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Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard of Jon and Kate Gosselin. How can you miss them? They have been tabloid fodder for weeks. People can’t seem to get enough of them, especially since allegations of their marital infidelity have emerged. However, long before U.S. Weekly and People began profiting from their sinking relationship, America has been fascinated by the Gosselins. Millions tune in to TLC each week to watch Jon & Kate Plus Eight, which chronicles a day in the lives of a Pennsylvania family with eight children—twins and sextuplets—under the age of ten.
America loves families of multiples, and Jon and Kate is certainly no exception. The show has been a cash cow for TLC since its inception. This season, the Gosselins have continued to profit. The family reportedly earns $20-50K for each episode, which is a dream come true for a clan that struggled to make ends meet when the sextuplets were born. The current season is slated to air 40 episodes, and the lure of money, lavish all-expenses paid vacations, book deals, and paid speaking engagements have proved a powerful lure to continue the show. A record 9.8 million viewers tuned in for the Season Five premiere last month, and the Gosselin train shows no signs of stopping. Although the Gosselin children are growing up with the best that money can buy, there has been a tradeoff–the loss of a normal childhood.
Won’t someone please think of the children? Most five-year-olds have never even heard the word “paparazzi,” but the Gosselin children certainly have. They use a code word (the “P people”) to alert their mother when they are sighted. Even if the cameras stopped rolling tomorrow, would the children have any chance at a normal childhood? Maybe so. Maybe not. But shouldn’t they be given the chance to find out? I’m as big a Jon and Kate fan as the next reality television
voyeur viewer, but watching this season is just painful.
Apparently others agree, and TLC is being investigated for possible child labor law violations in Pennsylvania where the show is filmed. TLC and the Gosselins deny any impropriety. Some experts agree with them, especially in light of the current Pennsylvania child labor laws. Unlike California, which treats reality television actors like traditional stage actors, Pennsylvania does not. Furthermore, Pennsylvania’s child labor laws have no provision for reality stars. Therefore, it is unclear whether or not the Keystone State’s child labor laws apply to the show.
However, recent international events might be somewhat informative. Last week, the stars of a French reality television show won the right to overtime pay and holidays. By extending this ruling to the Gosselins’ situation, one might argue that the sextuplets are due five years’ (the entire duration of the show) of camera-free overtime and holidays. On the other hand, the argument is easily made that there is no “labor” going on in the Gosselin household, since TLC cameras merely follow their daily lives. However, where the show once focused on diaper duty with six kids and the difficulties of budgeting for a family of ten, their daily lives have turned into contrived last-minute spa vacations to the West Coast and guest appearances on other TLC shows.
So, what’s best for the kids? Some fans and extended family members are on a mission to have the show cancelled. They have dedicated a blog toward exposing the truth behind the cameras at http://www.gosselinswithoutpity.blogspot.com/ (GWP). They report details of Kate’s diva-like attitude on the “set” and Jon’s recent absences from family outings, and speculate about the children’s welfare. If GWP is to be believed, the kids are not happy and the family is falling apart. Each week, Jon and Kate tell their audience, “It may be a crazy life, but it’s our life.” Maybe their lives have gotten a little too crazy, and TLC should bow out.
– Abbey Morrow
Image courtesy of Barnes & Noble
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