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Jon & Kate Plus Ate Up

Jon & Kate Plus Ate Up

How tickled was I, just a few months ago, to finally discover the guilty pleasure called TLC’s Jon and Kate Plus Eight? The show focuses on the Gosselins, a Pennsylvanian family comprised of two parents, two pre-‘tweener twin girls, and a set of (now) four-year-old sextuplets. Beyond the obvious kiddie cuteness factor, it is tough to articulate the show’s appeal. This is particularly true for me, since I do not generally find the children of other people to be interesting or reliably endearing. But I think if you are a new parent, there is something inspiring about watching Kate try to juggle 8 kids in diapers. It allows you to think, “Eh, I’m not doing so bad, am I?” And the appeal is not just limited to the mommy set, even Mr. Right-Click got sucked into the Gosselins’ web and after emptying our Tivo of back episodes, I think we both are out of new episodes to watch.

Welcoming the Gosselins into our home offers Mr. Right-Click and I an opportunity to show off our shiny progressive liberalism. You see, the Gosselins are Christians. Not just Christians, but Born Agains. Like any good urban intellectual, I figure this is fine for them, and don’t begrudge them their screwy beliefs as long as I don’t have to hear about it at length. Apparently, the producers at TLC feel the same way: other than one episode featuring Jon and Kate in nosebleed seats at the bread and circus they call “church,” the faith angle has been significantly downplayed. After a season or two, Jon and Kate finally figured out how to exploit visual media and index cards displaying Bible verses started showing up on the kitchen cabinets. In a particularly shrewd maneuver, Jon has started wearing clothing from Abreadcrumb & Fish–sigh–a move that adds a sartorial element to Jon & Kate’s emerging layered dogmatic symbolism.

But whatever, Christians will be Christians.

And I have indulgently looked the other way at the fact that the Gosselins–whose progeny is the result of two overly successful rounds of fertility treatments–ignored the medical advice that must have been given for selective reduction after they discovered that the Goliath sized, flesh-colored watermelon attached to Kate’s stomach was carrying six viable embryos. That is their faith at work, and even taking into consideration the strain these domestic choices have placed upon taxpayers, it is none of my business. Besides, I don’t live in Pennsylvania.

Having said that, tempering my enjoyment of the show was a lingering suspicion of the parents’ motivations for putting their children on TV. Of course, I have this question for many reality tv show participants, so why should the Gosselins be any different? Also, having been a full-time stay-at-home mom myself, I hypothesized that it might be nice to have a crew full of adults in the home with me all day–you know, just to keep me from going totally insane. Plus, the crew comes in handy when they’re trying to load and unload the kids from the hotel shuttle they use as a family car.

I do find it heartwarming that people everywhere try to help out the Gosselins–even to the point of donating plastic surgery for Kate’s “dog jowl” stomach (her term, not mine) and, more recently, hair plugs for Jon. But there was a hint of disingenuousness to the Gosselins’ explanation for doing the show as supplied to Oprah (“To allow people to see what our lives are like, because they were so curious,” and, even better, “To document our kids’ childhoods, because we are so busy we miss a lot of it”), and as the freebies continue to pile up, this suspicion deepens along with my inevitable perk inspired jealousy.

Anyway, I have been very tolerant thus far, as I’ve been saying, but the latest episode, “Sextuplets Turn 4,” challenges my thusfar benevolently patronizing attitude towards Jon and Kate. First of all, the plan for the sextuplets’ birthday this year (after a backyard carnival last year with ponies, jumping castles, and the like) was to decorate cupcakes at a local bakery (hello, product placement? this is Jon & Kate), a rather lame and anti-climactic choice to begin with, but which soon turned into a travesty of justice when the sextuplets were not allowed to eat their cupcakes. Not only were they not allowed to eat the cupcakes at the bakery, but even later, after dinner, many of the kids were still not allowed to eat their cupcakes because of failing to finish their Sarah Snow designer organic dinners.

What could be worse than making 4-year olds spend the day spreading frosting on cupcakes they will never get to eat? Wait, I know, watching their father eat the cupcakes right in front of them. Gaah! As I gaped in horror at Jon wolfing down Joel’s cupcake while he sobbed in front of him, my unquestioning superfandom of Jon & Kate started to waver. How could I get behind these people, how could I ever look at them the same way, after this?
christians t-shirt whore
It didn’t help that in the interview segment of this episode–the bit where Jon, Kate, and their thinly veiled hatred for each other are crowded onto a love seat and asked to deconstruct the events depicted in the episode–Jon was wearing his Isaiah 40:31 t-shirt. For those not familiar with the slogans of the faithful, Isaiah 40:31 reads:

but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.

