Jon & Kate Plus 8 Plus Adultitis

jon_and_kate1Over the past few years, I have watched more Jon & Kate Plus 8 than I care to admit. The wifey got me into it a few years ago. It’s not like we watch every episode, but it always seems to be on, and we get sucked in by something cute one of the kids says (like “I got to hit the tiñata.”).

Initially, I thought watching it made for pretty good birth control. Then Lucy came along and I began thanking my lucky stars that there weren’t five more of her in there. Now that I’m doing more of the grocery shopping, I am bombarded by the tabloids alerting me to the latest “scoop” on this couple now known by their famous first names. (Brangelina who?)

The season five premiere shattered TLC records, with about 10 million people tuning in to see what makes a train wreck look like a happy walk in a wading pool. It has followed the familiar arc of American celebrity: Someone rises up from obscurity to capture the hearts and minds of all the people only to be tarred and feathered (or worse) once we grow tired of them.

There is plenty of blame to go around for this monstrosity. Everybody is culpable, except the kids, who seem to always end up with the raw deal in these things.

Jon clearly wants to be done with the show. Kate clearly doesn’t. She has allowed cameras into her house for years, and now she’s complaining that there’s too much media attention. Both seem to favor the passive-aggressive mode of communication, which is widely known for its effectiveness. Not.

During one of the few times Jon and Kate were interviewed together, both claimed to be primarily concerned with doing what’s best for the kids, while conspicuously refraining from mentioning each other. It may come as news to them, but the best thing for the kids is for Mom and Dad to be together. And not in some charade in which they masquerade as “friends.” Kids are too smart for that.

I may be in the minority, but I don’t think all is lost for the Gosselin marriage. Surely there was a reason they fell in love, and I’d bet those reasons are still there — somewhere. But they need to start communicating, preferably off camera. If it were me, I’d kick out the cameras, say bye bye to TLC, spend a couple months in some undisclosed location, and rebuild my family.

The sticky part in this whole tale is the fact that the couple makes about $75,000 per episode. That’s a lot of scratch. And apparently reason enough to keep the circus going, rationalizing that it’s the only real choice, even amidst claims from their own relatives that the kids are being exploited.

So Jon and Kate themselves are the prime culprits in this mess, but I hold TLC responsible as well. I have no respect for the producers. It’s one thing to create a show around the curiosity of a family with eight kids — six of them being the same age. That’s interesting. But the minute you get a sense that a marriage and a family is in trouble, don’t you think it’s time to say, “You know what? I know this is great for ratings, but this is wrong for this family. Maybe we should take a break and let them sort things out.” Sadly, another example where money trumps human decency.

Meanwhile, I believe there is a special place in hell for paparazzi, aka “P-people.”

Get. A. Freaking. Life.

How do they sleep at night? What kind of sad, pathetic, slime ball loser do you have to be to sneak around photographing kids? If Jon and Kate weren’t famous, I’m pretty sure that might be against the law. I hear the job pays well, which apparently makes it all ok.

Then you have all of the tabloid magazines and TV shows that serve the gossip side of this stuff up like we’re in a high school cafeteria. This is the machine that keeps the paparazzi in business. Hosts with shiny hair and shinier teeth urgently present this “news” as if they’re doing us a service and making the world a better place. Get over yourselves. You were losers in high school and you’re losers now.

Finally, I can’t leave us off the list. That’s right, you and me. If we weren’t watching the show, it wouldn’t be on the air.

The only thing I can’t blame in this scenario — besides the kids — is money. I’m sure millions are crossing their arms, saying, “See, money is bad. It keeps causing all of these troubles.” They might try to prove their point by sharing the Bible passage that says, “Money is the root of all evil.”

Except that what it really says is, “The love of money is the root of all evil.”

Money is an innocent bystander; it’s people who are the problem.

Kim and I watched the show with great interest, because we’ve often talked about pitching a show to TLC or the Travel Channel. We’ve debated the pros and cons that would come with such an opportunity. Of course there’s the money, a bigger audience, and an opportunity to impact more people. The downside is the possibility of turning into the nightmare that Jon & Kate Plus 8 has now become. If the opportunity came along, we’d probably consider it, but examples like this would give us great hesitation. Everyone thinks they’d handle the situation better, but the slope is more slippery than any of us could imagine.

