The Ballad of Jon and Kate

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

I don't understand why people are confused or surprised about the lower ratings 'Jon & Kate Plus Eight' is getting. Let's be real people, there are two main reasons (even if people don't want to admit them):

1) Struggling, happy people are entertaining while struggling, unhappy people are not.

2) No one wants to watch the systematic destruction of these kids' childhood.

To go back to #1, let's take a look at TLC's track record - 'Little People, Big World', 'The Little Couple', '18 and Counting', etc. All of these shows star people and families that are experiencing the world under extraordinary circumstances with a significant amount of aplomb and grace. What makes the families entertaining is their determination to live a 'normal' life no matter how much the world might be working against them - aka - struggling, but happy. What has happened to 'Jon& Kate Plus Eight' is that instead of watching a family stick together against the odds, we have the tangible representation of a big American fear - dissolution of a once loving marriage. This isn't about happy, struggling people any more; instead its focus is on how these two people have moved so apart from each other that separation is necessary, and the children who are stuck in the middle. Thus on to point #2 - the children.

Yes, in the beginning, the show was cute. I was a fan and I loved watching all of these little individual personalities take shape and grow in a loving, if a little large, family. It was my look into a functioning family unit- at least for a while. But as the kids got older and they became more and more aware of the cameras and how their lives were being filmed I began to wonder: who was benefiting from this show? Weren't these children just going to grow up with the mistaken impression that they had to act a certain way and be a certain way to maintain the constant attention? As some articles have claimed, instead of just being child actors, the Gosselin children had their entire lives as a kind of sitcom, broadcasted into millions of homes across America. It's not something they get to turn off and go home to a family to escape - their family is their job. Even if they don't know it yet.

And know, with Jon and Kate falling apart it's even sadder. These children don't deserve to have their parent's divorce blasted across America - their pain is really and probably magnified enough by the lives they've lived already. NO ONE WANTS TO WATCH THIS. Or at least, very few people want to watch - there are always going to be the voyeurs who want to see the end of what was a happy beginning. But either way, TLC should take the low ratings as a clear message - America doesn't think this is funny anymore. What was once a harmless look into an incredible family is now an intrusion into their very private grief - exacerbated by Jon and Kate's inability to stop talking to the media.

So yeah - 'Jon & Kate' isn't what it once was. For very clear and unsurprising reasons. At least, unsurprising and clear for those who are willing to admit the truth - it's time for TLC to stop filming and let this family settle into whatever 'life' they have left.

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