I'm going to admit up front that I have never seen a single episode of the TLC show, 'Jon and Kate Plus 8.'Â Unlike many who may boast that they never watch 'reality television,' I have never seen this show because I don't like children - although I do like reality television.Â I know that might sound a tad harsh, because the real truth is that I like some children, I just don't like a squadron of children - especially if they live in the same house.Â To further my original disdain over the show, I really don't like it when some woman has a litter of children (usually because of some reason other than an 'act of God' which means that her multiple embryos were planted using a procedure developed in the name of science) and then acts as if the rest of society should value the fact that she managed to squeeze so many hungry mouths from her womb.Â Yes, congrats for making your vagina into a clown car...but wait a minute, you are now saying that you might need some help taking care of 6 - 8 babies? I'm not someone who necessarily believes in a divine plan and such, but it seems as if a universal spirit might have been pretty wise in making sure that most humans come forth one at a time.
Maybe I'm jaded because I don't automatically think all babies, ergo children, are cute.Â I think all individuals have the capacity to be cute at one time or another, and I do concede that some babies do know how to charm, but most of those babes I have fallen in love with tend to not have immediate competition from siblings for attention while I coo at them from above their crib.Â I find it hard to imagine that 6 - 8 babies crying all at once for an array of reasons is cute...and I don't think I am alone in this observation.Â Yet for some unimaginable reason these multiple birth families have for decades (in the 1930's there was the Dionne Quintuplets) been the sweethearts of television 'news' segments involving such topics as 'How are they coping?' and 'Where are they now?'Â Come on, you know the canon; too cheerful morning news personality asks inane questions to the hapless parents sitting in some decorated room that only Freddy Krueger would appreciate, but they call it the family room, while they are overrun with half-witted babies (all because they were born at six and a half months because otherwise their mother's lower body would have exploded) crawling on them without any particular goal in mind.Â The parents smile and acknowledge that yes, it takes a lot of work to manage such a large family, and yes, their finances are very tight (hint-hint) and yes, all of their dear nubby-headed challenged children are blessings, and yes, they would do it all over again...which means, no, they wouldn't.Â Then there are shots of how the family keeps organized which fits the description a friend once told me about growing up in a group home/orphanage.Â Of course this is the old scenario for multiple birth families, now they are offered a reality show.
The first time I saw Jon and Kate Gosselin was when they appeared on 'The Oprah Winfrey Â Show' I have no idea if this was before their show debuted on The Discovery Channel (it has been on TLC since the third season) or if it was after.Â Basically the only thing I remember about the interview is that Kate said something witty about three being the new two.Â Later I saw commercials for their reality show, which I ignored.Â In fact, the only time I was kept abreast on the Gosselins was when clips of the show would be shown on 'The Soup' and the joke would be how 'whipped' Jon was as he sat next to his wife who seemed determined to treat him as if he was her serf.Â Oh, how times have changed...I dare anyone to try and avoid news about them.
Granted, we Americans do love our dramas and since the economy is in the toilet it means the whole Jon and Kate family mess is getting even more attention than it would normally.Â The tabloids are filled with grainy pictures of Jon stepping out on Kate.Â The whole 'is he or isn't he' thing has become moot since they have admitted that they are having marriage problems.Â Some of the current reports are talking about how Kate has made fun of Jon for the deforestation that has happened to his hair as well as gaining weight.Â None of us can imagine that it must be fun wed to a woman such as Kate.Â Good God, she is a shrew!Â She would be a pill regardless if they were a childless couple, butÂ if youÂ add eight to the mix...it's never cool for a man to abandon his family... but damn.
There are reports of Kate cheating on Jon with the family's body guard.Â Seriously, what do these men see in her? One tabloid released pictures of her prior to her airbrush with stardom and my-my, someone went on a diet.Â Although I am not a fan of her 'reverse mullet' hairstyle, I have to say that she looks much better today than she did back in the day.Â The recent soap opera has resulted in the highest ratings ever for their reality program.Â Now her brother and his wife are making the rounds on talk shows asking people to stop watching the 'Jon and Kate' because their nieces and nephews are being exploited.Â Of course, they are getting appearance fees for their testimonies.Â Sigh.
