When TLC’s reality show Jon & Kate Plus 8 was first aired in 2007, it was a charming program about an average couple- Jon and Kate Gosselin- and their extraordinary circumstances, in being the parents of twins and then sextuplets. Following the daily exploits of this young Pennsylvania family and observing how they handled raising their adorable brood, this series has drawn millions of fans to the show and made the Gosselins famous.
However, reality shows have a way of wreaking havoc on their subjects, as similar programs in television’s past have taught. While it provides huge financial perks and celebrity to otherwise ordinary people, it also puts undue stress on individuals incapable of dealing with the level of attention focused on them.
An example of this is the Loud family, featured on An American Family, one of the first reality-type programs on television. Aired on PBS in the early 1970’s, the 12 episodes followed the everyday experiences of an “average” American family. By the end of the series, the Louds were divorcing, one of their sons had revealed he was a cross-dresser and other private matters were exposed. 10 million viewers watched as this family imploded, purely for entertainment value.
Of course, this was years before reality television shows became the craze that they have become in recent times. Now, both “regular” and famous families allow cameras to disclose their personal lives. Everything they do and say is put under a microscope. Squabbles, which under normal circumstances would have been quickly forgotten, are blown out of proportion, in order to capture the interest of viewers. Even those who are already famous can’t seem to endure the rigors of being under a constant spotlight. For example Hulk Hogan and his family, Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey,etc, have been in reality shows that focused on their family relationships and divorce is often the ultimate result.
The Gosselins seem to now be experiencing the same unfortunate fate that befalls many t.v. reality families. Their original reasons for consenting to star in Jon & Kate Plus 8 were most likely for financial reasons. It takes a lot of money to raise eight children and the show has provided sufficient wealth to provide for these kids. Jon and Kate have made big bucks for themselves, as well. However, while the money has grown, the Gosselins’ relationship has fallen apart at the seams.
Kate seems to have thrived with the fame, as she turned from a slightly dumpy brunette into a glamorous, hard-bodied blonde. Some viewers of the show have accused her of turning into a domineering control freak, who frequently belittles her husband on the air. Long before gossip media reports that Jon was dallying with other women, it was obvious that a rift was coming between the once affectionate couple.
Now, instead of basing the show on the sweet, innocent premise it originally had, TLC seems intent upon cashing in on the Gosselin’s dysfunction. They are, of course, in the ratings business and the train wreck that has become the Gosselin’s life now will bring in curious new viewers.
Unfortunately, though, there are eight young children who never asked to be involved in this whole mess, kids who have had television cameras in their faces since they were babies. When adult participants in reality shows suffer the consequences of public exposure, it’s pretty much their fault for agreeing to be a part of this. When it comes to including children, however, this is pure exploitation.
Despite a public outcry from concerned fans of the show who ask that TLC take it off the air, for the sake of the Gosselin children, the cable network is oblivious to their protests.
If Jon and Kate want to continue on this bizarre merry-go-round themselves, that’s purely up to them, but they should do it, without their children’s presence.
It’s time for somebody to take the responsibility to have those eight kids’ best interests at heart by pulling the plug on Jon & Kate Plus 8.
They are the ones who really matter most.