Jon and Kate and the Elephant in the Room

Filed under: Celeb Parents

Season five of TLC's hit reality show "Jon & Kate Plus Eight" promises to give more insight into the bizarre celebrity turn the Gosselin's lives have taken. Finally, the cameras are turned around so the viewers can see the world as Jon, Kate and the kids see it. From zealous fans at Kate's book signings to front-page tabloid stories and daily run-ins with the paparazzi – even during a mundane trip to purchase birthday party supplies – the show is finally addressing the elephant in the room.

The opening scene of the much-anticipated season premiere shrewdly addressed the salacious rumors of Jon Gosselin's infidelity head on. During an interview on last night's show, Jon said: "I never cheated on Kate. I don't care who believes me. I only know what I know." While it appears that Kate believes him, they are nonetheless separated and considering divorce.

We also finally get the first real admission from the couple that documenting their family has turned into a lucrative business -- a business that threatens to destroy their marriage and the family they once were. Jon admits resentment over quitting his job for the show. Though he says he enjoys spending more time with the kids, he complains about taking care of them while Kate travels extensively on book tours. Kate is quick to note that Jon has "help" when she is gone, but nonetheless felt guilty when one of her kids called her by the babysitter's name after a long trip away.

This season, the couple no longer conducts their narrative interviews together on the couch – they do so individually. And in this first episode, Kate makes birthday party preparations alone because Jon, "wanted to take the weekend off." When Jon shows up for the party, Kate insists that the family pose for a picture. Later, she tears up wondering if that photo might be the last time they have a picture all together.

Kate's new look is also on full display this season and her makeover and accompanying cost of upkeep is the source a lot of blog and tabloid gossip. US Magazine ran an unflattering before and after photo on the cover and even did a story tallying up the cost of her manicures, tanning, and haircuts. Please! Clearly, it is unfair to suggest these are extravagant expenses, for any at-home mom. Moreover, it is the height of hypocrisy for tabloids that incessantly promote and celebrate celebrity moms and their consumption on the one hand to feign outrage when an at-home mom, especially one with a hit television show and best-selling book, succumbs to the cultural pressure.

In my estimation, both Jon and Kate deserve a different kind of criticism – one that belies their insistence throughout last night's show that despite their marriage difficulties, "they always put the kids first." If that were true, then they would put their marriage first because an intact family is the best gift they can give their children. Instead of dishing their troubles and complaints about each other for the show, they ought to shut down the cameras, put the book tour on hold and hole themselves up on their new sprawling estate to do the hard work of saving their marriage! That, Jon and Kate, is putting the kids first. Perhaps, in the end, they will come to the same conclusion -- that they are better off separated. But how can they really be sure while the cameras are still rolling?

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