There are so many questions to be asked about the pictures of Beyonce that are currently dominating the internet. Why is she wearing a fishing net on her head? Why doesn’t her bra match her pants? Who’s her florist? Why isn’t there any cellulite on her thighs? And, most of all, just why?
The answer to that last question is obvious. She’s a pregnant superstar.
This isn’t just any old pregnancy, it’s an A-list pregnancy. This isn’t just any womb, it’s a multi-billion-dollar womb. This is no ordinary baby bump, it’s a celebrity baby bump. And a double one, too — twins no less, which seem to be in vogue at the moment.
Beyonce has many talents, but modesty isn’t one of them. It takes chutzpah to pose naked in the first place, but to style yourself as a cross between Botticelli’s Venus and the Sistine Madonna, with a bit of Nefertiti thrown in for good measure, takes cast-iron self-belief.
And, in case there were still any doubt about her self-appointed status as a goddess, she wrote: "Girl turning into woman, woman turning into mother, mother turning into Venus."
But then, subtlety is not the aim here. Proving to the world that she and husband Jay Z, aka Shawn Carter, are still very much married and in love, however, is.
Laying to rest the ghost of those grubby rumours about the fragile state of their marriage may also come into it.
There’s also something else at work here, something that stretches back through the decades via the likes of Demi Moore, Mariah Carey and Shakira, Claudia Schiffer, Myleene Klass and assorted WAGs (Becky Vardy, Billi Mucklow, Abbey Clancy et al), all the way to medieval paintings of pregnant noblewomen and the frescos of the ancient world. This is all about fertility signalling.
Fertility signalling is a bit like virtue signalling, only instead of shoving your moral superiority in everyone’s face, you’re showing off your reproductive capabilities.
You are, by exposing your ripe belly and swollen breasts, displaying your fecundity for all the world to see — and marvel at.
It is, in many ways, the female equivalent of man-spreading (that irritating habit of men on public transport sitting with their legs wide apart) and, as such, is no less obnoxious, vulgar or narcissistic.
This is a classic case. "Pay attention, world," Beyonce is saying here. "Aren’t you just dying to worship my womb? Not only am I gorgeous, rich and fabulously talented, I’m also pregnant, and not just with one baby, but with twins. I am a paragon of fertility. Oh, and I do all this while looking a million times better than all you losers out there."
And for this, we losers are meant to feel grateful. We are supposed to praise her for her honesty, her bravery in revealing to the world her ample, generous flesh and her generosity in letting us into her innermost of inner sanctums. Because, of course, Beyonce would argue none of this has anything to do with self-publicity. Or, for that matter, with the fact that she may or may not have gone just a tiny bit bonkers from living in a world where importing 70 000 rare orchids from Thailand for a dinner party is considered normal.
Or because she is desperate to show her husband what he would be missing were he ever to dare step out of line, and wants the entire world to bear witness.
No, Beyonce is doing this because she is a generous and caring superstar who loves her adoring public so very much and just knows how special and precious and, yes, inspirational these pictures of her will be for her fans.
The fact that all this will have been achieved thanks to armies of minions slathering tub-loads of organic mango butter into those thighs to make them look perfectly smooth; that hair and make-up will have been meticulously applied and re-applied; that endless stylists and lighting experts will have been drafted in to create just the perfect image of perfection possible is by-the-by. For we ordinary mortals can now worship at the altar of this bump.
Or must we? Are we perhaps not just a little bit entitled to feel irritated by this self-aggrandising spectacle, with its narcissistic symbolism and excess of cliches.
Big sister Blue Ivy kissing the sainted bump, a bunch of roses in her hand; Beyonce reclining on a bed of blooms as her daughter, somewhat awkwardly, hands her a white flower?
Beyonce floating in a swimming pool, as Osun, an African deity of water, love and fertility.
Are we really supposed to take this nonsense seriously? How many more times are we expected to glory in photos of so-called celebrities, in various states of undress, cradling their precious baby bumps, as though they were the first women ever to fall pregnant?
With Demi Moore, posing on the front of Vanity Fair back in 1991, at least she had the benefit of novelty. Since then, countless have followed in her wake and copied the pose, maybe with a billowing sheet here, a set of pearls there.
And later, when there wasn’t a magazine shoot forthcoming, there came picture-sharing social media Instagram, where they could thrust their fecundity and splendour into the laps of millions instantly.
And what do they say about familiarity breeding contempt? I must confess, I always greet these pictures with a groan and a roll of the eyes. Do I really want to see all that again? There is nothing wrong with taking a few pictures of one’s pregnancy. Every mother likes to look back to that time as something a little bit magical and special, to remember how it felt to be carrying a new life (in my case, rather hot and uncomfortable, but you know what I mean).
But, rather like holiday slides, or children’s school play videos, they are only really of any interest to the immediate participants. Anything else is just pure vanity.
Next time, Beyonce — if indeed there is a next time — just buy a photo album. I think we know what your — or anyone’s — pregnancy looks like now.