Have Jon and Kate Gosselin invented a new form of 21st century child abuse? I'd say so. Come on — would you allow cameras to be following your kids every single move on 40 episodes a year of national TV?
There's only 52 weeks in the calendar. That means these kids barely catch a break, i.e. a few days without camera crews camping inside their home.
It's a real life "Truman Show" with eight voiceless victims instead of just one.
I'm not saying that children should never be on TV or in show business. There's a long cultural history of showbiz kids dating back to vaudeville days through infamous child stars: Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, Jay North of Dennis the Menace, Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera and all the other Mouseketeers, the Olsen twins, Jodi Foster, Sarah Jessica Parker, Brooke Shields, Danny Bonaduce and the Partridge Family members, the Brady Bunch, and now Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez and on and on.
Yes, some of these young stars were terribly exploited Judy Garland-style and grew up to crash and burn. But others went on to perfectly successful adult lives and careers. Being young, talented and pushed into in the public spotlight is not necessarily a recipe for exploitative disaster.
But, kids on movie and professional TV sets are subject to child labor laws. Children in reality shows are NOT, a point made forcefully by the Gosselin 8's Aunt Jodi and Uncle Kevin Krieder, Kate Gosselin's brother and sister-in-law who've been busy blogging, and then blabbing, about how vile the Gosselins are, especially Kate, to celebrity newsweeklies and on CBS's "Early Show."
"We want to be the voice of our nieces and nephews... they're being viewed as a commodity," uncle Kevin intoned on national TV. "They're being exploited," added Aunt Jodi.
Of course, the Kreiders were very much a part of the Jon & Kate Plus 8 show for the first three seasons, before supposedly being kicked off by Kate because they asked to be paid for their appearances. So their indignation over the public lives of their nieces and nephews may not be fueled by totally pure motives. And really, what kind of family takes their beefs to the celebrity press anyway?
It seems to me that the Gosselin 8 need an impartial advocate and interventionist. Parents have a right to raise their kids as they see fit — to choose their religion and their schools, and to discipline them, as long as it doesn't cross the line into physical abuse. But do they have a right to make millions of dollars by filming them, virtually all the time, for years at a time? The TLC Jon & Kate series isn't a serious documentary or a one season special. And unlike Supernanny or Nanny 911 which zoom in on a different family of dysfunctional kids every week, this show is in its fifth season and is relentless in its intrusiveness into the kids' lives.
"Kids have bad times... they cry and having the camera zoom in on a crying child... this should not be a form of entertainment," insists Jodi. Should it?
And here's my next big question: Are any of the bags of money earned by Jon & Kate and the hardworking Gosselins being set aside in trust funds for each of the kids? Or are Jon & Kate free to use it all for her French manicures and his frequent bar-hopping?
If not, these adorable tots aren't much different than the little stars of Slumdog Millionaire, which has grossed over $400 million, while they're back to living homeless in the Mumbai slums. A bunch of adults made enormous bucks from the work of these kids in front of film cameras, yet the little ones didn't end up with much more than a few nice, new outfits.
Hey, the Gosselin kids are always well-dressed too. At least in front of the cameras!
Who's going to intervene?
For more on Jon & Kate Plus 8 follow Bonnie Fuller on Twitter at twitter.com/bonniefuller
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