But what about Jon and Kate themselves?
The Gosselins' first special was poignant. You felt how difficult things were. Kate certainly wasn't made up or glamorous in the least. In fact, she was just the opposite, with her unstyled hair and t-shirts and sweat pants.
The second hour-long episode made me squirm. I thought taking advantage of a free tummy tuck -- though yes, her "belly-after-babies" was pretty unattractive -- was strange. I thought it was strange that a viewer offered it and strange that Kate accepted it and especially strange that she also wanted her breasts done and lived with the plastic surgeon and his wife for a week afterwards.
Like other "real families on tv," Kate and Jon have gradually given up more of themselves to make more money. I know people here have unfavorably compared them to the Roloffs of LPBW, but there isn't much difference, except in LPBW, the kids are older and can say no, to some degree. Like LPBW, J&K Plus 8 has gradually turned into a show that focuses not specifically on the unusual challenges of the particular family, but the perks they receive for allowing people to film them. Both families have enjoyed expensive, atypical vacations, extensive home renovations and now, apparently, J&K are rumored to be receiving a new home.
But all this comes at such a high cost that, to most people, the whole thing seems unfathomable. One difference is that the Roloffs seem to take a more relaxed attitude toward their filming. Jon and Kate appear to have completely forgotten their life from even three quarters of a year ago, when, at the time, they still seemed to be striving for a balance between filming, Jon's job, the twins' schooling, and raising their family.
I expect that with forty or fifty episodes in a "season," TLC will experience quicker viewer burnout than if the new episodes are spaced out a little. Yes, right now ratings are unbelievably strong. But how many times can we watch the same family doing the same things over and over? And I'm sure TLC loves the controversy -- none of these anti-Gosselin sites are going to stop the madness or, of course, the check-cashing of millions of dollars in ad revenue. In time, viewers will turn to the next big family or idea de jour and all of the money TLC has dumped into the Jon-and-Kate machine will disappear. Of course, then this family will more than likely be shattered, if not physically, then emotionally.
Yet Jon and Kate don't appear to register any of this.
I imagine all the money, especially after what appears to be some amount of deprivation in their earlier married years, must feel heady. And yes, I'm sure some people are jealous of their current, very cushy lifestyle. But at what sacrifice? I would guess that between product endorsements, speaking engagements, and actual shows, the Gosselins are raking in over a million a year, maybe more. It must be exciting to suddenly see your bank account grow plump, to be able to buy, for the first time in your lives, anything you want. It must be wild to live with nearly twenty-four-hour-a-day help, getting ready to build a free house that most Americans can never imagine living in, and the satisfaction that you've achieved a level of "income" you could never have imagined just a few years earlier.
But Jon and Kate can't see what they've sold away -- not only all of their privacy, but also all of their dignity, all of their future, for the sake of money -- money that, if they are not extremely careful, will disappear a whole lot more quickly than they know right now. I just have to wonder why they don't see what they've sold and how much more that's going to cost them in the end. Jon and Kate, there's no such thing as a free lunch. Truly.
Submitted for publication via email from Anonymous.