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Balloon Boy and the Gosselins in the News: Would You Put Your Family on a Reality T.V. Show?

Posted by Elisabeth Wilkins

In the last week, we’ve witnessed the Balloon Boy saga, seen the Gosselins back in court, and heard that the Duggars had their first grandchild — and are expecting baby #19. Octomom has her own show, too, just in case you’ve forgotten about her.

I have to ask this question: would you allow your family to be filmed for a reality TV show? And why do you think so many parents are opting to create shows around their lives? According to the police, the Heene family put on the runaway balloon stunt in order to get their own reality show. By now everyone knows that they appeared on Wife Swap a couple times, and that they met in acting school in Hollywood. I’m not sure why this couple thought it was OK to pretend their son’s life was in peril in order to get publicity (who in their right mind would do something like that?) but? I do know that it seems like more people out there are hitching their wagon to the reality show star. I’m just not sure why it’s happening.

Liz Searle, author of Celebrities in Disgrace calls it “Attention Desiring Disorder” on her blog, and I think that’s a fitting description. It seems like people can’t get enough of fame in the form of T.V. time, in spite of what the camera reveals about their lives.

Although I like watching Supernanny and think the parents go on that show because they’re desperate for help, I have to say that it seems like most of these reality show families, the Gosselins included, are doing this for money and fame. (Actually, maybe infamy is a better word in their case!) Last week, our parent blogger Annita Woz said that she was glad Jon stopped production on the show, and I agree with her — though I wonder about his motives. If the show goes off the air (and it looks like it’s going to), the outcome will be a good one for the kids. (Can you imagine having your parents go through a divorce, and then having your family’s reactions filmed and preserved for all posterity?) The cynic in me thinks Jon Gosselin might be willing to have them filmed again if the price is right, but I really hope I’m wrong about that.

This all makes me wonder about the future of these reality show kids. In fact, I’ll bet you any money some of these children are going to sue their parents some day for 1) Putting them on TV in the first place and 2) For back pay. The whole thing is just pretty sad to me. I think it would be very easy to lose sight of what it means to be a family when there’s a camera in your face all day and everyone is expecting you to perform. Because when you come right down to it, there is very little “reality” in reality TV at all. What do these shows do to these families in the end, after all — and what do they do to us as we watch them implode?

Where do you stand on family reality shows? And what do you think should happen to the Heene parents?


About Elisabeth Wilkins

Elisabeth Wilkins was the editor of Empowering Parents and the mother of an 10-year-old son. Her work has appeared in national and international publications, including Mothering, Motherhood (Singapore), Hausfrau, The Bad Mother Chronicles, and The Japan Times. Elisabeth holds a Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Southern Maine.

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