NEW YORK – If Sunday's Oscars go on as planned expect to see a number of stars with a new kind of accessory — one that may be especially popular considering the current unstable time in the nation.
It has become common to see celebrities toting not just the latest designer handbag but their children as they glide along the red carpet.
And as the United States plunges into war with Iraq, it may behoove stars to be accompanied to this year's more somber ceremony by one of their kids, emphasizing the importance of family in their lives during a time of crisis.
"We’re in a period now where parenting chic is a style choice," said Bob Thompson, who heads Syracuse University's Center for the Study of Popular Television. "There's a PR quality to this. It does show they’re caring for other people, they’re nurturing."
But with Will Smith's plan to forgo Sunday's event and rumors swirling that others like Nicole Kidman and Meryl Streep may follow his lead, there is some question whether the 75th Annual Academy Awards will be held on schedule — or whether it will be postponed instead.
No matter when the big night happens, viewers can expect to see some stars taking their pride and joy to the show.
At this year’s Golden Globes, Susan Sarandon brought 13-year-old son Jack; Robin Williams was escorted by his 13-year-old daughter Zelda; and Jamie Lee Curtis came with her 16-year-old daughter Annie Guest. Andy Garcia also arrived with his daughter in tow. And at last year’s Academy Awards, Sissy Spacek’s dates were daughters Schuyler and Madison Fisk.
Perhaps the most popular mother/Oscar nominee, Catherine Zeta-Jones, even plans to perform on stage at this year's ceremony with her child — well, sort of. The very pregnant actress, who is just weeks away from giving birth, will sing one of her numbers from Chicago.
Some Hollywood types might bring junior to prove just how well-rounded they are, according to Thompson.
"It’s the super mom or super dad kind of thing," he said. "I can look fabulous in this designer gown, I’m nominated and favored to win this Oscar and look, I’m also a loving parent."
But Foxnews.com gossip columnist Roger Friedman said many celebs who bring their kids to awards shows don’t necessarily need to boost their loving-parent image — but instead actually enjoy having their children around.
"The ones that do it are really nurturing and parental already," Friedman said. "As the kids get older, they’re trying to show them off a little bit. They’re proud of them. That’s why Susan [Sarandon] and Tim [Robbins] do it."
But Sarandon, a vocal anti-war activist, may have suffered some damage to her reputation for her political stance.
Apart from image-enhancement and parental pride, there might be other motives for parading children around at awards ceremonies.
"When they start trotting the kids out, they’re giving them a chance at a career," Friedman said. "Those kids all get careers out of [the exposure]."
Whether or not kids get a movie gig out of their trip to the Oscars, some experts say the experience can be worthwhile family bonding.
"If bringing them to the awards ceremony is an extension of bringing them to work because it’s important to share it as a family, then it’s probably positive," said Dr. Georgia Witkin, a Fox News contributor and psychiatry professor.
Witkin said it’s another story altogether if the celebrity has purely selfish motives.
"If a public person trots out people from their private life once or twice a year to enhance their image, it really sends the wrong message to the child — that they’re an extension of their parents’ ego and their job is to make the parent look good," she said.
Some of the celebrities’ children might actually want to go to the awards ceremonies.
"The reason kids want to go to the Oscars is that they’re as star-struck as the rest of us," said E! Online columnist Anderson Jones. "Robin Williams said his daughter got to go [to the Golden Globes] because she did well on a test or something."
Still, one wonders how exciting a show that routinely lasts four-plus hours can be for a kid, and how children have the patience to sit through it.
"The Oscars for a 10-year-old must be incredibly boring," said Jones.