We don't pretend to understand the appeal of TLC's Jon & Kate Plus 8, but its season premiere brought in a whopping 9.8 million viewers last night—that's more than last week's Lost season finale. So why is this Kate woman complaining that people are interested in her life?
US Weekly, which has been leading the charge in reporting on the apparent failure of Jon and Kate Gosselin's marriage, has produced no less than four covers devoted to the family, the most recent of which, we hear, outsold by a smidge People's exclusive interview with Bristol Palin. Last night's premiere set a record for TLC in terms of its share of the 18-to-34-year-old viewing audience. The Gosselin's are a phenomenon. And they hate it. Because they just wanted to live their lives like normal people with a reality show, and the tabloid media has ruined it for them.
From an Associated Press story on the premiere party for the show:
"I have a lot of anger," she summed up, "because this is not where we were supposed to be, this is not what I envisioned for us."
From another AP story on the boomerang effect of fame in the age of reality TV:
In short, Americans who traffic in the commodity that is their lives - Hollywood actors and reality-TV stars alike - aren't at all happy when their carefully calibrated reality bursts out of the cages they have built to contain it.
"It destroys people's lives," Kate Gosselin of "Jon & Kate" said at a recent appearance - a publicity appearance - in Michigan....
"This is certainly not what I envisioned I was signing up for," Gosselin said during the Michigan appearance. "When I see magazines in stores, it's really difficult. It amazes me there is an industry that follows you around and writes stories about you...."
"It's hard being on this side of the camera," Jon Gosselin says in one Webisode. "People see your life as episodes ... I mean, we don't have privacy at all. If I go out, people know I go out, and photograph it and do everything they gotta do to do something about it."
We don't watch the show enough to know whether the Gosselins could fairly be described as clinically incapable of normal ratiocination—some kind of right brain/left brain split, maybe?—which under typical circumstances one would have to be in order to resent the curiosity that they have so assiduously worked to inspire in their lives. In fact, it doesn't really seem so crazy once you consider that, for the Gosselins, being on a reality TV show is not an extraordinary effort to draw attention to yourself—it's just another way station on any family's path to the American Dream.
These people see themselves as just a normal family, doing what any normal family would—attempt to enrich themselves by packaging themselves into a marketable narrative and partnering with a cable network to deliver that narrative to an audience. The center of gravity of celebrity and and privacy in our culture has been yanked so far out of whack that there is a sense of entitlement when it comes to inviting a camera crew to document the minutiae of one's life. It's normal behavior now, and it ought not inspire the sort of tabloid feeding frenzy that accompanies old-world, analog celebrity. You wouldn't harass some poor woman with a camera just for walking down the street, would you? Even if you knew she was cheating on her husband, you wouldn't tell the world, would you?
As far as the Gosselins are concerned, they are just walking down the street. It amazes Kate Gosselin that an industry exists to document her life—even as she participates avidly in the documentation of her own life—because she never imagined that there is anything out of the ordinary about inserting yourself as noisily as possible into the cultural conversation by whatever means are available. Being on a successful reality TV show is now part of what being an American is about. Why would you punish her for it?