When fame is fleeting

So Kate Gosselin is looking for a job. The former reality TV star (2007-2011) and mother of eight, currently unemployed, is reportedly fretting over finances and seeking a new gig.

Prior to meta-motherhood and small-screen divadome Kate was a registered nurse, so one might assume she has a viable fall-back position. It won’t offer the paychecks and exposure to which she’s become accustomed, sure, but would provide stability, fulfillment and a not unsubstantial degree of dignity – a characteristic that many would argue has been wholly lacking from her life since she first invited in the cameras.

Let’s hope that’ll be her path. The rumor-mongers, however, have it that Kate and clan are desperately chasing a return to TV – a talk show, another reality series, anything.

Why? What is it about that lifestyle that’s so magnetic? The money is undoubtedly appealing, but is that the whole story?

Is it the fame – even Kate Gosselin’s tainted brand of fame – that’s addictive?

If so, then like most addictions it’s a costly one. Whether it was the direct or proximate cause of the dissolution of the Gosselin marriage is arguable, as is any remaining-to-be-seen psychic damage to the kids. What is less arguable has been that family’s loss of privacy, and their being held up as objects of, variously, scorn, jealousy and contempt. That’s a sad state of affairs, but in the case of the adults involved, at least, it’s been totally self-inflicted.

Also like with an addiction, has come the physical changes. Kate Gosselin has transformed, before our eyes, into one of those preened and plastic runway monsters. That, perhaps, is the deciding factor. Could she ever go back to nursing now that Hollywood has quite literally got under her skin?

There’s something going on here, compelling and terrible and fascinating, born of our 24/7 media and celebrity culture. Decades ago Andy Warhol told us we’d all be famous for 15 minutes; he wasn’t tantalizing us, he was giving a warning. The camera really does steal your soul, Andy said.

In the end our generational flirtation with fame-building will be a sociological experiment, writ large. The middle and late years of Snooki and the The Situation and yes, the Gosselin kids, will yield much data as to the resiliency (or lack thereof) of the formerly famous. Perhaps we’ll also learn something about addiction, and hopefully, recovery.

And while that’s all still evolving, it’s important to realize that none of this is new, none of it unprecedented. In 1973 PBS aired An American Family, the world’s first foray into ‘reality television.’

And like today’s reality programming, it was anything but real. Like quantum experimentation, outcomes were altered by observation.

People act differently, sometimes horribly, when you shove a camera in their face, is what I’m saying.

Just as with the Gosselins, the family of Bill and Pat Loud from An American Family was irrevocably mangled by their experience. After just 12 episodes, 300 hours of raw footage, the family was sundered. Other less famous families might have to deal with separation and divorce, sadly, but they have the luxury of doing so in private. For the Louds, not only was that experience shared via broadcast, it’s been cataloged by TV Guide as one of the Top 100 Television Moments.

The same is happening today, in varying ways, to the families and individuals who’ve traded a “normal” life (whatever that means) for whatever rewards they see in fame. Hearts and homes are breaking, lives and minds and bodies are being wrecked, all for an audience that can’t get enough, all by producers and personalities who are eager to oblige.

Permanent damage notwithstanding, it’s all probably going to pass. Just as ’50s TV was about the Western, and the ’60s were rife with variety shows, our millennial inundation of falsely named “reality programming” will probably fall by the wayside. We’ll probably look back and chuckle at the obsession – then we’ll remember what really happened, and maybe we’ll all feel a little guilty.

But that’s all years away. For now reality TV is still with us, and Kate Gosselin still thirsts for fame.

I can’t understand that but I won’t judge. What I can do is counsel: Let it go, Kate. Go be a nurse again.

About editor, facilitator, decider

Doesn't know much about culture, but knows when it's going to hell in a handbasket.
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