Breaking the Fourth Wall

Now you see it, now you don't...depending upon what reality television production wants you to believe about the making of Jon & Kate plus Eight. I think it's very easy and comfortable for many viewers to sit and watch these shows with no discernment at all as to what it actually requires to create a show like this week after week. I am more likely to watch with more interest in how and why this show happens, and what it takes to keep a production like this going for years on end. I think of the toll it takes on all involved as well as life-changing procedures that must happen within the home or "set" to produce such a show week after week, year after year. It is very easy to forget about the "fourth wall" as we sit complacently watching a gaggle of cute children interact in what we think is their normal and everyday lives. Reality television production doesn't want the viewer to think about the fourth wall much. We have heard Jenn ask Kate questions that could prompt a controversial answer now and then, but for the most part she and her crew want to remain invisible. This never makes them go away in real life, however and the wall is there in every single thing we see as viewers, whether we think of it's impact or not.

What is the fourth wall? A busy, needy, time and space consuming staff of production, sound and camera people with all of their lights, cameras and equipment and electric cords running everywhere behind the camera. It also includes all of the brainstorming required to create episodes out of thin air when content is used, and used, and over-used again and again, planning, making the home appropriate for a film stage, scheduling, re-scheduling, and re-shooting of episodes gone bad, editing, going back and shooting once again when public outcry requires schedule changes, damage control. Let's also remember how the fourth wall removes peace and sanctuary from the home environment and every activity the family participates in while being filmed and prompts activities that may not otherwise be done, for the sake of 40-50 episodes a year.

Would living this way make any of us feel weary and stressed, day after day—year after year? Would it change forever the dynamics of the family, change personalities within the family? Would living this way cause a high-strung mother to lose her temper more often than ever? This is the only life the Gosslings know, "Life Behind the Fourth Wall". Perhaps this will be a great tell-all book at some point in the future. Would any of us like our own children to be in a place where they may have enough content to fill a book such as this when they are grown and trying to come to terms with how they were required to lived their young lives in Central PA? Will this type of stressful lifestyle cause further estrangement within a family already isolated from close relatives in the future?

19 comments:

FIONA said...

Uh, NO!

sabrinasmom said...

I think everyone that watches the show realizes what "the fourth wall" entails - that's why most of us are galled that these "parents" would subject their children to it. IMO

WatchOverThem said...

I know there are a number of us that think this show does exploit the lives of the Gosselin children, but there are many that think it's just fine. This is where I tend to believe that many viewers watch without thinking about the logistics of producing the show. There are comments under the post "Degrees of Abuse and Exploitation" just a few posts back, made by someone that is somewhat familiar with the child welfare system and child psychology stating that professionals they know think the filming of Jon & Kate + 8 isn't harmful to the kids in any way.

Serena said...

There are comments under the post "Degrees of Abuse and Exploitation" just a few posts back, made by someone that is somewhat familiar with the child welfare system and child psychology stating that professionals they know think the filming of Jon & Kate + 8 isn't harmful to the kids in any way.

Maybe they need to read this article, as cited in one of our earlier blog entries.

WatchOverThem said...

That is such a great article, Serena...I wish more people would take note of these issues.

laura linger said...

I can't imagine living that way. I value my privacy far too much. I don't feel a need to live my life out on television for the entire world to see.

As for whether or not this kind of a life is exploitation of the Gosselin children, I would urge everyone to do some research on the lives of the Dionne Quintuplets, then come back, and YOU tell ME if it's exploitation.

Anonymous said...

What I would find interesting to know is what Jon & Kate's description of 'normal' is. They ademately claim that they are parenting and raising their children in the most normal way possible. Normal by whose standards? TLC and the production crew? J&K's own self serving agenda? The episodes featuring the children's day out were very telling. Their visits to kid and family centric activities, ie rollar skating, Bounce U, et. the businesses were completely void of other children and families. Some even closed to the general public on that particular day and or closed to public for J&K filming purposes only. This example is not meant to represent an example of exploitation of the children, but it speaks volumes to how TLC, its production crew, as well as J & K are USING these children to create and produce scripted scenerios and presenting them to the viewing audience as 'Gosselin Reality'. What is really sad, Cara's special day out was a completely manufactured event that more than likely included production negotiations, accomodations for filming, ie no public access, and scheduling demands and deadlines. I strongly believe that this show has crossed the line of reality tv and 'a day in the life of' and the children are being used as actors and pawns by TLC, as well as their own parents for monetary gain!

erin said...

