Jon and Kate Plus Scandal

Jon and Kate

I’m surprised to find myself upset about a reality TV star having a very uncomfortable brush with reality. The incident could an unexpected benefit, though. The embarrassment of having a personal failing caught on camera might cause Jon to consider how his eight children feel about their televised lives.

Jon Gosselin, of Jon and Kate Plus Eight, has been photographed partying with young women, none of whom are his wife. Evidently, while visiting his mother, he crashed a local college party to play beer pong and was also seen in local bar with some of the college girls. An apparently very drunk Jon was photographed with two of his “fans.”

Jon is not a friend of mine, but I feel like I know him. After all, he and his wife invite me into their home on a daily basis to watch the trials and tribulations of raising twins and sextuplets. My kids love the show and I often watch it with them. The children are terrific, it’s easy to sympathize with the parents, and they leave their fundamentalist Christianity out of the show (though not out of their book, website, etc.). Admittedly, I find it a little tough to take the way that Kate is constantly berating Jon; but I figure that if it works for them, it shouldn’t matter to me.

Why is the incident so upsetting for a total stranger? Jon and Kate surely have their problems, like all married couples, but in an extraordinarily stressful situation, they appear to have created a happy marriage and a loving home. They emphasize their partnership and they clearly dote on their children. In short, they present the ideal of family life: challenging, complicated, but ultimately rewarding and satisfying.

It is disappointing to learn that the stress has become too much, that the ideal is no longer ideal and to imagine the resultant pain for Kate, their children, their families and their friends. It would be bad enough if the incident were relatively private, but Jon is a celebrity, and the news is being flashed from coast to coast, dramatically escalating the humiliation potential for Jon, for Kate, and for the children.

Yet if the incident has a bright side, it may be that it brings home for Jon and Kate, the price of the celebrity that they sought and enjoyed. When you are a reality TV star, the entire reality of your life is fair game, not just the carefully manicured part presented to the public. Jon and Kate consciously chose the life of celebrities, and have created some clear boundaries around themselves, even within the context of a reality show. Their eight children, on the other hand, couldn’t possibly give consent, and can’t possibly understand the ramifications of being displayed on television on a daily basis.

Jon and Kate have been honest about the fact that they agreed to the show in order to make enough money to support eight children and provide them with all the extras of a middle class life, while allowing Kate to remain at home. Yet they have made the children celebrities without their consent, and they have allowed their lives to be displayed in intimate detail without considering the ultimate consequences to the children themselves.

As Jon and Kate have just learned, probably to their great shame, fame comes with a very high price. You cannot go anywhere without being recognized. You cannot make mistakes without being photographed. And you cannot keep your transgressions private, to be resolved between yourself in whatever way you deem best.

The children are still small. The embarrassment of having their toilet training broadcast to the public may bother them when they are preteens, but it is unlikely to have any lasting effect. However, as they grow older, the foibles and issues may become more serious, and they will surely become more invested in their own privacy.

Jon’s drinking and partying with young girls is now public knowledge. Jon and Kate will not be able to protect them from it, as they might have done if they were any other couple. That is going to have a harmful impact even though they were not the perpetrators of the deed. How much more harmful will it be to have their own lives laid bare to the public?

I love the television show Jon and Kate Plus Eight, but the life of Jon and Kate and their children should not be on display for us, no matter how much we enjoy watching. Jon’s recent experience has illuminated in sharp relief the consequences of opening your life to public scrutiny. Jon and Kate made that choice, and they will live with the consequences, good and bad. The children never chose to be celebrities, and beyond the money, there appear to be no benefits for them in this arrangement.

In addition to reflecting on their marriage, this may be an opportunity to reflect on what they are doing to their children. Surely it would be difficult to walk away from the fame and marketing bonanza, but maybe it’s time to do just that. This could recent incident could have been a sign of problems, in more ways than one.