The latest in reality television seems to be on the cable station TLC which documents (apparent) real life in families with unique circumstances. There is a show about two dwarves who are married to each other and have at least one dwarf child but other normal-sized ones (I have never seen a complete episode so I’m a little fuzzy on the details). The family from Arkansas who has 18 (at last count) children has their own show now, though I have not seen it. I think there is at least one other one.
The one garnering much discussion lately, it seems, is “Jon & Kate Plus 8.” This couple had twin girls, then, about three years later, had a litter. That’s right, SIX at one time!!!! Three boys and three girls, for a total of eight. I don’t know their current ages but on the episodes I have seen the sextuplets are three and the twin girls are six. But I think I might be two or three years behind.
I have seen this show in reruns maybe three times and the concept seems to be that the camera folks just show up at Jon’s and Kate’s house in the morning and follow everyone around, with occasional cutaways to Jon and Kate sitting next to each other giving a recap of recent activities. (I guess some of the camera crew watch the kids while the parents are talking because you never see them tugging onto their parents for anything, which is what normal little ones would be doing). Anyway, they live in a nice but modest middle-class home (although Wife has just told me they have recently upgraded to a much nicer place) and they’re getting by. As you can imagine, it is constant chaos and it makes me tired just watching.
Here are a few of my observations after watching these three episodes:
-- Jon and Kate seem to be nice people.
-- Jon appears to be short on patience (rolls his eyes a lot) but he sucks it up pretty good. Kate does most of the talking and I would have probably told her where to get off a long time ago.
-- Kate wears the pants in the family. She often corrects Jon and complains that he doesn’t always pull his weight. Again, I would probably not take that as well as Jon appears to.
-- Jon and Kate don’t seem nearly as tired as you would think. If I had eight children the ages of theirs – or any ages for that matter – I would not be able to sit in a chair and talk as lucidly as they, nor would I look as good. I fear that I might have hit the road once those six babies popped out. I hope I’m wrong but I’m glad I never had to take that test.
-- The twin girls are identical looking but as different as night and day. One is full of personality and just as precocious as she can be. I would not be the least bit surprised if she gives Jon and Kate fits when she becomes a teenager. The other is quiet and reserved and you almost forget she’s there (not hard to do when there are eight of them).
-- The six little ones are adorable, there’s no way around it.
OK, those are my observations. Now here are my questions:
-- How did Jon and Kate get this gig? Who called them? Who negotiated the contract?
-- Are we seeing the “real deal” here? I mean, really, I just couldn’t be myself if I had cameras following me around. And if I did have cameras following me around, and also had eight children, I would probably not be very kind.
-- Do they get tired of their lives being a TV show?
-- Does the TV crew include babysitters? It has to. Maybe that’s what was enticing to Jon and Kate in the first place, as well as the compensation it must include. I mean, for the love of all that’s holy, they’ve got eight mouths to feed, so I guess it was pretty tempting when a TV network came calling.
-- Let’s say Jon and/or Kate loses it. I mean, it’s just gotten to the point that one of them has had it with this whole situation, he or she lets loose a string of profanities and storms out. Does that part automatically get edited, per their contract? (I am not suggesting either would do this; I am just wondering).
-- Do friends and neighbors just happen to “drop by” during filming to try to get on TV? If my next-door-neighbors were filming a TV show, I would probably go over for a cup of sugar.
-- This is crass but you know if you’re an adult, you’re thinking it. When in the world do they ever find the time and energy, between having eight children and starring in a marathon TV show, to do what mommies and daddies sometimes do when those little ones are asleep?????
I don’t watch Jon & Kate during prime time and I don’t plan to. I don’t plan to watch any more of the reruns either. I just looked in out of curiosity and I have seen enough. They seem like nice enough people but, somehow, I just feel like I am invading their privacy (even though they are asking me to do so).
I have had my own family documentary going on right here under my own roof for 23-plus years. We have had some great times but we are probably not interesting enough to merit our own show. Still, I am not very interested in a TV show where I watch people do what I have done or in some instances continue to do.
Multiple births are not nearly as uncommon as they once were, due to fertility drugs and treatments. The Dionne quintuplets, all girls, were born in Canada back in the 1930s. They were an international spectacle and the Canadian government was quick to capitalize on them.
They were taken from their parents and made wards of the Canadian government. They lived in a compound that included a playground covered in a see-through dome for public observation! There were souvenir stands nearby, at least one of which was operated by their father, where various wares, including dolls made into the likenesses of the quints, were peddled. The Canadian government reportedly made millions off of them.
The Dionne girls were eventually returned to their parents (I think when they were about ten) but apparently when they were 18 they bolted, and had little contact with their parents thereafter. They eventually squealed about what their lives were really like (which were anything but normal). There have been books and documentaries. Two died before reaching middle age, one died in her late sixties and two are still alive. (This is all according to Wikipedia).
I cannot help but feel sorry for the Dionne girls and, to some extent, for their family. They did not ask to be born as they were and certainly, the way the Canadian government took control of their lives was indefensible. When I picture people by the thousands going to “Quint Land” to see them, as if they were in a zoo, I cringe.
But then, what are we doing when we tune in to Jon & Kate Plus 8 or one of these other shows? Is it really any different? What makes us attracted to something like this? If we are so hooked on reality, what could be more real (or too real, maybe) than our own lives?
Of course when people become celebrities their lives change. This weekend Kate will be in Nashville appearing at the “Southern Women’s Show.” I am sure she is under contract to make appearances nationwide at such events. (I hope Jon has some help at home if they are not all coming with her).
Wife tells me she has read that Jon has now quit his day job. There are rumors of his going to wild parties. There are also reports that Kate is estranged from her parents and from one of the ladies who has been featured on the show keeping the children from time to time. Who knows how much, if any of this, is true? Unfortunately, in the information age in which we live, people are hungry for this kind of information, true or not.
I cannot help but wonder if, when these children are grown (and it happens very fast) and the TV cameras are long gone, will they and their parents look back on all of this and think it was a good thing? Will it have been worth it to surrender their privacy for the rewards of being, at least for a period of time, celebrities?
For me, I have decided to do my part and leave them alone. I have all the drama I need right here in my own home. And I am plenty thankful there are no cameras rolling.