Meanwhile, Kate is sitting next to Jon, dressed in her Whore of Babylon getup, and scolding him for thinking of their lives in terms of “seasons” (i.e. John says: “You have been telling me I’m fat for three seasons”). Based on the ill-placed tan lines exposed by Kate’s halter top, I’m guessing that the Gosselins must have been renewing their God-given strength in the Florida Keys again. Oh, assault on my senses! How could I have been so wrong about these two?!

I adore the kids, and a chief draw of the show is getting to see how much they all seem to enjoy and love each other. (Well, maybe all except for Colin, who might end up the family’s Uncle with Aspberger’s.) But I’m a little worried for them now. Perhaps this whole cleanliness thing with Kate is moving out of the realm of loveable quirk and into the realm of personality disorder. Maybe Jon feels trapped and is eating to mask his pain. And what happens later, after the cameras are gone, and Joel comes to terms with his sexuality? Will his parents accept him as he is, even when they can’t limit his dressing up to fatigues and police uniforms anymore? Will Mady’s obsessive jealousy and anger management problem blossom into full-blown alcoholism in her teens? And what is the deal with Alexis and her Aldergator?

It might be cruel to hypothesize about the lives of young children in a public space, where they could easily find it or be told about it. But these are children who have been whored out for free melamine plates and plastic surgery since they were six months old. And who has served them up to me like characters ripe for deconstruction? Their parents! As much as I sympathize with the financial concerns of the Gosselins, and cannot blame them for trying to make a better life (materially) for their children, I think the show might be getting out of hand.

Naturally, I will still continue to watch.

Comments (22)

  1. Jul 11, 2008

    Just heading over this way from GWoP to say – You Rock.

  2. Ellen
    Jul 11, 2008

    You couldn’t be more right.

  3. Nina
    Jul 11, 2008

    Awesome post, i’m sure it mirrors how a lot of us feel about the show these days.


  4. Jul 11, 2008

    gah!! i’m so glad someone else noticed jon’s bible thumper tshirt, kate’s newfound public slutting, and joel’s quite obvious homosexuality!

    i know he’s only 4 and i’m no psychologist, but i’m fairly certain he gives all the signs of a person who’s going to struggle with sexual and gender identities in the long term.

  5. Jan Morrow
    Jul 11, 2008

    Over here from GWOP also. You won me over with the comment about Christians, but then you went on with a superbly written article about CupCake-Gate. The boards and blogs appear to be teeming with anger about this episode.

    About Joel – ironic, isn’t it? Bless his heart – with a daddy who wears scripture across his chest. Good luck, Joel. You are welcome in my house *any* day.


  6. Jul 11, 2008

    Another GwoPer coming over to say that I enjoyed (poor word in this case) your article on the Greedy Gosselins. I read some of your other postings too and will be looking for a Diamancel.

  7. Ali
    Jul 11, 2008

    I enjoyed your post as well. I myself was pretty offended by the anti-Christian sentiments since I myself am a Christian. A Bible thumper even. 😉 I think the Gosselins are getting out of hand as well, it’s sad really!

  8. Amy G
    Jul 11, 2008

    GWoP’er here, too. The t-shirts are new and obnoxious. Next they’ll have verses LED-projected on their foreheads for our edification.

    You’re dead on about this show. It was cute and funny when it started, and now it’s upsetting at best. I hope these people are reading their press and scale it back some for the mental health of the children.

  9. FIONA
    Jul 11, 2008

    I adore the kids, and a chief draw of the show is getting to see how much they all seem to enjoy and love each other. (Well, maybe all except for Colin, who might end up the family’s Uncle with Aspberger’s.) And what happens later, after the cameras are gone, and Joel comes to terms with his sexuality? Will his parents accept him as he is, even when they can’t limit his dressing up to fatigues and police uniforms anymore? Will Mady’s obsessive jealousy and anger management problem blossom into full-blown alcoholism in her teens? And what is the deal with Alexis and her Aldergator?

