, and suggesting like maybe she just needed vitamins and exercise or something like that. I actually think that was kind of a test of her ability to really stand up for herself and speak up for herself. And that measurement of success and really was there for her. And she was able to be brave and make some changes and the mother’s act and the work that she’s doing to improve that for other people. And I really appreciate her for. 

Chime: I know, I know. Because you know, it was this moment where like she shared this super vulnerable thing, she had postpartum depression. Which even if you don’t share that story, I think there’s a ton of shame involved for moms, right? But she shared with the world at a time where people didn’t talk about it. And here was, I mean, and there’s just some inherent shame in that. But then here’s this powerful Hollywood male figure the same that had shamed her her whole life. Shaming her again in this super vulnerable place that she’s in. And I just died when she was like, I’m gonna write a New York Times article and tell him that he is full of shit. You know? I loved it. I was like, get ’em, Brooke. 

Mary: Get it, girl. Awesome. Awesome. Well Chime, let’s wrap up here. I would love to hear what are your takeaways from watching this documentary in terms of the boundary lessons that you saw there? 

Chime: I think my takeaways are, I mean, she was in this family dynamic where there were no boundaries and this codependency, and even though she was a movie star and there was all of those parts to it, I think that that same family dynamic, we know somebody that’s had that, right? Like either it was you or somebody you know, or somebody you know that you don’t know that it was, but they have had that dynamic where it’s like these unhealthy family relationships turn into unhealthy young adult relationships which turn into unhealthy further relationships. You know, it’s a hard cycle to break, and she had to learn it by just grit. And if you can learn these skills earlier, if you can learn these skills in a more fluid way than it really, you’re just like 10 steps ahead. 

Mary: Absolutely, absolutely. Awesome. My takeaways were really that the documentary is a message of empowerment and one of hope. And I feel really proud of her and want to acknowledge Brooke Shields and her bravery and her courage and all that she’s been able to overcome. A couple of the messages that I heard are that you’re valuable, like she finally found her value. And that there was a theme of agency that she didn’t understand as a child, that she had agency. And when she became an adult and went to college, she was able to find her agency. And, and I know that we all have that agency and it’s really powerful when we find it. And then the last thing that I kind of took away was this idea that like we get to decide what we’re willing to participate in and what we’re not willing to participate in. And really that this is not just a story about Brooke Shields. This is a story about all of us and how we just get to decide what’s okay for us and what’s not okay.

Chime: Yeah. And it feels good. When you take that power, you know? She had given it away, or it was taken from her really as a child, and then it felt good and she became whole when she took it back. 

Mary: Yeah. Yeah. She, she reclaimed it. 

Chime: Yeah, for sure. 

Mary: And I’m glad she did. All right. If you’re listening, Brooke Shields, we love you. Good job. All right. Take care. Thank you, Chime. 

Chime: Bye.