I guess what this all comes down to is choices and consequences. We always have a choice and our actions always have consequences. Jon & Kate had the choice whether or not to bring cameras into their home. That action led to some very good consequences (increased income, a wide variety of exciting experiences, and a platform to promote books), and some very bad ones (decreased privacy, media scrutiny, and a fissure in their marriage).

Right now, they might feel like their hands are tied. But even if they have 75,000 reasons to think otherwise, they still have a choice about what to do next. And the choices they make now will have consequences down the line. Inaction on their part could result in some real, unfixable problems later.

Don’t forget that whatever situation you may currently be in, you have a choice as well. It might be a difficult one, but it it a choice nonetheless. Don’t lose sight of the consequences that may occur as a result of your action.

Or inaction.

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  1. Your comments on the paparazzi reminded me of a story Terri Hatcher told in her autobiography, “Burnt Toast”. She owns a vintage VW bus that she and her daughter go camping in. Since the popularity of Desperate Housewives, she’s on the paparazzi’s radar, after not worrying about it when her daughter was younger. But now they try to make the photographer sitings into a game. She said they were headed to the wilderness to camp and had pulled into a gas station in the middle of nowhere. Amazingly, out popped several tabloid photographers to get her pumping her own gas. She said you immediately think, “Are my sweat pants stuck in the crack of my butt? How’s my hair?” Then she and her daughter started their game trying to figure out what spin the tabloids would put on the photo. One of them thought the headline would be, “Terri Hatcher on the skids; has to pump her own gas” and the other decided it would be, “Terri Hatcher is so down-to-earth she pumps her own gas”. Turns out they were both right. Both tabloids used the same photo, but with completely opposite takes. What a bizarre world to have to live in. But, also to agree with you, if no one bought those tabloids, there’d be no need for paparazzi.

  2. Barbara Shields says:

    I’m truly interested in reading more from you…

  3. You have great insight. Thanks!

  4. Shelli says:

    I’ve become so skeptical about TV editing, that I am really wondering how much of what’s been aired and put out in the tabloids about this family is just hype. It seems awfully coincidental to me that all of this came out right before the start of the new season; and hey it worked… they doubled their viewers. I’m not saying they don’t have some issues, but I’m not sure I believe all of it. Plus if Jon is so frustrated with not being able to go out in public without being followed by the p-people, why would he go out with the teacher… unless he wanted to be seen. I guess I’ll have to keep watching to find out.

  5. Laura Lawrence says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more. I, too, have watched the show over the years, but consciously stopped watching months ago for the very reasons your cited. I could see the stress between the two of them. I felt bad for these kids. My conscious decision was that if I don’t watch, maybe it won’t be on the air anymore. I did watch the season premiere recently and was saddened to see how this fame has split the family. I, too, thought they should kick out the cameras, say ‘bye bye’ to TLC, and get their lives back. However, the more money you make, the more you spend. I guess the love of money is the root of all evil. How sad it is that these eights kids will pay the price for it.

  6. Connie says:

    Loved this column, and I share your sentiments completely. Sometimes, the best decisions are the ones that are right there in front of you – but seem so far out of reach. Let’s be honest. If they were to pull the plug on the TV show, and go on a sabbatical to repair their marriage and focus on the family – we all know they’d be on the speaking circuit within a year, and could easily earn a substantial income to help support their large family. People love to hear about those who have “sacrificed” for the sake of their family – and truth be told, THAT story is one I’d love to read about. Not “more of the same” to push their current media-frenzy agenda.

  7. Libby says:

    One more reason in my book to throw our tv’s in the woods, as I oft threaten to do. Good post. I have never heard of this show, but it sounds like a bad deal for their family, which is really sad. And even more sad if they don’t start truly putting family first. Thanks for speaking up!

  8. Look at all the child stars from the 80’s and 90’s. Not much good will happen to the kids after all of this. The parents are quite greedy and I’m proud to say I’ve NEVER watched that crap. Great and passionate article, Jason!

