Modern Day Equivalent

So, it’s official now. Jon and Kate Gosselin are separating.

This provokes several opinions from me.

My first opinion is that this show, and these parents, are in need of a good, old-fashioned shaming and shunning, Mennonite-style. People must stop watching the show, period. And write to Discovery (parent channel of TLC) and say that the show has to go. But nothing will convince them more than a plummeting ratings chart. Both Jon and Kate have forgotten how to be parents in their desire to keep the cameras rolling.

I used to watch the show. I used to let Ane watch the show. It was clear at the end of last season that Jon was getting close to calling it quits. It was also clear that Kate didn’t want to quit the show that had provided them their meal ticket. And in the end, control-freak Kate won, while Jon… did something. Or not. Regardless, we the viewers have watched Jon be consistently and persistently henpecked and belittled by Kate for how many years now, and it is the rare occasion that he remembers that he has a spine and stands up to her.

My second opinion is that if there indeed ends up being a divorce, the parent who wishes to stop the show is the one who should be granted residential custody. Clearly, it is not in the best interests of the children to continue filming this show. Their parents have just split up on national television. How on earth will they ever be able to live this down?

And finally, I truly believe that we are watching the 21st century equivalent of the Dionne quintuplet story.

My grandmother is a collector of Dionne quintuplet memorabilia. I grew up knowing some of the story as she displayed bits and pieces around her house. She never went all out on it or anything, but because she had these dolls and old advertisements, I grew up knowing the names of Annette, Cecile, Emilie, Marie and Yvonne Dionne. As an older teenager and later, as an adult, I learned more of their sad story – including seeing a 1998 CBC documentary about the Dionne quintuplets and the fallout of their adulthood.

For those who don’t know the story, on May 28, 1934, Oliva and Elzire Dionne of Ontario, Canada, became the parents of the only surviving identical set of quintuplets ever recorded. The babies were a true medical miracle, because this was a pregnancy unassisted by any kind of reproductive technology. The odds on their conception are astronomical. The odds on their survival in 1934, at least two months premature, is even more shocking. And yet, they did.

However, the event of their birth was not to remain a mere medical miracle. The Canadian government made the babies, while still infants, wards of the state and stripped their parents of their rights. They were committed into the care of the doctor who delivered them, and for the next nine years, the girls lived in what was dubbed “Quintland,” a veritable money-making attraction where the public was invited in to see these miracle babies through windows and from behind fences. Estimates are that some 6,000 people a day went through to see the girls, who were little more than exhibits at a zoo. The parents finally won the girls back in 1943, but their lives were irrevocably damaged, and none of the girls grew up normally and were estranged from their family. Emilie died at age 20 from seizures. Marie died at age 35 from a blood clot in the brain. Yvonne died of cancer in 2001. Annette and Cecile, both divorced, are still alive and live together in Canada.

Now, think about the Gosselin sextuplets. They are a miracle of modern medicine. The fact that all six of them are alive and healthy is amazing, considering the many dangers of a multiple pregnancy.

But it wasn’t the government who decided to make a profit off their existence and survival. It was their own parents.

Granted, the beginning of the show was innocent enough. Discovery was looking for a human interest story about a family with a unusual set of multiples. The Gosselins were found. A hour-long special was done. And that was that. And reaction was so positive that a second hour-long special was done (detailing Kate’s first “makeover,” which included her tummy tuck). And then the series itself began. In the beginning, it was fun to watch, though right from the start you could tell that Kate was a neat freak (which then extended into a total-control freak) and that Jon was much more laid back and not really willing to rock the boat. And the kids were adorable and did cute kid things.

And thanks to that magic window of TV, we – millions of us – viewed them, and we didn’t even have to travel to Canada – I mean, Pennsylvania – to see them.

Jon and Kate have books available. They’ve endorsed products. The DVDs of their show are available to buy in many stores. They took several trips and received several perks all because of their unique family situation – including a recommitment wedding ceremony in Hawaii last year, which Kate claimed was to promise the kids that they would always be together.

That particular episode now feels like a sad, cruel joke when you think about how the eight kids must be feeling now.

The question is, what will we, the viewing public, now do? Do we continue to watch the train wreck in hopes that our curiousity will be satiated? Do we have enough willpower to turn away and let this family try and sort itself out – and if they can’t, can we still agree that it shouldn’t be watched?

The Gosselin kids have to live with the choices that Jon and Kate have made over the past few years to put their lives on display for all to see. Even if we find the parents worthy of condemnation, the very least that we can do is give the kids a little dignity and not voyeuristically watch their lives collapse around them.

Remember the Dionne sisters. Think of the Gosselin children. Perhaps this time, we can be people of conscience and let them live in peace, away from prying eyes. Stop watching the show.

The fun is over.

4 Responses to “Modern Day Equivalent”

  1. Grandma
    June 23rd, 2009 06:26

    Well stated.

  2. Ressis
    June 23rd, 2009 06:31

    I agree 100%! After the show aired, I took it off my Facebook page (where I was listed as a fan) and Oddball and I are talking about getting rid of the Season 1 & 2 DVDs that we have – they are so sad to watch now. We’ve both agreed to stop watching the show and to not let the kids watch it either (Little Cousin loved watching it, as the sextuplets were thirteen months older than her).

    What really bothers me is that BOTH Jon and Kate claim everything is done for the kids, that the kids are their top priority. Well that within itself is wrong: the marriage HAS TO come first, it is the keystone of the family and they let it fall apart. Kate neglected Jon for the show, and Jon neglected Kate for other stuff/people.

    In the first two seasons, Jon said many times how he is grateful to Kate for being the stay-at-home parent, because he knew he couldn’t do it and wouldn’t want to do it everyday. And what is he doing now? Staying home with the kids everyday and is miserable for it. And Kate’s off promoting their “business” (the kids).

    The concept of the show has completely changed from the first few seasons. In the beginning, they had the same friends (Beth, Aunt Jodi, Uncle Kevin, etc.) that were regularly coming in and out of the show. Where are those people now? Where are the crew that the kids, and viewers, knew the names of? All of the adult friends at the sextuplets birthday were strangers to me. What happened to date nights?

    Another thing that really irks me is that Kate said, more than once, that the “situation” had been going on for seven to eight months. So after seven to eight months of struggle you call it quits? That’s not thinking about the kids OR sending them the right message.

    I’ll get off my rant now.

  3. Aunt Lynda
    June 23rd, 2009 08:44

    I can remember being intensely curious about the Dionnes but, not watching much TV, only heard about the Jon and Kate thing when I began hearing promos for the last episode. Guess I’m glad I never watched. But I have to admit to a certain curiosity. I come upon the show about the little people in Oregon once in a while and tune in for a few minutes.
    But they are older and I don’t feel they exploit their kids. Or maybe.
    Good observations, Deanna.

  4. Oddball
    June 23rd, 2009 09:59

    We must remember one very important thing and that is we are on the outside looking in on them. Our view point is limited to what the network decides to show us, so we may never know everything but we will still have a very good idea of what went on.