Against my better judgment, I weighed in on the whole Jon & Kate + 8 mess last summer. I had been watching their show on and off for several years before the downward spiral. I am reprinting the post I wrote the day after they took to cable to announce their separation.
There has been a lot of tabloid drama since I wrote this, mainly about Jon and his lady friends. But as I read through it, I realized I feel (mostly) the same way I did then.
I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments. But leave the hair out of it.
I wasn't going to post about this because A) everyone else seems to be and B) I firmly believe that we are in no position to cast judgment on another's life or marriage after viewing them once a week for half an hour. I know we feel like we know them. We don't.
I'm talking about Jon & Kate. And their 8.
I watched last night holding my breath, hoping that possibly the big announcement would shock everyone and that they were staying together. Naive, sure. But it would have been just the reality television twist I love.
Instead, of course, they told their millions of viewers that they were separating, and the news was further verified by reports of filed divorce papers in Pennsylvania. Inevitably, today I am reading all sorts of opinions on blogs, twitter, Facebook. Everyone has a thought.
Most of the thoughts infuriate me. I'm coming from a different perspective, I guess. Here are my main three beefs:
1. For those who want to start at the beginning and shake their head at the "exploitation of the children", I roll my eyes. Exploitation pays my mortgage. People make their own choices in life and because the Gosselins chose to capitalize on the interest in their family doesn't bother me. More power to 'em.
Because I don't believe they had the babies in order to make a television show. I guess I can't know that for sure, but all signs point to infertility treatments which led to multiple births. Something that happens all over the country every day (maybe not to such a dramatic extent, and no, I don't believe in reduction). The TLC special turned into a show which proved very popular. And now those kids are set. If we're to believe the parents, each child has a healthy college and trust fund. I would much rather those kids have money from a (mostly) well-meaning viewership than to be dependent on government aid for life.
I challenge any family to turn down the opportunities presented to this family.
Barring all this recent drama, I do not believe that the early years of the show damaged the kiddos. They seem pretty happy (look at me, making snap judgments on their mental health). Having worked on a reality show that followed families, I have yet to see any scarring from having a big man with a camera stand in the kitchen. And, again, excluding this season, most of their shows consisted of "Yay, we're at the zoo. Oh, look, a big animal!" which I hardly think is going to bring them to their knees when watched later in life.
2. Which brings me to TLC and the producers. Nope, not their fault either. Blog commenters are shouting "Off with their heads!" all over cyberspace. I just love the blame game. The Gosselins chose to participate in the show and were compensated. This isn't The Bad Girls Club, this drama seemed to fall in the network's lap. I'm sure they didn't turn it away (this season has the highest ratings for that network ever, I assume), but it wasn't manufactured in the same way you see other reality show's setups. It's TLC, people.
3. And finally, my biggest irritant, and this one has prevailed for months now: that this is all somehow Kate Gosselin's fault because she is snippy. I'm snippy. If I had eight kids I'd be the snippiest person on the planet. And if a camera followed me for a solid week, then edited together 15 minutes of my worst moments, no one would ever look at me again.
Being snippy (or condescending or whatever label you like to give) does not give her husband justification to act like a horse's rear in every tabloid in America. You know there are actual ways to deal with public marital problems appropriately? He didn't. I don't know if he actually cheated or not, but he is a dufus, though previously he was somewhat of a lovable dufus. I would snip at him, too. If he were the one who was snippy and controlling, we would just call him the Head of the Household.
I somewhat believed Kate last night when she said she wasn't sure if their marriage would have made it on or off camera (I'm paraphrasing here). Whether you want to blame her attitude or his passivity, this could have happened anyway. You can play the What If game all day, it won't get you anywhere.
I can't believe how much space I have dedicated to this topic, or how it has lit fires all over America. I do think it's interesting, from a pop-culture standpoint.
What do you think? Has your opinion changed as the Gosselin family has eaten up so much press over the last year? Are you irritated by her presence on DWTS or will you be rooting her on?