Just when you thought it was safe to read the TV reviews, comes Ginia Bellafante's review Wednesday of the final dramatic episode of the reality show "Jon & Kate Plus 8" - "Watching as a Marriage Crumbles in the Media Glare."
On Monday night, Jon and Kate Gosselin, the Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor of the parentally fixated new millennium, announced to a not unsuspecting world that they would be ending the 10-year marriage that resulted in a pair of twins, a set of sextuplets, "Jon & Kate Plus 8" and six consecutive covers of Us Weekly.
But Bellafante, an occasional TV critic, spent the bulk of the article exposing Christians as gullible for having invested such misplaced faith in the plus-sized family in the first place, even bringing Bristol Palin into the conversation.
The most compelling dimension of "Jon & Kate Plus 8" may be in the problem it simultaneously presents for feminists - I want to stick up for Kate even if her moronic self-involvement disinclines me to getting sisterly with her - and for members of the Christian right who eagerly supported the Gosselins' decision not to selectively abort any of their multiples. The Christian media have been nearly as enthralled by "Jon & Kate" as the editors of People magazine have been.
The jonandkateprayers.com Web site asks visitors to pray for the couple in the hope that their marriage might be saved, thus not contributing to the already high divorce rate among Christians. Kate Gosselin's books (like "Eight Little Faces: A Mom's Journey") have been published by Zondervan, a prominent publisher of evangelical material. And Christian bloggers and journalists have followed the dissolution of the couple's marriage intensely and with a certain distress over the Gosselins' inability to endure as role models to the observant.
Writing in Christianity Today this month, Julie Vermeer Elliott pointed out that evangelicals, moved by the Gosselins' Isaiah 40:31 T-shirts, have made up a devoted share of the audience for "Jon & Kate" but questioned whether she and her brethren had been too easily impressed. "We cheered on Jon and Kate's decision to carry all six babies to term," she said, "but rarely considered the prior question: Was it right for them to undergo risky fertility treatments in the first place?" She went on: "Sexual immorality - whether actual or merely suspected - caught our attention, but the materialism, narcissism and exploitation of children that preceded it was largely overlooked."
For some Christians, the Gosselins have become the new Bristol Palin, exposing hypocrisy between belief and practice. In Jon and Kate, we can find, at least, a common ground in the culture wars: they've disappointed us all.
What sort of "hypocrisy" is Bellafante talking about? And whose -Bristol's or that of her mother, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin?
Bellafante has a long hostility toward conservative themes which she regularly works into her TV reviews
What hangs in the balance is never the fate of the world, or even just the possible aversion of a major crisis. Dan doesn't find himself in 1977 to alter the course of the New York City blackout. He arrives to make meaningful differences in ordinary lives, prompting women (in the first two episodes, at least) into the kind of uncompromised moral decisions that would not put him out of favor with the Christian right. From these decisions come the ripple effects by which other lives are saved. We don't know how Dan has received his special skill, but we can guess that it wasn't bestowed by the National Organization for Women.
In a May 2008 overview of the baffling ABC show "Lost," Bellafante bizarrely suggested that Nazism was just an extreme form of capitalism - as if Nazism, i.e. National Socialism, had anything to do with free markets:
As 'Lost' bloggers have noted, the publicist, Karen Decker, shares her surname with a Nazi propagandist, Will Decker. It is one of the show's many pleasures that it revels in such indictments of extreme capitalism."