Ok, this is my last post, as I mentioned on a previous entry, this is clearly not a place for differing opinions. However, your comments are about a comment I made and I really resent the implication that I sit back and watch with a lazy eye. I also resent the asking if I have children (because having children apparently makes a person singularly qualified to speak about what is or is not appropriate). I did read the article, and I agree that reality tv is not the best of all situations for a child. I have watched the show, I have considered the implications of studio lighting, and a schedule that is so regimented. But I also considered that the children are well fed, provided for, have a loving and caring set of parents, and what seems to be (even without the grandparents) a loving and wide support system. To me the children seem well adjusted and happy. What I was trying to point out (a point that seems to have been missed) was that minds can differ as to the *abuse* issue. I understand abuse, believe me. Abuse has varying degrees, and lines that get crossed that are very fuzzy lines--I realize this. I also think that this is a volatile and sensitive issue as any issue of this weight should be. I just don't think the line has been crossed into abuse in this situation. I am a survivor of psychological and emotional abuse (I *do* understand that abuse is not always physical, though people have also questioned that). I have also advocated for children my entire career, so the implication that I don't understand or don't know abuse is kind of insulting. I felt I was respectful in my posts, and I admitted that it is not my way or no way--just that my opinion differed. I thought that a different opinion would be acceptable, but clearly it wasn't and I picked the wrong spot. However, I would ask you to please not assume that because my opinion differs I don't take child abuse very seriously, or that I don't really know anything about abuse or child advocacy.

WatchOverThem said...

Erin--Yes, these are volatile issues as I have posted several times previously. I understand that you work in child advocacy and have more than likely seen many cases of much more severe abuse and neglect of children than what we see with the Gosselins. I, even in my "volunteer" role have also and I have also posted about that. As my original post states, it's degrees I speak about. Seeing a child burned, slashed, addicted, beat up or neglected is not fun. I'm sure you know that many of these children ARE loved by their parents, even if they are incapable of acting appropriately as parents. I'm sorry that you feel singled out as an example of those that I see may watch the show without understanding the full implications of filming, from what I can see. Your comments about your own role and your father's role were posted here, and I used them as an example, not with the intention of singling you out, simply using a convenient example that I could grab in my reply.

The Dionne Quints lived a lifetime trying to recover from the exploited lives they were forced to live behind glass. Is the camera lens much different for the Gosselins? I know that Jon and Kate love their children. I see them as making immature decisions regarding their lifestyle and also see that this reality tv lifestyle could use some legislation and protection as other child actors are provided with.

I do have one final question for you, and would appreciate a response--do you think that filming these children in private bathing and dressing situations by camera crews would have different limits on it than in other industries? Would a child actor be filmed nude legally? Would a daycare facility involved in, perhaps, documentary filming be legally in line if the children were filmed in the bathroom or having clothing changed? Does it matter that film is edited out for the show, while nude footage exists? How did Hannah's nude footage make it to YouTube, and if that was your daughter being viewed in the nude over 12000 times, how would you react?

You did offend me with your CASA statement, and I do understand that CASA may be different throughout the US but my experience is of utmost professionalism as an organization and we are very well respected by our judges and GALs/States Attorneys here. Caseworkers don't always like us because we require them to do their jobs at a higher level, on behalf of the children. I would have hoped that my post was written in such a way that I sounded somewhat educated and intelligent, trained more than 6- 12 hours, but I guess not. Anyway, I go my way also and do my best to bring light to a situation of time, space and possible child labor issues in an industry that is fast paced and perhaps moving more quickly than what would be best for children involved in the shows. I don't need to have a degree in law or psychology or social work to be intelligent and effective as a voice for children.

erin said...