  9. Jason:

    As I write this, I have “I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here” on in the background to see the wife of former Illinois governor Rod “what’s in it for me?” Blagojovich. I just feel like I just wasted 60 precious minutes in my life. I’ve never seen Jon and Kate’s show, but have wondered what all the fuss is about.

    While these reality shows offer its subjects plenty of money, to me it always smells of desperation. For many of these “celebs,” it is there last attempt at fortune and fame. Not to mention the producers’ attempt to create drama, even if it means someone’s marriage (or self respect) is at stake. To me, that is a shame.

    I like your insight about Jon and Kate…hopefully, for the kids, they will get out of the limelight and back to reality (pun intended).

  10. Jane Bredendick says:

    I’ve never watched Jon&Kate+8, but who could miss all the hype…
    There’s no way I’ll judge what parenting and marriage must be like in their crazy media circumstance.
    The reason I’m commenting is because my hubby & I chose to stay together (give-it-time, put kids first sometimes, grit your teeth, and FORGIVE) even when we both wanted to quit. Marriage is hard at times! Get this: my parents split up when I was 8 and I’m so grateful, because our home life was hell. But I promised myself, if I ever had kids, I would go the extra miles it took to have a good marriage and to make my family my priority. Not bragging here, some things worked out well, some things didn’t. I just did my best with what I knew and kept learning. The biggest surprise to me was having to learn how to lighten up, how to let go…not ignoring problems, but just choosing when to be firm and when to go with the flow. When to be serious and when to play!
    I like Jason’s perspective for two main reasons: 1) The reminder that we each choose and continue to choose our life paths. 2) We can choose to keep our inner-child-energy ignited…or not.
    When I wanted out of my marriage–when I was at my lowest point–I listened to the little girl in me who knew what to do: I reached out to the little boy in my husband and said, “Let’s try in a new way together. We aren’t in competition. We are a team. Besides, our basement is so full of Legos and action figures and I don’t want to go divide that up.”
    It made all the difference.

  11. My wife has an affinity for kids to the point that her friends call her “The Baby Whisperer”. My wife is a middle school science teacher and is someone who is a great advocate for the kids and appalled at what passes for some examples of parenting today. She, too, watches ‘J&K+8’ at times. I think that a lot of the time, the show is watched by people that think: “At least my family isn’t as bad as THAT…” Kind of the familial equivalent of Dramamine for everyday life?

    About a month ago, she surfed to one of those TV-shows-on-internet websites and began watching Fox’s “Octomom: Behind the Scenes” special. If ‘J&K+8’ is one level of ”too much of a good thing” about too-many-kids / not enough parenting / too much exposure on TV, then the Octo-Mom Special ramped that level up to something that is awesomely creepy.

    After I had watched the special with my wife, I shared with her that I had not felt that down/depressed about a person/situation since the last nuclear war movie I saw. Nadia Suleiman truly has no clue, no morals and is in it only for the money, IMHO. Outside of the fact that her older kids are swearing at her at age 6, and have almost no supervision (or attention!), the rest of the kids are not much more than objects to her. Think about it: even if she set aside 1 hour to spend time with all her kids, assuming equal time with all of them, that’s ~4 minutes per hour per kid at best.

    (Oh, and, for the record – along the lines of Jason’s notes regarding the paparazzi – whoever at Fox wrote, directed, and produced the Octo-Mom Special… you have no talent, no taste, and truly no soul to put this train-wreck of an abomination on TV. Whatever management genius at Fox Network got this ball rolling, don’t give me the “if we didn’t do it, then someone else would have!” excuse. Shame on you!)

    Some days I wonder how shows like this can become hits, let alone be considered ‘entertainment’. Once again, I have to truly consider why I keep paying a cable bill every month. People and co-workers often ask me “Have I gotten an HDTV yet?” I say: “Why?!”

    God bless the child.

    • Pretty crazy to think what passes for entertainment these days. Thanks as always for the great insight, Austen!

  12. I like this blog its a master peace ! Glad I detected this on google. The definition of a beautiful woman is one who loves me. by Sloan Wilson.

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