    Loved the commetary, but you lost me here….I just think comments like these that are so personal about children, is on the level of Kate.

    When I read something like that it just ruins the rest…

  10. Coasty
    Jul 11, 2008

    I think Fiona got it all wrong. The essence of the show with their bible versus, family alienation and child exploitation is hypocrisy. They are the ones putting their kids out there for public consumption and public scrutiny. That is the problem. Commenting about them is fair game, just like “hey, that Gerber baby is so cute” or “look, Home Alone is on again, that actor turned into a coke addict” or “look how pretty Joan Benet Ramsey was in that prettiest little whore pageant.”
    The parents are saying one thing (what is best for our kids) and doing the other (getting paid to put them on the tube while forcing them to frost, but not eat, cupcakes at an isolated, deserted bakery with no fanfare and no family as if they were all just lepers). And then one kid who barely eats any of her food gets her cupcake when the boy gets nothing. It’s the people who preach love and hell who are often times the most hate filled, sadistic people. The saddest thing, really, about this show is how much contempt these two adults seem to foster for one another. Hair plugs aint gonna fill the gap, bro. And scrubbing and washing and whining aint gonna make you happy, sister. I guess you had the litter so you have to deal. They are in a tough situation and the cupcake thing just seemed cruel. I hope Jon and Kate don’t burn in eternal hell fire for that shit.

  11. LetBoysBeBoys
    Jul 12, 2008

    I just want to say I enjoyed your article very much but I wanted to add something about Joel. I don’t think we should speculate on his sexuality, he’s only 4. I for one got insight into what may appear as gender confused behavior in a previous episode. He called himself “Daddy’s girl” and would’nt back down when Jon or Kate corrected him that he’s a boy. He insisted that he is “Daddy’s girl”

    I think Joel of all the sextuplets is probably one of the more sensitive ones, as well as the least favorite of his mother. She has referred to him as “the forgotten tup” and he has been subjected to really weird treatment by her like being forced to sleep in the laundry room when he was ill. Even Jon saw the injustice of that and moved him to the parent’s bedroom, where he threw up again which made Kate furthur irate. The way Kate reacted to his vomit and other issues on several occasions was extremely harsh and I am sure he senses that his mother does not care for him, at least not as much as she cares for the little girls in the family. She cannot make it any more obvious that Hannah is her favorite child.

    When Joel called himself “Daddy’s girl” I think he was acknowledging that Jon is his primary caregiver and that while Mommy may not show him love and affection, to his daddy he is as good as a girl.

    I just don’t think it’s nice to speculate on a small child’s sexuality, especially when the children in the family are treated differently and unfairly according to gender. Whatever his sexual orientation may be in the future, I find it likely that he sees that girls are more special in his family and thus wants to assert his own specialness by calling himself a girl. It is sad, but I can’t make judgements on him for that… little kids are so fluid but they can feel unacceptance and will try to combat it in ways that seem logical to them..I found his comment that he is daddy’s girl quite eloquent and touching. Poor little guy.

  12. FIONA
    Jul 12, 2008

    COASTY-I got all that…but you obviously missed my point. And no, I do not think just because stupid parents put them on TV that the kids are “fair game”. But when she made it personal on the kids that she and others have made assumptions about, I think that was wrong. It could have been left out and the points all still made. I liked it all, except for that. Those comments, wrong.

  13. liberalblue
    Jul 13, 2008

    The whole born-again Christian stuff just bothers me to no end. When I saw a repeat of the Christmas show. Kate received emails asking for an address for people to send her children gifts. She said if people wanted to send her kids gifts, she didn’t see anything wrong with it.

    Wait a minute. Shouldn’t the “Christian” in her ask the people to send their gifts to charities in their own local areas, to other children in need?

    She’s not Christian. She’s selfish.

  14. LordyBe
    Jul 13, 2008

    I just have one comment.

    I seriously want to throttle this WOMAN!!!!!!!!!!

  15. […] on writing about Jon and Kate again, since I felt I had covered all of my gripes thoroughly in last week’s installment. But the thoughtful comments you have provided on that piece have prompted some reflection on my […]

  16. Jul 29, 2008

    First I’d like to lay down some disclaimers about where it is that I’m coming from: I too have logged many useless hours in fron of ‘Jon & Kate + 8,’ and have been drawn in by their family’s story for many of the same reasons that have been outlined in this hilarious and well articulated blog post. I am a Christian, even a Born Again, although I consider myself politcally and socially moderate-to-liberal (Joel would be welcome in my home *any* day as well). I am not a mom, except to a 10 pound wiener dog.