This will be my last post, since you asked for a response (then I'm through, I promise :) ) and I apologize in advance that it will be long. I honestly did not mean to offend, I was pointing out that (in my system at least) there is often a lack of training in the CASA system which in my personal experience has created some problems. I have also stated repeatedly that the system differs/the role of a CASA v. a GAL differs per state and I was speaking from personal experience--not as an expert on state specific programs. As I stated before I apologize profusely for offending, I wouldn't do that intentionally and I honestly believe that child advocacy is an important function that more people should get into. I also don't think you have to have any degrees to advocate, my intention was not in any way to imply a degree makes me any better than any one else. As for jumping on me--I was jumped on, which happens when there is an issue like this where people feel strongly and have differing opinions. And I expected that to an extent, but I feel that it has been borderline rude and insulting (questioning my own knowledge of the system, in a way my own professionalism, as long as the non-professional opinion of my professional father) when I had tried to be respectful of other viewpoints and merely presenting one of my own. In my work I *have* seen children who are horribly abused, and it is gut wrentching at times. I have also seen parents, for example, who loved their children more than anything but due to drug addiction couldn't provide the right kind of environment for their children. The list goes on and on, and as I stated before there are degrees of abuse and reasonable people can differ about where the lines are and what rises to the level of abuse--especially in questionable cases. I have also seen people accused of abuse and the fall-out from such accusations that have been found to be groundless. The point of my posts (which I thought I had articulated but maybe not) was that WITH ALL THAT HAS BEEN PRESENTED TO ME, the situation is not ideal, and could stand improvement does not IN MY OPINION rise to the level of ABUSE. Do I think there should be regulation? Yes. Do I think that personal times should be respected? Yes. Again, not ideal-needs improvement. I don't, however, believe the Gosselin children should be removed from their parents (which I know no one has directly said, but seems to be unspoken consensus) and I don't believe that the parents are abusive. I make these comments also from a very personal place--I advocate for children because as a survivor of abuse myself I felt that I didn't have an advocate. I take abuse very seriously, and I understand that abuse comes in degrees and in different ways. I also understand a not-ideal situation does not always rise to the level of abuse and it sometimes does. I *have* watched this show with a critical eye--these people don't deserve medals for having 8 children or actually providing for them. I do not know them, I don't even really like them (well, I think the kids are adorable, but beyond that I could give or take having them on TV). I simply thought to provide a different opinion (which in the future I'll keep to myself). There appears to be no discussion here, which I should have realized, but I was a little naive. I resent in the deepest personal way that people would question my advocacy, or belittle me because of a differing opinion.

Not a Sheeple said...

Erin said,

As I stated before I apologize profusely for offending, I wouldn't do that intentionally and I honestly believe that child advocacy is an important function

and as I stated before there are degrees of abuse and reasonable people can differ about where the lines are and what rises to the level of abuse

Do I think there should be regulation? Yes. Do I think that personal times should be respected? Yes. Again, not ideal-needs improvement. I don't, however, believe the Gosselin children should be removed from their parents (which I know no one has directly said, but seems to be unspoken consensus) and I don't believe that the parents are abusive.

I also understand a not-ideal situation does not always rise to the level of abuse and it sometimes does. I *have* watched this show with a critical eye--these people don't deserve medals for having 8 children or actually providing for them. I do not know them, I don't even really like them (well, I think the kids are adorable, but beyond that I could give or take having them on TV). I simply thought to provide a different opinion (which in the future I'll keep to myself).


First Erin, thank you for sharing your opinion. I don't think you need to apologize for having a different opinion. Child advocacy is indeed important and needed in our country.

As you say there are degrees of abuse and also of neglect.

Personally I, too, would see no reason to remove the children from the home at this time. But like you I do see real room for improvement. I think you could have a place here discussing the areas where Jon and Kate and perhaps production could improve the environment and interactions for the children. I just realized this morning that in a small way the show is helping the children. It has become obvious that Figure 8 or TLC has people reading the boards and some episodes have enough in them of our wants and wishes for us to recognize them. After Jon saying how he never took the three boys out just for fun and Kate saying she had never done a cooking project with the younger girls it made me think that without the show would Jon and Kate have EVER done the days with single children or would they have even now not known the simple pleasure of the boys running free on the grass and stairs and muching whatever it was Joel was getting from the snack bag. The three younger girls had never been to the market with mom? How sad and how silly? I'm sure there are other things you can mention along the lines of what could be improved and how they should be protected during filming that would be welcome by many of us.

Just another viewpoint from the sofa.

Serena said...

I don't, however, believe the Gosselin children should be removed from their parents (which I know no one has directly said, but seems to be unspoken consensus)

I don't think there is a consensus of any kind like that here, either spoken or unspoken. All I want is to see the Gosselin children protected under the same rights afforded to any other children in the industry.

