Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Train Wrecks on TV

A while ago my wife became interested in the tv show "Jon and Kate Plus 8". As most of us know, the show stars (starred?) a husband and wife, Jon and Kate, and their two sets of multiple birth children -- twins and sextuplets. The show follows the family around as they go on vacations and outings, and whatever fun stuff the normal among us can't really afford to do (with a bunch of young kids).

As my wife watched the show of course I ended up watching it, too.

I don't remember if it was on the show itself, or if it was some news article I'd read at the time, but I remember hearing that the statistics for divorce among couples with multiples isn't very good. It seems like it was on the show, and they were talking about how they were going to beat the statistics. Pretty quickly after watching the first episode or two I'd seen of the show (it wasn't the first season) I said to my wife, "They're going to get a divorce." "You think so?" "I guarantee it."

Of course they ended up getting a divorce. Or wherever they are in the process now. Has it finalized yet?

For days before the official on-show announcement the news was all abuzz about the rumored impending divorce. Not just "People" magazine and similar, but places like CNN. Why a couple's divorce should be front page news on one of the most popular U.S. online news sites is beyond me, but there it was. (Oh, I know why it was front page. I just wish it wasn't. And feel guilty for clicking anyway.) And for weeks afterwards we were treated to Jon's latest girlfriends flings and Kate's "work" habits and rumored boyfriend whatever.

Why do we watch? Why is it front page news? Why does the show remain on the air -- when it certainly doesn't seem healthy for the children?

It's a train wreck on TV. And we just can't turn away from a train wreck.

It's just one part of the much larger reality tv fad, where we get to see real people have really crappy lives, and whatever.

But that's not really the purpose of the post.

My wife also watches another show, "18 Kids and Counting". This show stars a fairly strict Christian couple who are fairly strictly (not harshly) raising a family of 18 children. (Soon to be 19.)

Why do we watch it? Why do I watch it? It's reality TV. We want to see people who we believe are worse than us. My wife likes to make fun of the girls' hair. "They all look the same." "Are they not allowed to wear pants?" "Pregnant again? That makes me sick." (Literally sick. She's been nauseated lately.) I admit I find myself wanting to make fun of their particular brand of religion.

I keep waiting for some train wreck. Surely the TV life will screw up their family, just like it did for Jon and Kate's.

And yet, after all of the episodes I've seen, I can't see anything that shows they are anything other than a happy, well-functioning family. I am honestly and completely impressed by the entire family. Too many kids? Nope. They all seem loved and cared for. They have a big enough house and a bus. Too conservative? They seem to have plenty of fun, and seem to build loving relationships with others. The worst thing about the show is that the father's name is Jim Bob, and he doesn't even have buck teeth or a beer gut, and has an IQ of at least 100.

Maybe there is some cancer there. Maybe someday we'll see that they really were all angry and bitter and fighting with each other all the time, and the parents get divorced and the kids all become druggies, or at least militant atheists (which may be worse to the parents). But I don't wath that. I want them to succeed. I want them to be the family who proves us all wrong -- that some families are strong enough to survive life in front of a camera. Beyond that, I want to see a family that can stake out some standards that are more strict than the society around them and show that the enjoyability of life has not been diminished.

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