Jon and Kate Gosselin: The Louds All Over Again?

(This is An American Family Revisited, a 1983 HBO documentary production that catches up with the Louds ten years later. It has excerpts from the original PBS documentary, which has yet to be remastered in DVD.)

You could say that An American Family was the first reality show drama, but it was on PBS. It had only twelve episodes, and it was filmed in 1971 but not aired until 1973. It showed the disintegration of the marriage of Bill and Pat Loud of Santa Barbara, California, and the impact of it on husband and wife and on their children. What a stir it caused, especially with the appearance of the now-deceased Lance Loud, who is now revered by some as a hero for coming out on national television.

Thirty-six years later, another train wreck is being shown on television. This is the reality show Jon and Kate Plus 8, in which a young couple, Jon and Kate, must care for and maintain a home with two sets of fraternal twins and fraternal sextuplets. I am not going go through all their names and situations, because I don’t watch the show. (I did watch the Louds, although I can barely remember it.) I am, however, interested in all the hooplah regarding Jon and Kate’s rumored off-screen cheating, and whether all this is having an impact on their children. I’ve been able to glean enough from all the talk to get an idea about what’s been happening.

Well, hell yeah this mess is having an impact on the kids. Children can pick up stuff, particularly ten-year-old twins. But there is a difference between what happened in 1973 and what’s happening now.

The Gosselins are on cable. Which means their story is being worked to death by every gossip mag and entertainment show in the country 24/7 for maximum effect.  Also, they’re getting a lot of freebies for themselves and the kids, so it seems that product placements are perpetually incorporated into the depictions of their daily life.  Why should there be commercials?

The Louds happened at a point where Americans were questioning the whole idea of the nuclear family of the Fifties. They had been married for over 20 years. This couple made people think and debate about the meaning of marriage and the steps to divorce. The family made the cover of Newsweek. Although several bios were made of Pat Loud, Lance Loud, and of the family, the financial bump and the embarrassing media appearances happened after the series ran. They weren’t repped by agents at the beginning of the series.

In contrast, the Gosselins have been married for ten years, and for half that time, they were trying to have children. Now, with the cameras intruding on their lives, with Kate writing books, and with Jon getting his teeth whitened and brightened, the couple seems to have lost their way, bickering and growing tired with the strain of fronting. I think people take for granted that they will divorce, whereas the Louds were already at that threshold and did not spare the cameras their turmoil.

I find it interesting too, that the Gosselins don’t appear to discuss race.  This is an interracial couple of a white woman and an Asian American man.  I don’t know whether Jon Gosselin was adopted into a white family, or whether he is from Indonesia (where there are many Dutch-surnamed Indonesians).  Don’t tell me this isn’t important in this day and age, because it is.

What would really get my attention would be if the Gosselins really began to critique in front of the cameras what the presence of the cameras and what the price of celebrity is doing to their family. Talk about it even if they get hot under the collar at their own handlers.  Because there is a limit. I’d sure like to train the cameras on the ten-year-olds, to see what and how they feel, and a couple of the sextuplets. Because I think that being with the cameras, and with the paparazzi covering them, is making the parents act out.  That’s right, the parents have become the children in this mess.  The universe only knows what they really feel about each other now, but from what I read, they yammer at each other a lot. They may have changed their minds about being TV parents; they may have even changed their minds about having so many children. They may have changed their minds about each other. We don’t know all this yet–although family members and friends are leaking information–because the Gosselins are supposed to be a relatively happy family for our entertainment.

We weren’t necessarily entertained by the Louds, but we were informed by them.  They were the first, and probably the best, “real” people.  That’s their contribution to American cultural history.  The Gosselins’ final blow-up may very well be a big one, but it won’t be nearly as iconic as predictable.

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~ by blksista on May 23, 2009.

2 Responses to “Jon and Kate Gosselin: The Louds All Over Again?”

  1. […] Jon and Kate Gosselin: The Louds All Over Again? […]


  2. […] Black Sista remembers back to the 70s and a PBS show that got this ball rolling. The Louds happened at a point […]


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