Wednesday, June 24, 2009


Jon and Kate Gosselin in a much hyped TLC “Jon and Kate Plus 8” special announced this week that they are separating. For anyone with eyes, this can’t possibly be news. In individual interviews the two spouses shared their perspectives on the breakup.

“I was too passive—I let her rule the roost,” Jon confessed to viewers. “I went along with everything and finally stood up on my own two feet and I’m proud of myself.”

Later Kate, her face swollen from crying, sounded like an old trooper on Broadway. “The show must go on,” she said. “ We’ve always done the show for the kids—to provide for them… I don’t want to do this alone, but it’s REQUIRED and I’ve got to do it.”

Why? Why does this couple insist on subjecting themselves and their children to the same forces that have brought about their ruin? I would argue that it was the show itself, the cameras and the sudden fame that unraveled this family. For five years a team of camera people complete with boom mikes have swarmed about the Gosselin home. Every domestic breakdown, every calculated joy or outburst has been captured and served up to a hungry public. Beyond the free gifts and extravagant play houses in the yard, the real question this raises is: Is a show worth a family?

The Gosselins say the paparazzi and attention attracted by the show overwhelmed them. But at the same time, like crack addicts, they won’t break the celebrity addiction. Kate Gosselin spends much of her week traveling the country talking about the show and pushing her books. If one reads between the lines, she always seemed more concerned about the show and her personal fame than about the divisions it was creating within her family. Her husband was apparently incapable of reigning her in. Now the enterprise has brought them both down (to say nothing of their eight children).

The true sadness of this “reality” saga is that the Gosselins appeared, at least early on, as a loving and vaguely religious clan. But unprepared for the obligations of media fame, and addicted to the endless attention they fell prey to the same celebrity culture that exalted them in the first place. They also forgot the crucially important lesson that a marriage is the foundation upon which a family is built. Their endless testimonials about “loving the children” avoided the issue that tore the Gosselins apart: their failure to love each other enough to sacrifice the show and all the challenges it has brought.

For the sake of their family they should have put the show on ice and repaired their personal lives. Crowds will always watch a train wreck, but once it is over they quickly disperse. The recent "Jon & Kate Plus 8" ratings seems to confirm this. They have lost 7 million viewers since their high point earlier this year. It would be far more edifying to catch up with the Gosselins a year from now, after they have rediscovered their moorings and repaired their relationships than to watch Kate Gosselin in her Posh Spice guise stumble through season 5 faking family harmony, alone, for the cameras.

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