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Saturday, May 30, 2009

Reality TV & the kids they exploit

I simply could not let this firestorm about Jon & Kate slide by without adding my two cents worth.

Let's compare reality shows/kids for a minute.

You have Octo-mom who can't get anyone even remotely interested in having her on TV (she really should have shopped around BEFORE she got pregnant)

Then you have Jon & Kate. WOW! What a train wreck. When the show first aired and the babies were like 6 months old or something, I really liked the show. I hated the way Kate talked to Jon and slapped him on nearly every episode but I liked the chaos of their lives and I liked that they lived in a smallish house with crappy furniture and admittedly had neighbors, relatives and the like helping them with the kids. I liked that Jon seemed clueless as to what to do with the kids BUT he tried. However, I hated that no matter how hard he tried Kate was never satisfied.

Even back then, you could see where this was going. I just hoped I was wrong. I wasn't. I watched the show sporadically until one episode, Jon and Kate took all the kids to a toy store for Christmas shopping. Kate was SO publicly abusive to Jon (screaming at him across the aisles in front of a multitude of strangers, etc.) that I was so uncomfortable, I just couldn't watch it any more. I had also begun to tire of the way she talked badly about Jon to his children. She said things like "Daddy should help mommy more and maybe then mommy could have more time for you" things like that which were completely and utterly inappropriate comments to make to your children but especially inappropriate because they were on national TV.

Then there were the blatant snubs towards their families. Comments like "we just don't feel that it's appropriate that my parents be involved in the children's lives" WTF?? Apparently this "little spat" originated because Kate's parents (a preacher and his wife) got their church to gather up love offerings for the Gosslins when Kate was pregnant and what the Gosselins received was just not up to par with Kate's standards so she told her father to go back to his church members and tell them that either they can buy brand new all matching stuff OR they can just give them cash and they will do the shopping. He refused and Kate took all the love offerings and donated them to a thrift store. She then cut them out of their grandchildren's lives. Yet she travels the church circuit giving speeches (for a fat fee I might add) about how to have a large happy Christian family and marriage. Hmmmm.

Yet, as I stated, in the early episodes, I liked the fact that they didn't have a huge fancy house & didn't drive fancy cars. I liked the fact that Kate was so amazingly organized and so very adept at time management. I loved the fact that if Jon and Kate needed to go somewhere (without the kids) it took all morning to shuttle the kids to various relatives and friends before they could get on their way. They really seemed like a team back then.

It was painfully obvious who the team leader was, but they seemed to work well together regardless. It's not an issue with me if the woman is the "team leader". Not at all. There are people on this earth who need direction and others who give direction. It's just a fact of life. Jon obviously is one of those who needs the direction and Kate is one who loves giving it so I thought they were a good match. However, Jon always seemed to me to be the type of passive-aggressive person who would only take so much and then without overt warning would just go out and misbehave. Like when you're a teenager and your parents forbid you to hang out with a certain friend and you give them lip service but still you sneak around and hang with them anyway? Apparently, I was correct in my assumption because it appears that is exactly what Jon has done.

Who can blame him really? I know what he did was inappropriate at best. He is the one who committed to this marriage/arrangement and as such he should either honor that commitment or get out altogether. You truly can't have it both ways. Now I'm not saying he "did anything" with those women he has been photographed with while he hung out at bars until all hours of the morning. I'm not. However, when you're married, you should avoid even the appearance of cheating at all costs. That's one of the unwritten rules about being married. He chose to ignore that rule and now he is paying the price. Unfortunately so are the children.

I found myself on a site that had a montage of photographs of this family throughout the years. There were about 80 of them altogether. As I skimmed through them, I was struck by the fact that in every single photo, one of the twins (who knows which one) never smiled. In every single photo, she looked angry and sullen. I then thought about the episodes I had watched and it dawned on me that even on the show, this child (again I forget the child's name) was always the one that created a scene. Always the one who talked back to her mother and was rough with the smaller kids. Do her parents not see this??

Then shortly before the "scandal" broke out about Jon, I found myself flipping through channels and I saw they were on. I hadn't watched in a long while so I decided to give it a try since the kids had grown so much. To my amazement and astonishment, there they were in this million dollar home with Kate in the kitchen cooking breakfast with her perfectly coiffed hair and dressed impeccably. No sweats, tee shirts and make up free face for this "reality" mom. I'm sure every mother of 8 gets up on a Saturday and before she feeds her brood of children, puts on her makeup, dresses in designer jeans and a designer sweater and does her hair so she can cook pancakes for her children while wearing cute little high heel boots. Silly me!

I didn't watch it long because it was just sad. The kids were squabbling, Kate was dressed to kill, Jon was outside playing with the dogs and their interaction with one another and the kids just seemed all so fake and forced. Then maybe 2 weeks later the "scandal" broke and I thought "now I get it".

The kids are no longer a happy bunch of kids who seem oblivious to the cameras. Jon and Kate no longer seem to be a team. Their life no longer seems admirable or even interesting. Who cares about peeking into the lives of a family who lives in a million dollar home and wears designer clothes and their children who appear starved for affection and privacy? Not I.

