The Gosselins are the stars of the highest rated show on TLC – “John & Kate Plus 8.” America is simply fascinated with how a family of eight manages everyday activities that we take for granted. From potty training, to ear piercing, each adventure with the Gosselins reminds us that no matter how hectic our personal lives are, Jon and Kate endure a level of insanity that is in the stratosphere. Since our introduction to them on a one-hour special entitled “Surviving Sextuplets and Twins,” they have become our new age Ozzie and Harriet; a televised guide to pure Americana.
When rumours recently surfaced that Jon might be having an affair with 23 year old Deanna Hummel after he was filmed leaving a bar with her, Americas favourite family suddenly appeared to be in trouble. Jon released the following statement after the incident, “These allegations are false and just plain hurtful I did not cheat on Kate. I need to be more careful and aware of who I am associating with and where I am spending my time,” said Gosselin. Instead of showing pity for the victimized party – Kate Gosselin, the public immediately began to attack her.
Kate’s no nonsense, brash style has publicly been declared the reason that Jon was unfaithful. It isn’t enough that she is kept busy all day raising eight kids, shopping, cooking and cleaning; the fact that she is not submissive to Jon’s every whim and has ideas about what the family should and should not do is deemed unacceptable. How dare the nations “brood mare” actually have a mind of her own?
Jon’s alleged infidelity took place while Kate was promoting her new book, Eight Little Faces: A Mom’s Journey, and many speculate had she been home raising the kids instead of leaving Jon to his own devices, no suspicion would have been cast on Jon in the first place.
Many commentators site concern for Cara, Mady, Alexis, Hannah, Aaden, Leah, Joel, and Collin. What kind of mother makes a profit from her children to begin with? Allowing invasive cameras into a family home has proven to be a disaster for many families and therefore Kate’s desire to replace the income that she lost from being a nurse when she had to stay home and care for her children is secondary.
Why aren’t she and Jon willing to live in a dump, subsisting on a diet of rice and beans so that Kate can be the perfect, long-suffering mother? – This what the public appears to be effectively saying. Saving for something as important as college, apparently should not deter them from saying goodbye to their successful television show.
When asked about her marriage by People Magazine, Kate responded:
“I don’t know that we’re in the same place anymore, that we want the same thing,” she says quietly. “I’ve been struggling with the question of ‘Who is this person?’ for a while. I remember where I was the first time I heard her name. It’s one of those things where you can try to make it go away, but there’s blaring, red flashing lights.”
The indignation in this quote is juxtaposed against the latest gossip wherein Kate herself is also accused of adultery. Her bodyguard has been identified as her alleged partner in lust and infidelity. Kate has vehemently denied the allegations and claims that
“The scary thing for me is [the tabloids] are going to take information and create a story. It’s a matter of, ‘When will they stop?’ They’re going to keep going, and they’ll make up stuff to connect the dots.”
Marriage is a difficult endeavour for a couple in the best of circumstances. Jon and Kate have the same financial worries as the so-called typical American family, coupled with responsibility of raising 8 children. While many continually comment on the lack of supposed intimacy between the two, it is easy to forget how often smaller families fail under far less stress. Reality television or not, the nuclear family that we have idealized as the perfect living arrangement does not work for many. This is evidenced by the high divorce rate.
Infidelity is something that happens on a daily basis and we only feel entitled to comment on the situation with Jon and Kate because of their television show. Those that express concern for the children are actually not acting in their best interest, because the speculation about the solidity of their family is occurring in a way that makes it impossible for the kids to remain unaware. It is further detrimental for their mother to be so publicly demonized.
Jon and Kate have had to make the sacrifices and choices that they have because they are not independently wealthy. The US is not a society that supports the so-called traditional family, despite the promotion of reproduction and heterosexual pairing. Capital and not people is what is valued. There is a limited amount of maternity leave, no socialized daycare, and medical care has to be paid for privately. It is easy to stand on the outside and criticize when we have nothing personal at stake in their success or failure.
The Gosselins may well be the new American family, in that by publicly going through this recent marital turbulence, they reveal that the state of the patriarchal family is not necessarily the best or most operational model any longer. As we weigh in on who is at fault and if the marriage will last, we are actually sitting in judgement of the entire modern day family unit as a whole. Some will fall back on patriarchal defensiveness and assign blame based on gender rather than consider that a living arrangement that we have prioritized is simply not feasible in many instances. Whether or not Jon and Kate continue to grace the airwaves, publicly displaying the difficult moments of marital discord and the trials and tribulation of raising a family, depends on whether or not we can accept that fact that marriage is not the stuff of Disney movies.