Sunday, March 22, 2009

Jon and Kate Minus Me

When I first got cable, Jon and Kate Plus Eight was one of my favorite shows. I also have a large family, four children and four stepchildren. I appreciated Kate's coupon clipping, yard saling, and constant quest for affordable organic food. This family is supposed to be different--that's why they have their own show--but I liked them because they seemed a lot like my family and the other large families I am close to.

However, after I watched the show for a while, cracks began to appear in Kate's faux finish, and I realized that certain things just didn't make sense. They aren't at all like a normal large family. Here are just a few of the differences:

1. The children are violent with each other, and neither parent seems to care. When you are caught up in how cute they are--and they are indeed beautiful children--you don't notice. After a while, you notice that the older kids are always slapping around the younger ones, and that the younger kids are always hitting each other. Once I saw Kate hit Jon, I realized that the kids are getting this from their parents. There is no respect for each other in this family--none at all. I've been looking. I feel sad for them.

2. For all the talk about organics, you never actually see anyone eating them, or anything healthy for that manner. Instead it's a constant line up of packaged snacks and sugary juices. The parents are always calling these things treats, but it's all you see the kids eating.

3. Individual identities are discouraged. There are a lot of multiples in my family, and while they look cute in matched outfits on holidays, it is devastating to a child's personal identity to be forced into wearing the same outfit as their four sisters every single day. Everything these kids own is identical to their siblings, and chosen by their mother or a sponsor. Forced may seem like a harsh word, but do you think small children honestly don't want to pick out their own toys, books, and extracurricular activities.

4. They aren't allowed to be kids. Mom specifically forbids messy activities. Crayons--rarely. Television--always on. Markers--absolutely not, not even when they are at a Crayola museum. Wii--whenever they want. Kate is a self admitted germaphobe, dirtaphobe, and you never see her letting the kids mess their hair much less get really dirty. It's a backward way of raising little people, who need to explore and get their hands in things. Dirt is good for children, and excessive cleaning keeps mothers from being present in the kids' lives.

5. They are the opposite of green. Everything they own is new with tags and things are replaced regularly. There is a constant parade of clothing, toys, cars, and even houses. Now they are in a mansion with acres of lawn. It's just a little excessive, especially considering that the parents speak at churches talking about their financial hardships, raking in hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations every year.

6. They are very immature for their age and neither parent seems concerned. Their speech, the use of pacifiers and loveys, their motor coordination, etc, all seem more typical of a two year old than a child about to enter kindergarten. I wonder if this is due to problems at birth, or if parents and producers are encouraging them to stay younger and cuter as long as possible.

7. The children never have privacy. I have seen many reality shows, and this is the first one where you see children going to the bathroom, bathing, and other intensely personal activities. I can imagine how much this will suck when the sextuplets go to school and all of their classmates have video of them pooping on the bathroom floor. I wonder if this level of exposing children in intimate areas of their lives is even technically legal. I would love to have my own reality show, but there would be boundaries.

I worry for these kids, especially with rumors surrounding Dad's behavior. I know how vicious rumors can be, but I also know that I am one of many viewers who stopped watching the show a season or so ago because something just isn't right with this family.


Carrie said...

I feel bad for the kids when I see how they have no privacy. And the way that their mom yells at them and their dad over every little thing. It doesn't look like a happy household.

Emily the Great and Terrible said...

The lack of privacy is definitely an issue. Apparently children on reality shows are not subject to the same protections as other child actors. What a shame!

sajmom said...

I'd have to disagree with you on points 2, 3, and 6.

2.What we see is a few days of their life, boiled down into 20 minute shows(plus commercials). And a lot of the shows are about special trips or events, where you are more likely to be eating food that isn't typical of your family's diet. I've always got the sense that she's genuine about her devotion to organic foods. I've actually seen a lot of criticism of her on the internet for it.

3.I don't know that dressing alike means individual identities are discouraged. I think they're young to be choosing their own clothing to buy(not to wear though, they're old enough to choose from the clothes in their closets). But if picking their own clothes is the criteria for expressing yourself, than many large families and poor people are not able to express themselves. My kids wear hand-me-downs from all kinds of people. Would I accept new clothes for free from a company? Sure, I think most of us would! I do hear the parents talking about how each child is different and has different likes/dislikes, so I think they do make a point to let viewers know their children aren't carbon copies of each other.
6.They were preemies-preemies do tend to be behind in development. They do have extra trouble with speech and motor development. Use of pacifiers and loveys might also be related to the fact that all six are at the same developmemtal stage and can't all have their parent's attention at the same time.
I'm with you on points 4 and 5, but I think point number one is likely not as bad as it seems, again because we see 20 minutes of their life, and the moments with drama are going to be the ones we see. I know I wouldn't want to see the edited version of my life that way. I think they do need to work on their relationship, but I'm not exactly without sin, so I try not to throw stones. I also think that they try to live the same lifestyle that a family of two or three often lives. Most large families simply can't maintain that kind of life, the Gosselins can because of the tv show. I think that does lead to a lot of waste and consumerism. Just my opinions, not meaning to be rude at all.
(I ran across your blog through a google alert for large families)

Emily the Great and Terrible said...

This is a respectful disagreement. You seem like a cool person.

I agree that their lives are boiled down to a few minutes. However, if they thought they were being misrepresented, they would quit, right? Obviously they are satisfied with how they are shown.

My kids wear hand-me-downs as well, but they actually choose what to wear and what to play with, while the Gosselin children are obviously not given these choices (unless you think these eight diverse personalities always choose to wear the exact same thing and participate in the exact same activities at the same time.

Most preemies I know have overcome their developmental challenges by kindergarten. As for needing loveys because they cannot all have Mom's attention, my kids can't either, nor can any child in a large family.

And I don't think their kids have a good life at all because of the show-- I think they are exploited, and that Gymboree clothes and free juice cannot possibly make up for having camera crews in your home fourteen hours a day, never being allowed to interact with other children, and having the most intimate moments of your life filmed for all posterity.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree that I do not believe that them dressing their children to match takes away their individuality. Firstly, because if I were to take care of a group of children in a large public space, I think it would be very helpful if they were dressed the same. It would also decrease jealously between children. They all do seem to be inviduals, with different friends (see last nights episode) and different likes and dislikes (violin, alligators).
People who wear school uniforms still develop as invividuals as well.
I also came across your blog in a google search.

Anonymous said...

This blog is like the internet version of their show.