I used to want one
but now I want twenty kids
to exploit for fame.
I'm not a big fan of reality TV, but my wife watches quite a few shows that fall under that category. Seems like a few of them are on "The Learning Channel" although I'm not entirely sure what one is supposed to be learning when watching them. But then again, I don't see a lot of "history" being dealt with in Ice Road Truckers either, and I'm pretty sure that's on The History Channel. (Don't get me started on all their UFO/Nostradamus crap.)
For the most part, when she watches them I tend to be in the other room dinking around on the computer. Some of them I don't mind watching while I'm eating lunch (or listening to when cooking or bottling my beer). For instance, Little People, Big World is interesting as it gives an insight as to what it's like to be one heck of a lot shorter than most people, and it has that cliched but valuable "we're all just people" message to it. The one that I absolutely detest is John and Kate Plus Eight. I don't know what it is, but for some reason when I hear either one of those people talk, I want to commit seppuku. They're boring people talking about boring things in voices that make Ben Stein's seem dynamic. One time they even had the guy ramble on about how a particular word had a funny sound to it. Criminey, if I wanted to listen to inane small talk, I'd go to a work-related party.
Then there's the show that I feel the most conflicted about - 18 Kids and Counting. (Or is it 19 by now? 20? 48? Who can keep up? This mom is more fertile than Gaia herself.) Basically, the show's about two people, the Duggars, who decided to keep having children until they simply couldn't any more. You know, leave it "up to God" and not take into consideration that they live in a modern world where we can have some control over our destinies. Ever consider that maybe THAT'S God's (and by God, I mean Lugh...duh) plan? To use your brain and the resources around you? How come nobody ever decides to stop going to the grocery store and just let "God's plan" take over from there?
I didn't mean to already get into the aspect of the show that bothers me, but there it is (for the most part). The thing is, it is somewhat entertaining and compelling. Why? It's because they're charming people for the most part, even if it's in that Ned Flanders kind of a way. They keep having kids, but they don't go on welfare, and they manage to do everything for themselves. (No doubt having a TV show helps alleviate some of the financial burdens, but they were pulling it off long before the show.) They also have what seems to be a very loving family, and everybody looks pretty healthy - and the mom looks pretty good especially when considering how many puppies she's squeezed out.
Hey, this is America, right? You should have the freedom to do whatever you want so long as it doesn't affect other people. I certainly wouldn't want to see the government tell them that they had to stop having kids or force the father to get a vasectomy. I also can see why somebody would want to watch the show. Much of it is "How the hell do they do __________?" It's an interesting look into a family that really has a unique situation.
So there's all that, and yet it still doesn't sit right with me. Maybe I'm like the monster Grendel, (or The Grinch, for those of you who haven't read Beowulf) and I just can't bear to hear the sounds of happiness. Or maybe this show glamorizes something that absolutely should not be glamorized. Sure, there's a lot of good stuff being emphasized like family values and looking out for your loved ones. But having that many kids? Good for them that they can pull it off, but how many people have it together enough to do that sort of a thing?
And what if everybody did things their way? It's an environmental disaster waiting to happen! No, I'm not really worried that this is going to happen, and I'm not a big believer in the notion that people are going to do something just because they see it on TV. Still, do we really want to glamorize this behavior? If they have the ability to care for so many kids, then what about all the kids out there who don't have homes and are starving? Why keep bringing more into the world when they could take some in who are already here? What, is the father Genghis Khan and he's trying to create a nation? Indeed...what would Jesus do? (They're Christians, in case you haven't guessed. I was joking about the whole Lugh thing.)
What also bothers me, and you probably knew this was coming, is that they home-school their kids. I'm not necessarily opposed to this, but it's a safe bet that their kids aren't learning proper science and instead are learning creationism. I base this on an episode where they went to the zoo and the dad proclaimed when looking at the chimps that we "didn't come from monkeys". I'm going to assume that he was making the usual mistake that creationists do and wasn't trying to clarify that the theory of evolution has nothing to do with us "coming from monkeys" as it's actually about how we share a common ancestor with them.
So, they're not just cranking out the kids, they're cranking out the ignorance. Again, it's a free country, and they should be able to do what they want. Still, I'd be lying if I told you that there wasn't something scary about the whole thing. Sure, they're happy, but I can't help but think of the quote by George Bernard Shaw: "The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one. The happiness of credulity is a cheap and dangerous quality."