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Jon and Kate Plus 8… plus 10 million… minus one

I’m willing to bet that you’ve heard of Jon and Kate Plus 8, even if you don’t watch the TLC program yourself. It’s getting a lot of publicity lately, led by a focus on the potential break-up of their marriage. For any who may not know what it is, a family with a pair of twins followed by sextuplets have invited cameras into their home and lives to follow them around and show what life is like for a family of multiples.

The kids are cute. The interplay between Kate and Jon – her harshness and his laid back, almost disconnected demeanor – was entertaining to watch, especially at first. But very quickly I began to feel like I was rubber-necking an accident. At the very least, even early on, it felt somewhat exploitative, if still a bit humorous.

This isn’t typically the kind of show I’d watch. I prefer my TV scripted. But the Gosselins live in my area and periodically some local landmarks would turn up on the show, and it was fun to see that. Even so, as the popularity of the show grew, two things happened: the toll of the intrusion into their lives was beginning to show, and I became even less interested. With the increased success, and the stresses and “poor choices” reaching their high this summer, the season premier drew a lot of attention: “will there be a divorce?” was the question on over 10 million people’s voyeuristic minds. I admit it – I was one of them. It wasn’t like I was waiting for it to come on, but when I heard it in the other room I came in and watched for a while.

The question on Kate’s lips, though, was more like “how did we get here?” The answer to that is obvious. She has moved her focus from her family to her fame.

Maybe the difficulty in their marriage would have happened without the show’s existence – I don’t know. But I certainly think it’s been exacerbating the situation and we’re already past the point where the plug should have been pulled.

So what’s got me writing these thoughts down? Why bring it up? After all, reality shows and celebrity gazing are not typical topics for me, nor are they likely to come up much again.

Walt Mueller.

Walt is a friend of mine, my former youth pastor, a nationally recognized speaker, and the founder of an organization that focuses on kids and families, and frequently on the media with which they are bombarded – Center for Parent/Youth Understanding. He was also a neighbor of the Gosselin’s and met them before the show started. He’s finally broken his public silence.

I’ve known Walt for years (decades, truthfully), and his thoughts are always well considered and humble. I’d strongly encourage you to read his entire post.

Here’s are some quick excerpts:

For some reason, the world is enjoying watching this train wreck. To be honest, those of us who knew enough to see it coming can easily fall into the proud and self-righteous “I told you so” mode. To be honest, I have. And, it’s even easy to wish ill-will on people who seemingly did everything they could to steer their train off the tracks through an endless series of unwise decisions and caving in to the ways of the world, thereby bringing all of this on themselves. Yep, let them get what they deserve. The Gosselin family has gotten themselves into a ridiculous mess. We watch them tearfully ask “Why?” and “What can we do?” and they look even more ridiculous. The curiosity factor is off the charts. Jon and Kate Gosselin and their kids are in trouble. We all know it.

[...]

But from the time they moved into the neighborhood until the time they left, generous offers of help, meals, etc. were turned away. . . and usually not with even a polite “thank-you.” The stories are multitude. And, they are consistent. These offers were not given to celebrities, but to neighbors in need. Nobody in our neighborhood was starstruck. . . simply because these were neighbors and not stars. In addition, there was a growing awareness that something was just not right. One member of the marriage would walk the kids in their six-seat stroller and was willing to engage neighbors in friendly conversation. The other immediately developed a reputation for being rude, self-centered, and demanding. Those in our neighborhood who had known that person for years were not surprised. Sadly, the one who ruled the roost set the tone, and it wasn’t good. Eventually, we never saw the friendlier half of the couple.

And now we know. The family’s choice to live their lives in front of the world has yielded undeniable evidence that the train has not only derailed, but wrecked.

[...]

For a minute, remove all the rumors and stories (many of which are true), and think only about how the family has chosen to present themselves. Think too about the fact that when the cameras are on, we usually put on our best smiles and best behavior. . . and then think – long and hard – about what that best behavior has been on this particular show. Then, imagine what life is like and how people act when the cameras aren’t rolling. After taking that all into consideration, we shouldn’t be surprised by the train wreck that’s taken the world by storm.

[...]

So let me humbly suggest some responses. . . because I don’t think it’s too late for this couple and their family. God is in the business of redeeming all kinds of situations. To Jon and Kate, it’s not too late for you to save your marriage and your family. To those who care about Jon and Kate (and we all should), it’s not too late to do your part to see this thing redeemed.

Walt goes on to offer some specific thoughts to each of the parties involved ending with himself:

And finally, to me. I know that I’m a part of the culture, the media world, the church, and the human race. While choosing to be silent would promote the downfall of this family, any words I speak about this situation have to come from an introspective heart that seeks humility, love, the Kingdom of God, and the greater good. What I say to myself is what I will say to everyone who is thinking about the Gosselins: You are no better. The seeds of what you don’t like in them live in you. Your life and family are far from perfect. Keep looking in the mirror to see where you might be doing the same things. . . although not in a highly-publicized and public way that the world can see. And if you/I don’t. . . then shame on you/me.

I couldn’t agree more. We’re all tempted in one way or another, presented with choices of what we really want to do vs. what is best for us (and our families). If I was given the opportunity for the money and fame that the Gosselin’s have, it’s certainly possible that I would have chosen the same way, and I’ve made some dumb and detrimental choices even without that level of temptation. The key, both for me and the Gosselin’s, is to recognize the mistakes, pray, and work to fix it. In their case, I firmly believe that it starts with the end of the TV show, before it becomes Kate and 8 (Plus Jon).

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2 comments to Jon and Kate Plus 8… plus 10 million… minus one

  • Wow, Jeff.

    Well said.

    I haven’t seen the show but have heard of it. I waver with reality shows. I don’t want to watch them,yet find myself intrigued with how others live.

    I no longer buy the magazines, as I do not like how the paparazzi chase these celebs, and let’s face it, at the end of the day, they are ordinary people with families etc, who just happen to have a job where we see their faces.
    .-= WiddleShamrock´s last blog ..Pay It Forward =-.

    Reply to this comment

    Jeff says:

    They are ordinary people, and it’s easy to forget that. And that includes the kids, which is even easier to forget. I didn’t focus on it in my article, but Walt does (as do some of his commenters): these kids are working on that show. They do multiple takes and are filmed for hours every day. I’ve no direct evidence myself, but it certainly sounds like they are breaking child labor laws. That’s even more egregious than the marriage situation, IMO. These kids have to deal with this show interrupting their lives and adding stress daily, PLUS it’s contributing to tearing their parents apart. And they get to watch it all in reruns for years to come. How nice for them.

    Reply to this comment

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