“Kate Plus Eight?” more like Kate Minus Eight. TLC’s hit show, now canceled, is just one of many examples of how some in our society still take pleasure in watching lives fall apart through broadcast in the media, and how we are increasingly desensitized to human suffering. It also shows how this genre causes us to forget the consequences of poor decision making.
The show (then called “Jon and Kate Plus Eight”) first documented the lives of Jon and Kate Gosselin as they raised their eight children, the result of two pregnancies. Kate suffered from poly-cystic ovary syndrome, and wanting kids, attempted intrauterine insemination three times. First there were twins, then sextuplets. TLC found them and proposed a reality series, which they accepted. The show started out cute and innocent, but sharply took a turn for the worst when rumors spread and the couple divorced, leaving Kate a single mom. The downward spiral of relationships and Kate’s mental health caused the show to be canceled by the network.
After viewing the second-to-last episode, I was disturbingly engrossed, and I’m sure many others were as well. The Gosselin kids will probably be emotionally scarred. Kate burned a lot of bridges and didn’t consider their feelings as she did so. It was like watching a horror movie. At the same time that I felt disgusted, I was entertained.
For many of us, watching the news or reading about stars who slowly destroy their image -and their lives -with substance abuse and poor decisions, is an acceptable pastime. We always want to know who’s in rehab and who’s spewing nonsense to an interviewer and who has what condition, when these are serious life-threatening problems, and should be treated as such.
We also let stupid people think they can do whatever they want, a good example being the hit show “Jersey Shore.” Many of the stars think that regular rules don’t apply to them, so they make poor decisions, even going as far as endangering the lives of those around them, such as driving under the influence.
The audience this affects the most are teens and young adults. They may think that it’s okay to spend all their time being irresponsible, not understanding that in the real world it can cause serious emotional, financial and social problems. This can eliminate future opportunities and jobs.
There are many shows just like this, where we document the lives of senseless individuals and watch them fall flat on their faces for cheap kicks. More encouragement of immoral behavior among youth can be seen in shows such as “Teen Mom” and “16 & Pregnant.” While attempting to show the consequences of unprotected sex among teens, it usually glorifies the situation, making it seem “cool” or “hip” to become pregnant at an early age. It also seems like it is becoming a way for girls to gain sympathy and attention.
Surely there are other ways to entertain ourselves, but most of us seem to prefer the unsophisticated and spiraling lives of reality TV stars and celebrities (The former not being too realistic to begin with) and become lost in the chaos and drama. For example, the premiere of the fourth season of “Jersey Shore” drew 8.8 million viewers, with 6.5 million being aged 12 to 34. As much as we deny it, it’s a part of our culture and society.
Although none of us can truly stop ourselves from turning off the television every week when there’s a new episode, we can at least take a step back and know to not stoop to the levels portrayed. Parents and educators can even use these shows to instruct kids and teens on what not to do. My suggestion? Think twice before you take pleasure in someone else’s pain. It might just make the world a better place.