Children aren't reality TV spectacles
Issue date: 3/5/10 Section: Opinion
Page 1 of 1
I wish I could say that was the end of my Damien-like behaviors as a child. But it was not. My four siblings and I essentially tortured each other for the better part of a decade as our parents ran themselves ragged. Fortunately, none of our more "wild escapades" were ever caught on camera. Admittedly, my parents did try to capture our family memories. But every time they brought out the video camera, there would be a crash in the background, meaning that children were fighting, breaking something expensive, or falling down the stairs. So those imperfect childhood memories that are present in everyone's early years went mercifully unrecorded.
However, for some children, such less-than-glamorous childhood memories are not allowed to remain private and are instead broadcasted to millions of people each week. Shows like the recently canceled Jon and Kate Plus Eight achieve success by depicting children in all their cute glory. But one of the Gosselin children, Mady Gosselin, is continually depicted as a demon-spawn progeny: slapping, screaming, and engaging in other less-than-cute behaviors. Mady Gosselin, for the record, is nine years old. Already, at this tender age, she is the target of Google hits such as 'brat,' 'bipolar,' 'annoying,' and 'evil.' A plethora of groups and topics on Facebook pointedly criticize this child for her "abhorrent" behaviors with such touching and emotionally sensitive titles as, "I Hate Mady Gosselin."
All children have their bad moments. The only difference between my own bad moments and those of Mady Gosselin is that hers will be available in perpetuity because her parents allowed her most intimate moments to be filmed.
It can be argued that Mady Gosselin is a participant in a reality show, and consequently, all her misbehaviors should be filmed. But Mady Gosselin is not an adult. Those individuals who consciously elect to participate in "reality" shows like The Real World are consenting to be portrayed. Mady Gosselin is a minor whose parents have opted to allow their entire family to participate. I would also argue that Mady Gosselin's behaviors may be somewhat exacerbated by the highly unnatural situation of filming a "reality show" in which she is placed. Reality TV is anything but reality. Production schedules are set, scenes edited, and plotlines developed. What is more interesting to a reality show producer: a scene of a child playing quietly with her siblings or having an epic meltdown in the middle of a store?
Mady Gosselin had had the grave misfortune of receiving the demon-child edit, one which could conceivably haunt her for years to come. While Jon and Kate Plus Eight was canceled early last year due to Jon Gosselin's refusal to allow his children to be filmed, he has recently settled his court case with the network that produces the show. It is quite possible that the show will reappear.
Many people, including students on this campus, tuned into Jon and Kate Plus Eight when it was on the air. Since the Gosselins seem unlikely to protect their children's privacy anytime soon, it is up to viewers to do it for them, by changing the channel.