    With all of that out on the table, I’d just like to say that I think all of the criticism about Jon and Kate’s parenting, their marriage, the sexual orientation of their kids, and their personal quirks is a little ridiculous. I get that a lot of the “Religious Right” have made it pretty easy to label all Christians as hypocrites, and I get that the Gosselins are volunarily allowing the world to peer into their lives, but I am frankly disheartened by some of the comments here. Especially from you moms out there – are you doing it perfectly? Don’t you lose your temper at your kids and your husband? Don’t you have quirks that could be edited to make you look like Rainman? We’re not just judging Paris Hilton on “The Simple Life” here, we’re talking about a family that is putting their back into doing life the best that they know how. I’d like to think that we are able to extend them some grace in that endeavor.

  17. Jul 30, 2008

    No, I don’t do it perfectly, pls cf. the entire category of “less than one and double.” Similarly, I know I will be criticized for it, because I have put it in public format.

    I think the complaints with Jon & Kate stem from the fact that they came across one way in the early days of the show, and people (like me) fell in love with them and *did* see them as parents who tried their best, and sometimes did better than others. We related to them, despite the very different circumstances of our families, religions, socioeconomics, etc.

    But who they are turning into, or revealing themselves to be, or how they are being edited now (it’s really not clear where/why the change is occurring) is something different. So for me, it’s like they’re totally different people now, and it’s disappointing.

    And entertaining.

  18. Q
    Jul 31, 2008

    we’re talking about a family that is putting their back into doing life the best that they know how. I’d like to think that we are able to extend them some grace in that endeavor.
    Oh, good gravy. How is selling out your children’s innocence in any way, shape or form “doing the best they know how.” Those children may be getting a lot of theme park visits, fancy clothes that they can’t get dirty because it won’t get top dollar on consignment if they play, and strangers to care for them while mom and dad drum up money from love offerings but is any of those things needed for a happy childhood? How would you like to be films at least 3 days a week, week after week with no say in when, where or why?
    Kate and Jon are graceless in their greed for material good so why would they deserve grace from those that observe this behavior? They caused a furor in their home town and state with thier gimme, gimme and gimme greed and now they are doing to the nation. Kate wants, wants and wants some more. The latest swag she is out to bag is a big house on a couple of acres. But that’s after the trip to Hawaii that Kate pretty much stated she wanted when in Utah.
    Now neither of them work to bring home the bacon because they are too busy finding ways to make money off the children. I don’t see how using children to live high off the hog makes them any better then Britney Spears, or Lindsey Lohan’s parents.

  19. Emily
    Jan 23, 2009

    I don’t agree with you fully but maybe thats cause I’m a born again Christian…

  20. Katheline H.
    Jan 29, 2009

    you guys try to handle 8 kids, moving, a new house, interviews, fun activities, cooking and serving meals, and OCD. I respect her for “juggling” all of those things and if you don’t think that then that’s your opinion!

  21. Nyssa
    Feb 9, 2009

    I think it is very wrong of you to judge the Gosselins as you did. You accuse them of not acting like Christians. Just because they go to Key West doesn’t make them bad people. Do you and your husband go on trips without your kids? (If you have either). It also doesn’t make them bad people for deciding to have all six kids. I’m sure you tuned into the show because you were curious how the Gosselins handled eight children. I think your whole blog points to one conclusion and you said it yourself. JEALOUSLY! You’re jealous of what that family can provide and do for their children. I think it’s great they can take their children to places like Utah and Disney World. Their kids should be able to experience what others get to. As a kid, my sisters and I were taken to Disney World on more than one occasion and have visited the western part United States more than I can count. (I live on the east coast, in PA, so it’s not like I live in the western United States) Get over it, get a job, and stop typing blogs so yo can take your kids to Disney World and other wonderful places.

  22. Feb 9, 2009

    Thanks for your reply. I can only hope to reach the ultimate heights of sophistication available at Disney World some day. I think it’s pretty clear from your comment that you have me pegged. I feel so ashamed of myself and my joblessness, and I do wish I could take my kids to wonderful places like “the western part United States” someday. Perhaps they are hiring at Walmart.

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