Submitted for publication by Guinevere.
I’ve come to the conclusion that the vocal minority of “Jon and Kate Plus Eight” haters can be divided up roughly into four types:
When Love Turns to Hate: These are the people who write posts stating that they have sent the Gosselin children gifts in the past, or that they had previously admired Kate so much and thought that “if Kate can do it, so can I!” I must admit I can’t really relate to this type of thinking – I’ve watched a lot of reality television over the years, and liked and disliked a lot of the personalities I encountered on these shows. I’m sure there are people I have admired, but never to the degree that these people seem to, where they feel the need to try to make a personal connection, or attribute virtues to the personalities that they may or may not possess. I also don’t understand how you wake up one morning and suddenly realize that, yeah, Kate is kind of a controlling beeyotch (seriously, you didn’t notice this before?) and that you actually disapprove of people putting their kids on TV. The only part I guess I kind of understand is that these posters had obviously put J&K on a pedestal, and that often doesn’t end well. I wish these people would recognize that their mistake was not understanding in the first place that J&K are real human beings, with virtues and flaws, and should not necessarily be held up as “role models” for anything.
My Mother Was a ________, So I Know: These posters identify Kate as having some sort of psychological disorder; let’s say, for the sake of discussion, narcissism. How do they know? Well, it just so happens they grew up with a narcissist, and Kate displays various characteristics that fit the profile, in their opinion. Putting aside for a moment the ethical and logistical issues inherent in diagnosing someone through an edited television show, it’s pretty obvious to me that these posters are coming in with an ax to grind. They’re angry, possibly with good reason. But they take anger that should be directed at their parents or caregivers or whoever and put it on Kate Gosselin, a process I believe (I’m certainly no psychologist) is called transference. I feel for these people, I really do, but I would suggest that they work out their issues with a trained professional instead of venting their rage over past hurts onto a person they watch on TV. The latter is not the way to healing, IMO.
Just Jealous: Yes, I know that most Gosselin haters will deny up, down and sideways that they are remotely jealous of Jon and Kate. Often, their comments tell a different story. Why do they care that Kate got a free tummy tuck? That Jon got a free hair transplant? Why do they comment on J&K not working (at traditional jobs) or not “earning” the money they get from the show and their speaking appearances? Why do they lament the ski trip to Utah and complain “no one ever gave anything like that to (them)”? What are we supposed to call it, if not jealousy or envy?
I think there are two ways of looking at the world and one’s place in it. It comes down to seeing the glass as half full or half empty, trite as that is. It’s not like I don’t ever wonder why a skank like Paris Hilton has everything, and I’m often just scraping by. But I try to spend a lot more time thanking my lucky stars for my standard of living, which far exceeds that of most people in the world. Things could be better for me, but they could easily be a lot, lot worse. Also, as your mother may have told you, life is not fair. Maybe J&K didn’t “earn” everything they have by your definition of the word. Deal with it. They are hardly alone in that.
Just Don’t Like Kate: Look, I get it. Kate Gosselin can be…challenging. I can’t, and won’t, defend her every action. I think, for myself at least, when I like someone on reality TV, I feel about them sort of the way I do about a friend (though I am not under the misapprehension that Kate and I are friends). Meaning, I am willing to cut her a little more slack and try to understand where she’s coming from when she acts badly. If I were her friend, I would have been on the phone to her after this past Monday’s show, telling her, “Kate, you know I love you, but you need to learn to apologize and admit when you’re wrong. I know it’s scary, I know you felt justified at the time and maybe even feel somewhat justified now, but you were wrong and you need to apologize and not add on any qualifiers.”
So, Kate’s not perfect. Who is? What is interesting to me is the ways in which Kate isn’t perfect, and how that informs the criticism she receives. If I may be permitted a meta-generalization, women are our own worst critics. A few minutes on the forums of a site like TWoP yields plenty of evidence of that. It was at TWoP that I first encountered many of the same people who now populate the anti-Gosselin site. The bile directed towards Kate, the catty, petty, mean nature of most of the complaints about her genuinely offended me. Furthermore, the sexism of many of the posts was simply depressing. The constant refrain of “Jon, grow some balls” wore me out. Did these posters truly believe that because Kate was the more dominant partner, Jon had lost his manhood? What a backward, sexist, outdated notion. I’ve also been disturbed by the way that Kate is compared to (and found wanting in the comparison) the more traditionally sweet and maternal Jodi. I like Jodi fine, but not all women are like that. Some are like Kate – bossy and neurotic and sarcastic. There should be more than one acceptable way for a woman to be. I honestly think many of these Kate haters genuinely don’t like strong, assertive women. It’s the old “is she a strong woman or is she a bitch?” question. Kate is a strong woman who can sometimes be a bitch, and that’s okay.
So, what’s my point? Maybe I don’t have one, except to say that I find it hard to take the anti-Gosselin folks seriously, because they so obviously have Issues. The “we’re just concerned about the children” mantra is one that they started up rather late, and one that is contradicted every day online by their obsession with issues that have nothing to do with concern for the Gosselin children. I do fervently wish that these people would turn their TV sets off and dedicate their obviously boundless energy to real problems. The world would truly be a better place.