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Jon & Kate + 8 Minus Sophie

It's easy to not want to hear another word about the Gosselin family. And though we just talked about the show fairly recently, I thought my colleague Jennifer LaRue Huget's take on the family's issues was an interesting one. No, it doesn't focus on mom Kate spanking a child or a child calling Kate mean. Rather, it's about the opportunity the show has given her family in teaching her daughter about relationships and marriage ... and the disillusionment that reality television gone bad can invoke.

By Jennifer LaRue Huget

“Mom, I don’t want to watch Jon and Kate any more.”

For all the buzz over the imploding marriage of Jon and Kate Gosselin, parents of the “eight” in the popular reality-TV show “Jon & Kate + 8,” there’s one person, at least, who doesn’t want to hear about it.

That would be my daughter Sophie, 15, who has been with the Gosselins from the start of their television career, watching their very first, one-off TV special back in 2006 and never missing an episode of the weekly show. Sophie’s enthusiasm for the show spread to the rest of our family, and watching it on Monday evenings has become a ritual. We all have our favorite (and, yes, least-favorite) kids, and we all have enjoyed witnessing the often-terse (and sometimes downright nasty) interchanges between Jon and Kate. Watching together has given our family opportunity to talk about how families should be, how parents should work together, how children should behave.

Until recently, it’s all been great fun, because we -- Sophie most of all -- believed that Jon and Kate’s love was strong enough to keep their marriage intact, even when the kids really got out of hand.

So, when rumors surfaced this spring about Jon Gosselin’s alleged infidelity, Sophie was crestfallen. I hadn’t realized how much Jon and Kate, and their healthy union, meant to my daughter until I saw how it pained her to read and hear the gossip about them. When we sat down together to view the final episode of the show’s 4th season, she could barely stand to watch as the couple admitted that the going had gotten rough and changes were afoot. Even when we tried to explain that the whole scenario might well be a ploy to boost the show’s ratings, she couldn’t see past her sorrow.

Tonight Jon and Kate are expected, according to reports, to announce plans to divorce. Will Sophie watch? I expect she will; no matter how much it bothers her, she can’t keep her eyes off it. But, boy, is she disillusioned.

“They looked like even though they fought a lot -- and they had good reason to fight, with all those kids -- they were affectionate and loved each other, and they could get through it,” Sophie told me. “But stupid fame got to them, I guess. They just disappointed me. They left their morals behind.”

I wonder whether other kids have been similarly affected. For all the mean-spirited sniping about the Gosselins and the speculation as to what their future holds, I’ve not heard anybody talk about the disheartening effect their antics may have on young viewers, particularly those Sophie’s age who are in the midst of formulating their views of marriage.

Before she left for school on Friday morning, I asked Sophie whether she was more on Jon’s side or Kate’s. Soph didn’t miss a beat. “I’m on the kids’ side,” she answered.

Jennifer LaRue Huget writes The Checkup health blog and the weekly “Eat, Drink and Be Healthy” column for the Washington Post health section.

By Stacey Garfinkle |  June 22, 2009; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Entertainment , Newsmakers
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I understand Sophie is really young. But America's obessesion with online or reality tv is bizzare. I mean, real families have stress and get divorced. The only difference is the Gosselin's have decided instead of getting regular jobs, to invite people into their personal life. The only people to feel sorry for is the kids.

Personally I think Kate has always been down right nasty. I also think they were nuts to make this their form of living. They were asking for it. The kids in the long run will suffer.

Some of the articles are just plain ridiculous. Like the one you listed about Kate spanking Leah. Big deal, she swatted her kid. How many of us swear never to spank our kids and still took a single swat at our fully clothed kids? I can tell you I have. Not that I am proud of it and I vow to use more constructive discpline measures. But a single swat is not child abuse. Not to make this post about spanking. My point is a regular normal parent break down moment is magnified when you CHOOSE to put yourself on TV. Kate and Jon choose to finance their large family this way. They are honestly getting what they deserve.

If they want to know what is in store for their kids they can look at Canada's Dionnes quintuplets. The Canadian government basically made them a tourist attraction (Quintland). Where people paid admission to view the girls behind screens. The girls could hear them but not see the visitors. Not that much different than being on TV.

I am sorry your daughter is getting a dose of reality but it is weird that America feels more of kinship to TV families they most likely will never meet in person than the real life families that live in their community. It is time to take a step back from reality TV. Besides most of reality TV is pretty darn boring.

Posted by: foamgnome | June 22, 2009 8:09 AM | Report abuse

I can't imagine allowing my family to watch this show. The few very brief clips I've seen horrified me. Discovery nature shows are a much better use of people's time--or even living without the television on, to suggest something radical!

