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Jon and Kate – the ugly “unreality” of reality TV

June 24, 2009

I’ve really tried to ignore the flood of “Jon and Kate” stories lately.  We have so many BIGGER problems to be dealing with; I do NOT need to get my daily dose of what are Jon and Kate doing to each other.

But, last night, I’d essentially had enough when my eldest daughter came to me and said, “So, Mommy…did you hear Jon and Kate are getting divorce?”

Yes, of course I’d heard. It was all over the airwaves 3 nanoseconds after the show ran Monday night.

It was time to sit my kids down last night and tell them about how “unreal” most reality TV is.  We had been asked to participate on a reality show a while back, but turned it down.  Ostensibly, the show was interested in me because of my experience in teaching kids social skills — it might have been a way to highlight what I do every day and my personal and professional mission.  But, we realized that the mission of reality TV is not to offer glimpses into real life as it is…the mission is TO ENTERTAIN.  As such, it’s not a running documentary of a balanced view, it’s snippets of long hours of footage assembled to tell a story. The story that the producers think will sell. Reality TV manipulates reality to show those pieces of a life, of an experience that other people will find entertaining.

So, my question is: what was ENTERTAINING of last Monday’s “Jon and Kate + 8” episode?  TLC had been teasing the ‘big announcement’ for days, and any of us who have been vertical and breathing had a pretty good idea that the news wasn’t good. So, millions tuned in Monday night to be the first to hear what we had been expecting — perhaps for some, hoping — to hear.  Gasp! The Gosselins had filed for divorce.

Cue the applause?  Uh, no.  It’s NOT entertaining to see a family distentegrate in front of millions of viewers eyes.  While Jon and Kate famously ignore each other on the now-well recognized couch, there are lives — 10 of them — in the balance.  Regardless of who you think is to blame or whether you believe the claims of infidelity on both sides, the point is this is a tragedy unfolding.  Eight little kids are going to see their parents torn apart, their lives will be changed forever…and as if “ordinary” divorce isn’t hard enough, now they have managed to invite all of us into their Roman Circus.

C’mon folks…it says a lot about us as a society when we (I’m using the general term here, not trying to lump everyone into the “blood in the water” crowd, but I’m making a point) find shows like Jerry Springer, Ricki Lake, and other “raw” reality programs or talk shows entertaining.  How small can we be? Do we rejoice at others’ misfortune thinking “Ha, they got it crummy too!”?

Jon and Kate ISN’T entertainment. It’s a 10-person pileup on a Pennsylvania Expressway, and we’re all watching…to see how many bodies they bring out.

Turn the cameras off, please…I don’t want to see the tears on eight little faces.  I don’t want to see parents rip their lives, their dreams, their hopes apart.  Whether they work it out or not, we all should let them do it THEIR way, in peace.  Without ratings telling them what the PUBLIC wants them to do.  I disagree with Kate: the SHOW does NOT need to go on.  Not in this case.

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