Jon & Kate Plus 8

I can’t believe how many emails I got from those of you who watch that program, Jon & Kate Plus 8.  It’s a reality TV show, and they’re breaking up because he had an affair?  Because she seems to be really mean to him, people have written suggesting I get involved.  NO WAY. 

When I was young, there was a show on PBS, An American Family, that was the same sort of thing.  Cameras were there 24 hours a day, and the family fell apart.  Strangers were there, the family was performing for television, and there were stresses and strains with the celebrity part of it – there shouldn’t even be a celebrity part.  I just think these things are disgusting displays.

Then there was the Jim Carrey movie, The Truman Show, which was about his life being a television show, and he not knowing it.  I remember at the time that people said, “Isn’t this a disgusting thing to do to a person?”  Well, now, people volunteer for it!  So, I have no respect for these parents.  I have no respect for any of the people who do this “reality” stuff. 

My heart goes out to the kids.  Is it humane to children to let their parents exploit them in a television program when their images and intimacies are exposed to everyone for all time when they have no say or control?  Is it in the children’s best interests to be USED as entertainment by two parents so self-absorbed that they put money and celebrity in front of their children’s privacy?  It’s like putting your children in a circus freak show strip and having a barker yelling: “Come in, come in and see what happens to children when their parents use them for your entertainment… It’s exciting, it’s damaging, but you won’t be able to take your eyes off ‘em.  Watch ‘em wiggle. Watch ‘em cry. Watch ‘em squirm.  It’s so much fun…bring popcorn and beer and come watch the show.”

To me, there should be a law that you can’t use kids on TV like this.  It’s one thing when they’re acting, but it’s another thing when they’re being exploited.  I’m surprised that nobody stepped in and said “This is the exploitation of minor children,” although late last week the Pennsylvania Department of Labor said it was looking into whether the show is complying with the state’s child labor law.  But I’m not going to get involved.  There are other show-biz types who have a habit of doing that.  I’m not one of them.

Here’s one of the letters that came into me, and seemed to have the most in-depth information:

I was once a fan of Jon & Kate Plus 8.  I loved watching these children, and seeing them grow. [note: I think it's exploitation]. Only the longer I watched the show, the more disturbed I became with Kate’s treatment of her husband.  I’d turn off the TV feeling deflated rather than uplifted.

Episode after episode, she’d berate and belittle him:  about his weight, his intelligence, and his parenting.  He’d take responsibility for his mistakes, while she’d excuse hers.  I remember one specific episode where he’d taken the day off to help her at home.  Having noticed one of the kids acting up, he put them in a “timeout.”  She went over and said “Daddy’s being mean,” and let them go back and play.  It broke my heart to see his authority continuously undermined in front of his own children.

Recently, at the end of their last season, Jon mentioned he wasn’t up for another season, explaining how he hates how he can’t go out in public and ‘just be Jon.’  Instead, he’s ‘Jon & Kate Plus 8.’  Translation:  he’s the guy on TV who is whipped by his self-centered wife.

Weeks later, all of the scandal broke.  Kate, in a People Magazine interview, said that Jon felt cancelling the show would make him happy, but she didn’t think anything would, so she would do what she felt was right for her family.  What is right for her family is not a television show, but two parents who love each other.

He wanted to cancel the show so the world would no longer see his dirty laundry, his controlling wife, and constant failures.  It may not make him happy, but it would make his life bearable.  What would make him happy is having a wife who cares for him.  I just wish that someone would reach out to that woman and give her a hard shake, before she damages the lives of 8 little ones, and her husband.  It seems silly to be caught up in the lives of ten reality show strangers, but I’ve learned a little something from it.  I gained a better understanding of the Dr. Laura saying:  “Do you want this woman/man to be the mother/father of your 87 children?’ 

Thanks for being a version of reality that I can rely on.

I like that last sentence.  What do we call “entertainment?”  The shows where they have people competing to cook, make clothes, and all that other stuff are such mean shows.  Hostility?  Competitive venom?  I can’t understand why we call this “entertainment.”  The population that enjoys sitting there with popcorn and a beer, watching people be mean, be diminished, and be demoralized is scaring me.