For the record, I’d never been interested in the whole Jon & Kate soap opera -slash- televisual phenomenon before last night, so please pardon me if my ignorance shows here. But after the epic media blitz the TLC network punished all of us with over the course of the past week or so, I came to somehow feel certain that it was my duty — both as a critic of pop culture and as an American citizen — to ingest the damn thing.
The gastro-intellectual aftermath? Something akin to acute psychic indigestion.
Prior to downing the bitter concoction of marital discord and child-psychotherapy-foreshadowing that was last night’s premiere, I spent several hours watching TLC’s calculatedly tension-building Jon & Kate Plus 8 marathon, and god bless the dear hearts of Jon & Kate defenders, but it isn’t hard to see the writing on the wall relative to their coupling after just a few episodes. Here’s the essence of what I gleaned after only 5 or 6 viewings:
2. Jon is a man who has never quite grown up, and he clearly feels stifled by his overbearing wife and the emasculated man-servant role she’s consigned him to;
3. Kate’s hair is freaking absurd;
4. Jon really, REALLY doesn’t want to be doing the stupid show anymore, and would rather be working out, snowboarding, and chasing co-eds (and I swear to god, I just about came *this close* to saying “And who could blame him?” because oh my god, that woman is enough to make the sanest, most devoted man on planet earth lose his gotdamn mind);
5. Both of them are more than a little vain (understatement alert!);
6. Kate is enjoying this whole fame gig and its perks perhaps a bit more than is seemly, and as the show wears on her children seem more like fashion accessories to her than her reason for being (as she vigorously claims in a ‘doth protest too much’ manner… unless of course she meant reason for being famous, in which case I say: BINGO!);
7. Despite this, the kids actually seem pretty well-adjusted (time will tell, I guess), proving that TLC’s money has purchased the Gosselins some pretty spectacular childcare if nothing else;
8. There is no way in hell this marriage is going to last. DUH.
Did I hit all the primary points fairly well there, long-time viewers?
Even as an admitted newbie to the Jon & Kateiverse, it was pretty easy to chart out the course that brought the Gosselins to the breaking point seen in last night’s premiere. Conversely, it was difficult to fully understand how these parents could continue doing the show in good conscience under such obviously strained and pained circumstances. As I watched the Gosselins — each interviewed separately now, and each visibly very unhappy — I couldn’t help but think of the fact that ten or so years down the road their children are going to be watching all of this, confronted with the substance of last night’s premiere and the similarly unpleasant episodes that are almost sure to follow this season. And that whatever else becomes of them, those children will forever be saddled with the fact that their family’s unraveling (and let’s face it, impending collapse) became public spectacle and was played out on television screens all over the country, in the homes of complete strangers — worse yet, in the homes of friends and of people in their hometown — and that their parents agreed to and profited from it. Let me stress here, I’m not opposed to the nature of the show — to people sharing their lives publicly, whether it be in a book or on a blog or on a TV show. Not at all or in the slightest. But what’s happened here, in my opinion, crossed over into something unsettling and exploitative right around the time that 1) One of the two parents involved openly began to express regret, distaste, and a desire to end the show, and was completely dismissed and ignored, and 2) As ugly allegations and counter-allegations and what clearly is a domestic separation began to unfold, they kept the cameras running and kept right on oversharing. The only word I can think of to describe it is shameless. When the premiere was over, I felt like I needed to take a shower.
I realize of course that my opinions here will be incredibly unpopular with some fans of the show, and I’m fine with that. I guess I’m just wondering, sincerely, how supporters look at last night’s premiere and justify it. If that were you — your family, your children, your spouse, and you were going through that incredibly painful and difficult time, if your marriage was falling apart — explain to me how you could and why you would keep those cameras rolling, documenting and preserving in excruciating detail for all time what might very well be the most emotionally wrenching time in your childrens’ lives, if not your own?
Early in the show Jon Gosselin contemplates the reality that someday his kids are going to google him, and that he’s going to have to “explain himself.” Which seems to miss the point entirely, and reveals just how out of touch *both* of these adults are. No Jon, someday your kids are going to watch this very episode you yourself are willingly participating in at this precise moment, and it’s THEN that both you and your wife are really going to have some serious ‘splainin’ to do.