I Know Enough To Exploit It

cartman and his mother

Let’s get this straight before we start — I do not watch reality TV.  And I most certainly do not watch Jon & Kate Plus 8, the reality show on TLC that details the lives of Jon and Kate Gosselin and their sextuplets.

But I don’t have to watch the show to know about them and the mess they’ve made of their lives, thanks to the controversies around the couple — allegations of infidelity at the forefront — now beginning to seep into the daily news sources that I peruse on a regular basis.  It’s an assault on the senses that isn’t just limited to the tabloids in view when you’re in line at your local checkout, but now even “reputable” news sources are covering this mess of a family.

One can almost insert their own punchline and come up with some new names for the show if they choose to keep it going at this point:  How about these:  Jon & Kate Plus 8 = Ten Children & No Adults, Jon & Kate Plus 8 … Plus The Mistress and the Boy Toy, or Jon & Kate Plus 8 Minus Half Of The Stuff Following the Divorce?

Are those in bad taste?  Well, they couldn’t be in any more bad taste than the show itself at this point, which — no matter what the original intent of it was — has evolved into what will be either a sham display of togetherness solely for the sake of higher ratings, or a uncomfortable, close-up at the disintegration of a family in real-time — again, all in the name of higher ratings.  Of course, the other intent involves a weekly paycheck for the duo — not to mention, a continuation of this “couple’s” fifteen minutes of fame.

If you watched this reality show, you were dumber for the experience -- though still not as dumb as Paris and Nicole

If you watched this reality show, you were dumber for the experience -- though still not as dumb as Paris and Nicole

From my own perspective, I’ve often questioned what type of person puts themselves on display in the genre of the reality show to begin with.  I’m not talking about reality shows that happen to be about a celebrity, as those are an entirely different scenario altogether (and more a case of said celebrity trying to promote themselves, which is half  of what being a celebrity is all about in the first place).  I’m talking about those shows focusing on “regular” people.  As an example of those, my wife loves to watch ABC’s The Bachelor and The Bachelorette — me, I can’t stomach these shows, as I’m completely convinced that almost all of the participants are in it for nothing resembling true love, but for everything resembling self-promotion and the pathetic attempts to create some form of celebrity for themselves.

The show Jon & Kate Plus 8 — which started airing in 2007 (three years after the couple’s sextuplets were born) — may at one time been born of honest, well-meaning intentions.  Maybe there was a time when there might have been some positive aspect to a viewing audience being granted a close look at the lives of a couple in the unusual position of raising eight young children (though what that might have been, I’ll admit to being at a loss — but I’ll play along).  But whenever that time may have been, it’s long gone now, as it’s clear to everyone watching that the couple — and by extension, their family — are facing huge issues in the future as Jon and Kate Gosselin struggle to save their marriage.

But one has to wonder if that — or the well-being of their children — is even at the forefront of what this couple views as their priority list at this point.  You could be forgiven for thinking that continuing their runs as “celebrities” is more important for either of them than anything else.  It’s what their own family members are not only thinking themselves, but are starting to say publicly.  Kate Gosselin’s brother-in-law has expressed his concern over his nieces and nephews being turned into a “commodity”, with their every actions televised for the world to see.  Her sister-in-law has gone as far as to call the entire show “staged”, which would make it less of a look at a family and more of a fictionalized sham designed to maximize ratings and create a perception of the couple that is little more than a Hollywood creation.  Even the Pennsylvania Department of Labor is getting into the act, investigating whether or not the show is violating child labor laws by using the children in the show.

It's all the media's fault -- that's why we're smiling for this picture for the network!

It's all the media's fault -- that's why we're smiling for this picture for the network!

Meanwhile, with a world of controversy swirling around them, the couple has decided to blame — wait for it — the media for their problems.  “It kills me”, says Kate, talking about the exposure of the couple’s marital problems in the tabloids.  Husband Jon claims innocence in regards to the accusations of his marital straying, also pointing the finger at the media as a supposed culprit — as if the media were the ones forcing him out at 2 AM with women other than his wife.

Granted, as I’ve said, I’m not exactly the foremost authority on the reality show genre — but didn’t they invite the media into their lives in the first place when they decided to do this show?  Weren’t they the ones who wanted the cameras there to record their lives in the most minute details?  Oops — I guess I missed the part where the deal involved only those things that made them look good, or those things that put money into their pockets.  Silly me.

I don’t have any sympathy for this pair of fame-grabbers — if their priorities are so out of whack as to lead them into the personal messes they seem destined to enter, then so be it.  They’re getting what they deserve, even if their fame is now a double-edged sword that’s turned out to not be what they expected it would.  My sympathies are for the children, who really have never had a “normal” childhood up until now — and who certainly won’t have one as the media circus around the couple intensifies.  They’re the ones who are the innocents in this, and the emotional trauma they’re likely going to be subjected to is something no child should have to bear.

Coming up on next week's episode of Jon & Kate Plus 8

Coming up on next week's episode of Jon & Kate Plus 8

Obviously, if Jon and Kate Gosselin really cared about their children, they would have told TLC to take their cameras and shove them — contractual commitments be damned — while retreating out of the public eye, giving them the opportunity to focus on saving their marriage and protecting their family from harm.  But of course, they’re not doing that, but instead are plowing ahead with a new season of the show, exposing their children to the prying eyes of a viewing public that’s watching each week with the mindset of a racing fan who tunes in only for the horrific wrecks.  And what a wreck this might end up being for everyone involved.

You see, Jon & Kate won’t walk away — even if it’s in their family’s best interests — because if they do so, their time as “celebrities” and all of the perks that provides, will come to an ignominious end.  And their actions are showing to the world that fame, money, and celebrity are really what matters most to them both.  If there were any justice, the show’s ratings would collapse, leaving the couple and TLC with a failing show deserving of cancellation — but of course, we live in a world where justice is sadly lacking more often than not;  Jon & Kate Plus 8 drew a huge audience for its season premiere, numbering almost 10 million voyeurs (more than double the ratings for the previous season’s finale).

But while the show may never win an Emmy, and the stars won’t win any “Parents of the Year” awards anytime soon, they can take pride in receiving this week’s Ro-Sham-Bo honors (with an dishonorable mention going out to their sponsor, TLC).  And while they might be tempted to give the media some credit for this distinction dishonor, I can assure you — they earned it all on their own.

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One Response to “I Know Enough To Exploit It”

  1. […] television shows.  My personal target — the disgraceful Jon & Kate Plus 8 — and my thoughts on it has been one of the most popular posts on the blog this […]

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