Tuesday, June 16, 2009

On J&K +8

Yes, ok, I know. Jon and Kate and their adorable eight are getting to be old news.

But like many of my blog posts on these kinds of things, I hem and haw and toss them around in my brain until I'm ready to post about them. That process usually takes me well past the topic's best-before date. Oh well.

What has happened to this family is profoundly sad. The breakdowns of all family units are sad, but this one feels more so because we are all witnessing it, on television, on the internet, in magazines. And because this family is, in so many ways, a normal every-day North American family, with nothing exceptional about it but its size, the breakdown hits a bit close to home. The problems that are plaguing their marriage are common problems: infidelity, mis-communication, changing priorities, busy lives.

What has bothered me most about what we've witnessed and how we've responded, from the perspective of a distant viewer, is the almost total assassination of Kate's character. Let's be clear on one thing: if Jon is spending inappropriate time with women who are not his wife, then that's totally, 100%, without question on him. It is awful and shameful and cowardly. And of course, the same is true if the inappopriate time is being spent by Kate with men who are not Jon.

What has emerged, however, from the pictures of Jon and his lady friends, is increasingly detailed numeration of Kate's personality flaws. She nags him. She belittles him. She's bossy. Which all may be true, but NONE OF WHICH EXCUSES HIS BEHAVIOUR. What is most profoundly upsetting about all this is is the whisper of "How can you blame him? See what he has to live with?"

I have been particularly taken aback by how vitriolic some of the commentary along these lines has been. And I've been trying to think why. If I had guess, I would say that a significant number of women see in Kate some of the aspects of their own personalities that they dislike. The moments where husbands are lumped in with children and bossed around. Nagging. Snarky comments made under-breath. The kinds of things we all have done, and are never very proud of.

Well here we have Kate, displaying those same behaviours in HD for our public consumption, giving us a target against which to rail, desperately trying to draw attention away from the ways that we may be like her.

I don't know Jon and Kate or, really, anything about their personalities. They may be difficult, angry, disagreeable people. Their situation, including the children and the TV show and the publicity, is bizarre and surreal. But I think that at the heart of them is a family, much like yours and mine, desperately trying to figure out a way to mend what's broken.


Shalom said...

i couldn't agree more. I find it really disturbing that the most angry and truly mean statements have, without exception, been aimed at Kate. I wonder what it says about our expectations of women (nothing good, I fear). Well said.

alexis said...

i am wholeheartedly in agreement. i've never seen the show, but the whole thing just seems so ugly and mean-spirited, with the majority of the nastiness directed at her. and you're right. even if she does treat him badly, it doesn't give him a free pass to cheat.

agree with shalom - well said.

Maureen said...

A big DITTO on this post girlie. You said it much more eloquently than I could have.

The 'better or worse' part of those silly vows ..... do we not get that there is a very real probability of 'worse' happening once in awhile?