There is another show on TLC about an Arkansas couple with 18 kids. A family called the Duggans. I have watched this show since its inception as well. As with Jon and Kate, I grew tired of it after a while and began to catch it about once or twice a year just to see what's changed.

These people are either Academy material or they really are a close loving family. Never do you ever hear mom and dad take barbs at one another. Never do you see the kids literally fighting to get someone's attention. The older kids help the younger kids without having to be told and seemingly without resentment.

Mom and dad don't raise their voices and they don't belittle. They dish out discipline and lessons with an even tone and follow with hugs and "I love you's". Mom and dad hug one another and praise one another (and the children) numerous times in each episode. They laugh and smile often and seem to genuinely love one another.

They also live in a very large house when on the first year or so they lived in a tiny house. However, the difference is, they built the large house and they paid cash for it as they went along. They got the entire family, their church, their neighbors, their friends and relatives involved in building this house. TLC came in after the house was maybe 60% finished and helped finish it out and decorate it but this family did the rest without the aid of "commercial backers".

Their show follows mom and dad as they go to thrift stores to buy their kids clothes and toys. It follows them to the grocery store where they buy in bulk. It follows them on family trips where they pack their old school bus with enough food and snacks that they don't have to stop at restaurants to eat. It shows them pinching every penny they come across and making every cent count.

I'm sure they get commercial "freebies" like TLC coming in and finishing their home up for them. However, it's not as in your face and prevalent as Jon and Kate's situation. I get the feeling that if I were to drive up to their front door and ask to drop off a few bags of gently worn clothing that the mom would flash that big smile of hers and thank me for the gift. I feel equally as strong that should I drive up to Kate's house and extend the same offer, I would be escorted off the property by security.

I just generally like the Arkansas family so much better. Their kids seem happy and content and well loved and well cared for. The parents are never seen without at least one kid in tow. Usually many more than one. And they seem to honestly give these kids attention. Not like Kate who seems annoyed whenever she is trying to talk to the camera and one of her kids tries to interrupt. Arkansas mom (I don't remember their first names) takes the interruption with a smile and a soft voice.

To sum up their parenting ability, I would like to go back to when they were finishing up their house. At the time TLC arrived on board the upstairs rooms had not been framed out yet. They sat down with the family and asked them how many bedrooms they wanted upstairs for the kids. The parents said they felt that was something the kids should decide. The kids had their little meeting and their decision was they wanted TWO bedrooms. One for the girls and one for the boys. There was none of this "I want my own room" stuff. They all wanted to still be in the same room with one another. Their only request was that the boys and girls not have to share a bathroom. I was blown away!

My problem with kids on reality TV is the exploit factor. It is painfully obvious to me that at least one of Jon and Kate's kids resents the exposure. She obviously wants to be able to enter her teenage years without a camera in her face and without the sign of celebrity that hangs over her head all the time. Jon and Kate are in for a world of hurt when these kids reach their teenage years. Kate will discover really quickly that she will not be able to control them and they will not respect her. She is concentrating so hard on her "career" and celebrity status that she is sacrificing her parental bond with these kids. Kids may be slow but they're not stupid. They either already know or will soon discover that they are the breadwinners in that family and they will use that to their advantage. Kate will be outnumbered and since she doesn't have the kind of relationship with her kids where they can talk about anything OFF CAMERA, she will find herself in another Jon situation whereby she won't know what they're doing until the Enquirer tells her about it. By then, it's too late.

She cut her parents off because they gave her crappy presents and don't think that her kids won't cut her off at some point for some equally stupid reason. She is raising them to be callous and materialistic and to think that they are more special than anyone else and she will unfortunately reap the rewards for her behavior.

The Duggans, I think, will get their kids raised to a certain age and then they will disappear into the sunset where they will enjoy their grand kids and each other for the rest of their lives. Mr. Duggan still sells real estate. Unlike Jon, Mr. Duggan kept a job through this entire thing. He is smart enough to know that one day this will all go away and he will still have a family to provide for.

I hate that all of this has happened to Jon and Kate, I really do. I honestly was cheering for them for the first couple of years of their show. I honestly wanted this to have the happiest of endings. Unfortunately, I don't think it will. I think Kate will divorce Jon and marry someone more befitting her celebrity status. Perhaps her bodyguard? (or maybe not - after all he is the "help") Jon will go on to live a college guy lifestyle whereby he can hang out in the bars with all these young folks and date young girls and only sporadically keep a job. Kate will belittle him every time she opens her mouth around the kids and will give her kids caustic messages to give to their daddy when they spend the weekend with him. Eventually the gravy boat will disappear and Kate will find herself (unless she marries extremely well) back working at a hospital just to keep the lights on.

It's sad and I hate it. But that's the way life goes.

But that's just me.


Anonymous said...

It's DUGGARS not Duggans. Cool post - I totally agree

Fiona D. said...

The previous post comment wasn't written by me.

Ernie said...

Fiona: I'm really glad you told me that because for a minute "Anonymous" looked JUST like "Fiona" to me. Whew. Close call. Crisis averted.

Fiona D. said...

Well... Bless your heart.