I didn’t want to watch. Really I didn’t. I just couldn’t help myself.
And I don’t think it’s my fault! Talk of them is everywhere—on the news, in the magazines, at the dinner table, around the pool, at book club, over lunch. Everyone, and I mean everyone, has an opinion. “It’s his fault!” “No, it’s hers!” “She’s a diva.” “He’s a slacker.”
A modern day “He said, she said” is playing out before our eyes and we can’t help but watch/gawk/stare. With the push of the remote control or click of a mouse we can satisfy our inner Peeping Tom and experience the train wreck of a relationship taking place before our own eyes.
On Monday night when the clock struck 10:30, I found myself sitting in front of the TV and succumbed to the temptation to tune in to the season premiere of Jon & Kate Plus 8. Turns out I wasn’t the only one. 9.8 million viewers—nearly double the audience for the Season 4 finale in March—watched. Chances are you watched, too.
Sad doesn’t even begin to describe the season opener. Painful, selfish, indulgent and tragic come to mind. Almost as soon as the show started, watching felt icky and invasive. No one should be witness to this. It’s none of our business. This isn’t just entertainment, it’s a real marriage and a real family going through a real life crisis.
At what point did the lifelines of fame, a new house, plastic surgeries, spa treatments, book deals, money and other perks become the noose that’s strangling them? When did they exchange good intentions for shattered dreams?
I’m not a fan of this show, or any reality show for that matter, but now I’m finding it hard to look away. I can’t help but wonder what happened to discretion? To privacy? To respecting one’s spouse? To knowing when to say, “Stop. This is enough!”
Heck, what happened to common sense that airing one’s dirty laundry in public is never a good idea?
The thing is, reality TV isn’t new. Ever since MTV set up seven Gen X-ers in a loft in New York City 17 years ago, almost no circumstance has been left unexplored by curious cameras. We’ve willingly gobbled up show after show, asking for more. So why all the attention to and criticism of this show? What makes it different?
Is it because it’s too painful? Too real? Too personal? Do we see we’ve crossed a line we weren’t even sure existed?
Imagine what a hit reality TV would have been in the 21st century B.C.! If ever a family was ready for prime time, it was Lot’s. And the sensual lifestyles in Sodom and Gomorrah provided a perfect backdrop.
We’d tune in each week eager to see what was in store for Lot and his family, knowing in our gut it wasn't good, but unable to look away. We'd watch a depraved community living the motto "If it feels good, go for it!" and family members so tangled in their own stuff they laugh at the idea of the Lord's impending wrath. We'd witness depravity, destruction and desolation.
You can’t write a better story than this! And it’s all in the name of entertainment, right? What’s the harm?
As we know, the story of Sodom and Gomorrah didn’t play out to entertain us but to warn us. It’s a cautionary tale of godless living and free will gone awry. Then as now, our choices have consequences—sometimes tragic ones.
Is being featured on a reality show the modern-day version of the American Dream? Are these shows harmless entertainment or the making of our downfall? Are they cautionary tales or fairy tales?
If we've removed all the boundaries, how will we know the difference?