Even though I am iffy about the reasons the aunt and uncle are doing it, I have to admit that they have a point.Â Apparently there are no laws governing the rights of children who appear in reality based programming.Â Unlike any other entertainment where there are laws to how long individuals under the age of 18 are allowed to work, the whole idea behind reality programs is that they are reality.Â Of course we all know that it isn't reality to have a camera crew and producers following your family along their daily rituals.Â How many of us would cringe at the idea of greeting a camera when we first wake up? Sure, I can imagine several families that might welcome the opportunity to have a documentary crew film them for a month or so just so that they have the footage of what they were once like sometime in the future, but that's not what is happening to the Gosselin family - especially the children who are presumed protected by their parents.
I did see clips of the first show of the season where Kate is complaining about how the paparazzi follows them around.Â Oh, I know you know where I'm going with this.Â I think it was in an article I once read about the British royal family in 'Vanity Fair' where the Windsor matriarch realized that she had inadvertently opened a can of worms when she first allowed the BBC to film a documentary about her family acting as a family.Â In other words, she invited cameras into her palace and assumed once the filming was over everyone would catch a clue that now the only time they were allowed to peek at the royals was when they were dedicating ships or cutting ribbons for an opening of a hospital wing - but that's not what happened.Â Along with advances in technology, once you step over that line of 'here we are in our private lives' it becomes muddled with 'here we are performing our official duties.'Â Once you are more than 'Queen' and become a personality (or cult of personality such as was the case with Princess Di) merged with 'Queen' the genie has escaped the bottle.
With the Gosselins, both Jon and Kate signed away their rights as private citizens whom no one would look twice at in line at the grocery (except for the legion of children in their wake) to being someone that you would call on your sped dial after leaving said line to report, "I just saw Kate Gosselin and her brood and her reverse mullet in the store!" then the game is over.Â Of course you can complain about the Â Â paparazzi but your complaints fall on deaf ears for the most part.Â Whining about your privacy only makes many viewers shake their collective heads because you (Kate and Jon) sold your privacy when you said 'yes' to the show and the various endorsement deals that were heaped on you.Â Yet, the sad part is that your children did not.Â In fact, unlike child stars who as the stories go may have really wanted to perform, your children had no say as to if they wanted to be surrounded by strangers (whom they probably know by first names) filming their tears, their joys, their daily lives.Â Probably like children who know no different, say the Olsen twins for instance, they will have a very skewed idea of what reality is.Â Unlike the Olsen twins, which one can assume that they knew they belonged to a family who for the most part weren't part of their work environment; your children probably view being home as work.Â In fact I have to wonder if each child is getting paid for their performances as being themselves.Â Is there some sort of trust that has been set up for them that is being managed by someone whose livelihood doesn't depend on them acting the part of themselves for the small screen?Â Now that their parents' marriage is in quagmire they too have to suffer the increased paparazzi when they go out for the most minimal of reasons.Â God, I hope they have individual college funds.
Here's the deal, reality television isn't going away and although I know that the fraction of children involved with such the institution is small, I think that it would be fairly easy to write legislation which would limit the amount of time a child can be in front of a camera for the purpose of entertainment even when it might be documented as 'educational' (TLC stand for The Learning Channel).Â This problem isn't going to go away, in fact without some sort of intervention (A&E has a show called 'Intervention' which is where families confront loved ones on their substance abuse issues) the problem is only going to get worse.Â Apparently Octomom has signed up for her own reality program.Â Let's end the insanity while we can, before one of the Gosselin's sextuplets end up on a special edition of 'Intervention.'
Westerfield Â© 2009
This article was originally titled 'Jon and Kate Plus 8, Plus a Body Guard, Plus the Chick Jon is Seeing on the Side, Plus Some Disgruntled Relatives, Plus the Paparazzi, Plus the World'