Monday, June 22, 2009

An aside on Jon & Kate Plus 8

So much has been made of Jon & Kate and their marriage problems recently. It's all over the tabloid media, even the 24 hour news networks. I've never been an avid watcher of the show, though on random Saturday mornings I have found myself flipping through the boob tube and catching odds and ends of a marathon. So I'm not unfamiliar with the show.

One thing that certainly strikes me now is why anyone, and I mean anyone, would be surprised by the dissolution of their marriage. First off, the people have EIGHT children. Think about the day to day stress in an average family and an average couple's lives. Now multiply that by eight. (Not that kids are a bad thing, but I think pretty much every parent out there will agree with me that adding members to your family, while also adding good things, also adds a fair amount of stress.) And while I recognize that there are a few families that pull off this feat of having an abnormally large amount of offspring successfully in today's world, they are definitely few and far between. The odds were stacked against them to begin with.

Secondly, I think of something Jack Ingram said on his "Acoustic Motel" album many moons ago. (If you've followed Jack's career, you'll probably find this ironic.) He said, "Once somebody pays you to do something you'd do for free, it changes. Good or bad, right or wrong, it changes things." So when you invite the entire world (literally) into your living room, your bedroom, your kitchen, etc. and allow them to know you intimately and scrutinize your every move in exchange for fame and cold, hard cash, you're asking for trouble on many personal levels. It will change you as a person. And it will change the way you relate to people in your life. Jon & Kate's lives weren't their own anymore. They were pure entertainment fodder. This is why they existed. And from the looks of the show, at least the way the producers are spinning it, Kate bought into the fame lock, stock, and barrel. (She admits she spends most of her time traveling, away from home, doing promo appearances and speaking engagements.) And Jon, after being left a stay-at-home dad of eight children, has now decided he wants off the crazy train. He said on the show, "This is not what I signed up for." And while I might disagree with him on that point, who can really blame him?

What is the most sad to me, personally, is that they had to play out their familial meltdown on a worldwide stage. We all tuned in to see what would happen. Would they end their marriage in a screaming banshee fight on national television before God and everybody? Would she call him names they would have to use the beep machine on and accuse him of cheating? Would she finally come out and say she's been having a years long affair with her much older and more handsome chief of security? No. All we got, all us rabid, drama-hungry voyeurs got was Kate sniffling and saying, "I'm sorry. I really don't want to mess up my makeup," and dabbing the corners of her eyes while saying, "I can honestly say I'm only here for the kids."

That's not entertainment.

About 60% of us watched the exact same scenario play out in front of our very own eyes in our living rooms as kids, only it wasn't two pseudo-celebrities on the television screen. It was our moms and dads. And after all the pain and all the years of subsequently screwed up relationships and years of therapy, we wanted to watch Jon & Kate go through it too. Now that's something we should really be addressing with our therapists. Why do we need to see that? Why are we so eager to witness the personal and emotional demise of two people we don't even know? I don't have the answers to any of these questions. But I thought the issue warranted raising, because even when you see a crash about to happen, and everyone can see it coming from a mile away, it still has the same shocking impact when the smashup occurs.

And there you have it.


Kuenys said...

written perfectly! i am sad for them, but totally not shocked at all!