Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Jon and Kate + Fate

Remember when TLC was all about scary births? Screaming, disease, and altogether too intimate photography of women's genital regions (as they are spun to bits by the arrival of progeny)? Well, no more. Demographics change. Trading Spaces has ushered in an era of people-centered narratives, warm summer picnics, and pixelated birth canals.

TLC has gone family, dammit

Enter John and Kate plus Eight, the ongoing docu-drama of a couple (Jon and Kate Gosselin) whose womb was blessed/burdened with a veritable cornucopia of offspring, specifically, a set of twins and a set of sextuplets. Knowing that their family was going to be subjected to a media onslaught, they decided to sell the rights to TLC. Finally, a cultural absurdity that will have the Japanese catching up to US for a change.

Turns out, the show is pretty good. The kids are cute, the parents are engaging and candid, and TLC seems to have an inexhaustable budget. As such, the show has developed into something of a pop culture phenomenon. Oprah, websites, fanblogs, and even a book.

The Gosselin's are a Christian family, meaning they can make money delivering seminars and selling their wares at Northwestern, the bookstore for women. Speaking of women, did I mention that it is seemingly scientifically programmed to speak to an audience of females in their thirties who do not have children? Seems imperative, on some level, to point that out, since I am right now looking at a copy of the aforementioned book.

Great. People are entertained. TLC gets ad dollars. Charities are buffeted and college funds for the family's surfeit are secured.

Now, however, the whole enterprise has gone postmodern. The father's official job title has become "that dude on that show". The show itself features the eight adorable little moppets distributing J&K+8 merchandise (or merchandise from show sponsors), visiting Oprah, and holding fundraisers that would be utter flops were it not for the success of the very show that is taping the fundraiser itself... You know, postmodern.

Along the way, they've picked up various assistants to help cook for, babysit and generally corral the brood. The film's crew even apparently pitch in, and the family shares meals with TLC employees. Whatever happened to the 4th wall? The show's themes of perseverance and authenticity have gone by the wayside, and the dramatic tension has subsided. I don't begrudge the Gosselins their success, but it's not terribly entertaining to observe.

Alas, this is America, and Americans will not allow themselves to become bored. If the Gosselin's are not entertaining, they must be destroyed.

Numerous blogs have cropped up to criticize the Gosselins for their myriad life choices. There is the predictable heterophobia from the gay and cosmopolitan corners, tsk-tsking the Gosselins, really, for having children at all. Other's crticize their faith as either a publicity stunt or indoctrination.

Most take the form of pretending to have "happened upon" the show (thus claiming some sort of arbitrary, non-fan high ground), criticizing the wife for her demeanor in terms not appropriate to republish on this blog, labelling the show and the family a sham, and experiencing kudos from the comments section. Others have simply devoted blogs to hating the family, the absurdity of which is exceeded only by the volume of regular commenters on same.

Of course, as more people discover that the show is popular, more will feel compelled to register a (uniformly negative) opinion of the family. This is how fame works in America.

1) Develop a fan base.

2) Develop a following sufficient to appear on the radar screen of people who call themselves names like "twisted lisa" (see above)

3) Since your appeal is parochial relative to the American Population, and no American can abstain from having an opinion about everything, the "twisted lisas" outweigh the fans.

4) You become almost universally despised.

Usually, this cycle of hatred is justified (albeit flimsily) by a pretense of moral authority. (Celebrity x) chose to be famous by selecting a particular career field. (Celebrity x) dropped the ball by (using drugs, failing to wear underwear/shirt in public, dating a has-been and/or peculiarly religious celebrity), and therefore (Celebrity x) has it coming.

Never mind that most of us have used drugs, failed to wear underwear/shirt, and would gladly have dated has-been celebrity, regardless of religious affiliation, if only said has-been would even give us the time of day. None of that matters. Celebrities sin while FAMOUS.

But all Kate and Jon Gosselin have done is have kids. Instead of letting the media profit off of them, they turned the tables. Oh, and their kids are better behaved the 90% of the little bastards these hate-bloggers are (or will be) dragging into a department store near you. So much for moral authority.

Somewhere along the line, Americans have adopted the nebulously anti-Bourgeois attitude of the Europeans without (naturally) retaining any of the convictions. If TLC wants to pay us to do a show, we'll dress the kids in drag. If America had a new mantra, it would be "everyone should be unsuccessful but me", the perfect hybrid of stupidity, laziness and hypocrisy.

As for the Gosselins, they have re-upped for another season or two, so Americans will have the unique opportunity to catch a glimpse of the corrupting effects of their own malaise in real-time.

Now that's entertainment.


Blogger Sarah said...

I happened upon the show wile flipping thru channels the other night. I'd heard about the phenomenon, didn't realize it was a reality show and being 30, single, and childless didn't compel me to engage in watching the rest of the show.

Maybe I'm too quirky, but when a show is "reality" I keep my distance. Reality shows were cool for about 1 season for me (like the first "Survivor"). Now they're just boring. GIve me my damn fantasy and SciFi shows.

But hey, kudos to a family that can find a way to make money by televising their lives. I'd do it, but my life's not that interesting.....maybe if i dressed in drag...nah

8:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The problem with Kevin is he thinks he's an adult with full thought processes.

2:56 PM  
Blogger Twisted Lisa said...

Twisted Lisa here....and yes, I did 'happen upon' the trash tv called Jon & Kate + 8.
Happened once and never happened again. Although I did rewind it on the DVR so Mr. Twisted could see that in another life he could be married to a freakazoid like Kate.

8:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How true! It is so easy to point a finger but if half of these "haters" would take a look at themselves and their own lives, they would realize that they are nowhere near perfect either. I love how the media is basically ripping this family limb from limb with hear-say stories and lies. I think that, in the best interest of the kids, Jon and Kate should bow out gracefully and take time to focus on themselves, their relationship, and their children. People who sit there and complain and bash a tv show that is interesting without sex,drugs or violence are ignorant and hypocritical.

10:41 PM  

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