Jon and Kate back together again?

Kate crying

It’s only a matter of time until Kate begs Jon to come home.

Jon’s finally gotten Kate’s attention. Not by moving out, or gallivanting around with tarty women. She doesn’t care about that. He’s gotten her attention by threatening what she loves most in this world and I don’t mean her children. Jon has jeopardized Kate’s diva-dom, the gravy train she has ridden to celebrity and a bizarre haircut.

The ratings for Jon and Kate Plus Eight have dropped like a rock. From a high of 10.5 million viewers at the end of last season, only 3.5 million viewers tuned in for the most recent episode. People aren’t interested in watching a couple going through a messy divorce, and that’s hardly surprising. As I wrote last spring (Why are we fascinated with big families?):

I suspect we are fascinated because we stand in awe of the commitment required to deliberately choose a large family: the commitment to parenting as a lifestyle choice and the commitment to marriage that lies at the core of the decision to have many, many children.

In contemporary America, such a commitment is not only unfashionable; it is unfathomable.

If contemporary America could be distilled to one imperative, it would be this: The highest calling is self-actualization. Or, more colloquially, “it’s all about me.” In other words, being happy (and being happy is considered the highest state of being) requires doing what you want, when you want to, unfettered by obligations and commitments. Children are an obligation, a temporary detour on the road to a life devoted to self.

By separating and planning to divorce, Jon and Kate have demonstrated that they are just like everyone else. Both of them abandoned their commitment, and decided “it’s all about me.”

Kate put stardom ahead of being with her husband and family. He asked to her to stop traveling and spend more time with him and the kids. She needed the rush of attention, the entourage and the extra money that came from turning the children into an industry, not merely a TV show. The books and the speaking tours were necessary steps in building that industry. Visions of celebrity endorsements danced in her head.

Jon, for his part, has decided to meet this rejection with a startling display of immaturity, self-absorption and naivite. He is relying upon Michael Lohan for advice. You may remember him as the dysfunctional father of Lindsay Lohan, newly released from jail. Perfect! They can trade tips about how divorced dads can still profit from their children’s celebrity while failing to act like real fathers and stick around to raise their kids.

Jon and Kate have destroyed the main appeal of their show by putting their own desires ahead of the needs of their children, and the viewers have been quick to react. The drop in ratings is only a part of it.

While Jon and Kate have been very careful to keep their religious fundamentalism out of the TV show (probably on the advice of the network), the books and speaking engagements directly exploited that element. The books are published by a Christian publisher and are filled with Biblical quotes and testimonials about the role of their faith in their lives. The audiences for their speaking tours were conservative Christians. Needless to say, divorce will kill that market completely.

Kate wanted a divorce because Jon was interfering with the building of her personal celebrity and her financial empire. But forcing Jon out, though good for a temporary boost in ratings, will destroy the show and the money and celebrity that go with it. I suspect that it is only a matter of time before Kate begs Jon to come back.

The possibility of getting back together, with its inherent tension and doubt, would be a ratings bonanza, and the effort to repair their marriage back together would rescue her standing within the conservative Christian community. Imagine the rapturous greeting Kate would get if she claimed that it was their strong religious faith that led to a reconciliation.

Oh, and it might be good for the children, too, but who cares about them?