It's a pretty straightforward agenda with no evil undercurrents.

erin said...

Clearly I'm addicted! This is not the best use of vacation time, but I did want to thank "Not a Sheeple" for the kind words. I am careful about Jon and Kate because in this line of work it is rare to find parents who admit their parenting mistakes and actually take steps to improve. When you find them, you appreciate them (and one such person, who managed to admit faults, work them out, and regain custody is *still,* years later, my proudest moment in the field). You also have to remain cautious because often the words are just lip service. I grudgingly admit they have shown some awareness, but it remains to be seen whether there will be follow through (hence the room for improvement but not at the level of abuse).

WatchOverThem said...

Erin-I apologize also if what I posted sounded offensive or questioned your professionalism, I don't think I wrote that anywhere. Once again it was only an example of what an opposing opinion might believe and might observe differently than my own. I never wrote that you or your father didn't have the training or expertise to do your jobs effectively, just that you weren't seeing things as I see them. I can only speak for myself, and I don't think that the Gosselin children should be removed from the home, I have never stated that. I DO think that Jon and Kate could treat the reality television situation differently, in a way that protects the children's childhood better. I DO think that legislation should change regarding these reality tv situations with children. I DO think that Jon and Kate could benefit from some family counseling or parenting classes to help deal with a complex situation thrust upon them as young and perhaps somewhat immature parents. This is not a professional opinion, just a common sense observation from what I can see from this show editing or no editing.

BTW, we all have our stuff, my bi-polar, alcoholic dad committed suicide when I was 24, after a lifetime of struggling with his disease while those around him struggled terribly with it also. I have come out of that and have been blessed with success and remarkable children that work hard for their success. I volunteer my time to CASA as a way to "pay it forward" so to speak, for the stressful life I have been fortunate to leave behind. I work with over a hundred like minded professional people that also volunteer thousands of hours a year, collectively to make our program valuable to our community. We raise hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to maintain this program, that is funded just a little through the state and county. We have 8 full time professionals in our county's CASA office supporting us as trained volunteers. I may have been a little quick to question your CASA experience, but we work so hard here to make a difference, non of us advocates are paid, and all of us have other things we could spend this time on, we choose the kids. It's unfortunate that a program this strong hasn't been developed in Ohio, as we do it all for the benefit of our community and it's most vulnerable little people. I wish you the best, and wish better for the Gosselin children.

Not a Sheeple said...

You're welcome. It's interesting to see which part of the show or Jon and Kate's behavior twitches the nerves of different people. I have a friend whose hubby is a social worker. His office routinely has fits on Tuesday discussing the previous night's episode. I think they all agree the family needs help but their opinions seem to run from put J&K into mandatory parenting classes right now to moving the kids out at least temporarily. I expect without actually doing home visits and getting workups on J&K and the kids, it could be up in the air exactly what we'd recommend. I had thought the show was just horrible for the kids until realizing it is forcing Jon and Kate to actually do things with the kids they apparently are too lame or lazy to think of doing on their own.

FIONA said...

Erin,

I agree with the other's...I don't think anyone on here sees the need to have the kids removed. But as you said and Serena, there is room for improvement. Maybe TLC is just showing us what we want...maybe not. But last night, Kate seemed clearly pissed, sad, etc. Is that because of fallout from the show, her marriage, TLC telling her to get off her ass and be a MOM, who knows. My agenda is awareness for the children. Everyone has their own reason for being here, their own cause. For me, since I was little, multiples have always drawn me in. How could these beautiful kids not do the same. I loved the show in the beginning...even liked kate a bit. But when all the bitchiness and lies and deceipt came out, my feelings changed. I do not think Jon and Kate are great parents. I do believe they love their kids. I also think they do need help parenting. And I think Kate needs her own help.

Hope you stay.

Autumnn said...

OMG removing the kids is just out of hand to suggest. It's not that bad. Go to the inner city and see real child abuse.

I can honestly say I just think Kate is a neat freak and control freak. But they do love their kids.
Kate may benefit from some therapy but that's it...

Serena said...

OMG removing the kids is just out of hand to suggest.

That's why NO ONE HERE has suggested it.

Autumnn said...

I think they need to start a new show "kate's therapy" LOL we'd have a ton of material then.

Kate in a session and then on the flipside of the therapy session have the other half tell their side.