Posted by: newslinks1 | June 22, 2009 8:13 AM | Report abuse

I feel bad for the kids - much like I just feel downright sad for the kids of Octomom. They were born into the family they were born in and here they are in full public view as they weather a really sad and dysfunctional situation.

As for reality TV affecting young viewers, I'm in the camp that it shouldn't - at this point, the show really is just another reality show and not very interesting to me. I'll admit I liked watching certain early episodes and the original "Jon and Kate" documentary in the beginning, but once the show took off and they truly became "famous" I lost interest. I just don't care if Jon gets a new motorcycle or if Kate gets to take the kids surfing at the beach or whatever. I watched initially because I was interested in watching how they simply survived as a family with that many infants. I loved hearing about how much their community pitched in and how they just figured it out as they went along. Once they got famous, it just got kind of dumb and I agree with foamgnome - most of the reality stuff out there is just boring and so clearly scripted.

Posted by: stephs98 | June 22, 2009 8:19 AM | Report abuse

Get Sophie some Little House on the PRarie, STAT! She may think she's too old, but it's great escapism from modern world. I heard that you can get it on Netflix if you can't find on TV stations.

My kids are young and get more out of youtube vidoes of elmo and giggling babies. "Charlie bit me!"

Posted by: captiolhillmom | June 22, 2009 8:58 AM | Report abuse

So who gets to preside over the divorce court hearings? Judge Judy?

Posted by: WhackyWeasel | June 22, 2009 9:14 AM | Report abuse

"Before she left for school on Friday morning, I asked Sophie whether she was more on Jon’s side or Kate’s."

Typical high school Queen Bee mentality.

Posted by: jezebel3 | June 22, 2009 9:15 AM | Report abuse

This is going to sound snarky, and it is but, why would you ask Sophie which side she was on? Both John and Kate have behaved so poorly, the thought of having my children choose the best of the worst seems counterproductive.

I told my kids the Gosselins ruined their chance at a happy marriage when they sold out, and they sold out big time. We haven't watched too much of the Gosselins, but you can't escape them - they are everywhere!

I had the misfortune of seeing a couple episodes of "Real Housewives of NJ" yersterday - these people are crazy! It was like watching a trainwreck.

Posted by: cheekymonkey | June 22, 2009 9:21 AM | Report abuse

This is the sort of drivel that makes want to throw my TV in the dumpster.
This interesting questions have nothing to do with the reality show families. Watch a couple of these shows and you find out pretty quickly that everything is staged and that their lives are just not all that interesting (particularly after the money starts coming in). I'm more curious about why everybody seems to care so much. Seems like if you've got some kind of future planned for yourself and your family that you are truly excited about then you just don't have so much time to waste on the TV families.

Posted by: pinkoleander | June 22, 2009 10:51 AM | Report abuse

"But, boy, is she disillusioned." Good. Having your illusions stripped away from you is an important part of growing up. Parents who get their kids to believe in Santa might be sad when they figure it out, but what's the alternative? A thirty year old whose parents sneak into his house on Christmas Eve.

Fifteen is plenty old enough to learn that love is not enough to lift you through all obstacles. If Sophie ends up getting married, she's got a better chance of success with a more realistic and less romantic view.

I can't believe I typed something that gives any credit to reality TV shows.

Posted by: hbc1 | June 22, 2009 10:56 AM | Report abuse

fr capitolhillmom:

>...Get Sophie some Little House on the PRarie, STAT! She may think she's too old, but it's great escapism from modern world. I heard that you can get it on Netflix if you can't find on TV stations. ...

Ewwww, no. Have Sophie read the books, NOT watch "The Michael Landon Show", which is what the program turned into.

Posted by: Alex511 | June 22, 2009 11:34 AM | Report abuse

lol. my sister nearly named her son "Landon", after Michael Landon. We LOVED the tv series, but I agree the series of books is amazing--and better than the show.

Posted by: newslinks1 | June 22, 2009 12:14 PM | Report abuse

I haven't seen the Gosslins in a long time, although I did catch a couple of episodes when I was on maternity leave. Yes, they definitely sold out, but I can understand why. Raising 8 kids must be enormously expensive. They hopped on the money train and now we have a train wreck. So sad.

I hope therapy is part of their process. They need it.

Posted by: emily8 | June 22, 2009 12:29 PM | Report abuse

"their healthy union"

I've never watched more than ten minutes of the show, because every time I tried to, all I ever saw was two unhappy people and eight lost kids--one parent snapping at the other, the other mentally checked out long ago. Nothing about their marriage ever seemed healthy to me. Maybe it was before the cameras were trained on them, who knows?

Posted by: Monagatuna | June 22, 2009 3:55 PM | Report abuse

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