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Washington Voices

Jon and Kate minus one TV viewer

One can only hold one’s curmudgeon hormones in check for so long, so be forewarned, they’re surging today and I’m taking no prisoners. Proceed at your own risk.

I so dearly wish that Kate and Jon Gosselin will fall quickly into that deep pit of ignominity and obscurity that they so richly deserve. And while we’re at it, may so-called reality shows die a quick and brutal death and may the magic wand that Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones use in the “Men in Black” films erase the memories of people who have had experiences with aliens and may it be employed to mercifully and forever remove the memory of reality television from our minds.

Wait, I’m just getting started.

First, for those of you just awaking from a coma, the Gosselins – the ickiest symbols of reality TV – are two people who thought their children’s lives fair game for the trivialization that comes with media exposure and so have been raising (parading?) them in front of cameras on a TV show called “Jon & Kate Plus 8,” changed recently to “Kate Plus Eight” since the marriage apparently is on the rocks.

To be truthful, I have never seen the show (though I have seen excerpts), but I feel as if I have, mostly because these parents are inescapable. They’re on magazine covers, on morning news shows, on talk shows and being talked and written about everywhere (including, sadly, right here). What an appetite for drivel we have.

Now, I do enjoy my share of mindless TV watching, but I am distressed at what the worst of reality TV offers and brings out in us.

I turned on the “Today” show one morning not long ago, and there was Kate with her impossible hairdo talking about how Jon had cleaned out a checking account leaving her unable to pay bills. She hadn’t wanted to speak of these things, you understand, but here she is, poor woman, trying her best for her children and, pause, well, what’s a mother to do? How about keeping your yap shut and feigning a little dignity.

Please don’t think I’m taking the guy’s side. Slimy Jon appeared on TV shortly after, spewing forth about the $2 million he said Kate had for the family’s needs. Puhleeze.

I’m sorry, but these people deserve each other and really, really, really need to get booted off the island. Good thing their children are young and don’t know about the artificiality and tawdriness of all this. Yeah, right. Video is forever. These kids will see it all one day, and won’t they be proud?

Sadder still is us. We’re eating up this stuff and demanding more, as the market is burgeoning. A friend once remarked about Simon Cowell (the bully judge) and what had happened to a contestant on the previous night’s “American Idol.” I replied I hadn’t seen it. Why not, I was asked. Because I don’t care, came the answer.

Yes, I know, I am offending a whole bunch of people who like these shows, and if you are one of them, please refer to the opening paragraph of this rant.

There are really fat people appearing shirtless on TV, sweating and grunting and being yelled at to lose weight and get fit. How desperate they must be to humiliate themselves like that, and how voyeuristic and cruel we must be to watch. Yes, yes, I know it’s all supposed to be inspirational and motivating and educational. And we girls read “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” when we were young because it was great literature and the boys were reading “Playboy” for the articles.

But back to the miscreant parents. What happened to the simple of idea of not exploiting your children, of raising them quietly and privately so they can flourish without pretense? And what happens to these children’s concept of self and reality when the camera lights get turned off, as they surely will (please let it be soon) some day? And how could these parents play out the drama of their family breakup so visibly and unattractively?

Well, stupid me – for the money, of course. For a grab at fame, despite the collateral damage it may well cause young little lives (know of many well-adjusted adults who were TV stars as kids?). And all the while, Mom and Dad relish their parts (you know, concerned parents, the roles they play on TV), displayed before any and all who will listen and watch, which happens to be most of us.

Are we really so shallow, so vapid, such voyeurs and so without something better to do that we lap all this up? Why, yes, we are.

Voices correspondent Stefanie Pettit can be reached by e-mail at Previous columns are available


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