I spend a lot of time in check-out lines at the supermarket (milk-runs mostly) and for months now (Years? Seems like an eternity), this woman has been all over the tabloids named Kate Gosselin. She and her (ex?) husband were “Jon and Kate plus 8” in a reality show I don’t watch on a cable network I don’t get. Translation: I don’t care about Jon, Kate or their 8. But for months, I have been watching other people care, or these magazines wouldn’t sell. I couldn’t figure out why people cared about them (the kids maybe?, their divorce (again, the kids, maybe?), her haircut (not a clue about that one) or her Dancing on the Stars appearance (again, not a clue).
Finally, after months and months of this, I finally get why people care. This morning as I rushed to get communion supplies, I saw an article called “Kate: Villain or Victim?” and it was supposedly about why she has no friends anymore and why everybody hates her. Now I get it — Kate is an archetype — “the gossipy town B—- who might get her comeuppance “. She’s the living version of Jessica in Roger Rabbit, with a little of Aunt Bea from the Andy Griffith Show. She’s “not really bad, she’s just drawn that way” and she’s the popular girl in school or the center of across-the-fence gossip in a small town.
Yes, she’s mean — she does rotten things (and don’t forget, she left her kids to go to New York to talk to Regis, so she’s a bad mother!) or she’s a power player in modern media so we love her — She’s Alexis Carrington in a small town (meaning she’s a bad mother in world where they care about such things).
When I say, “She”, by the way, I don’t actually mean Kate (I have never actually read any of the articles, so I don’t know if she ever really left her kids to go to The Big City. I mean, instead, the archetype of Kate. (It would be so like her to go to the big city and leave her poor children behind with their Daddy.)
For those of you who don’t have any idea what I’m talking about, Carl Jung, a Swiss psychologist said that there are really only so many stories out there worth telling and they all come from the same pool of dreams that we all share. In these stories are characters that are images of things we need to work through in our lives. We have an archetype (image) for Mother, Father, Hero, Slave, Jester, Con Man/Trickster, Bad Guy, etc.
If you remember High School, there was always some girl who relied on her looks, was always popular, and was often caught necking in the hall. Told by the teacher to “Get a Room”, she just looked back as if to say “You’re kidding, right?”. Minnechaug had someone, St. Mary’s had Sam. Your school had whoever. Having gotten to know Sam in college, I realized that nobody actually knew her. She didn’t have a date for the semi-formal and she settled for the low-life at school because all the “normal” guys assumed she was out-of-reach and had a date. I suspect that I never really knew Minnechaug’s girl either, but that’s kind of the point.
Both of them (all three if you count Kate) were an image that made for great stories. She’s the girl that all the boys wanted (because it would make them popular/cool) and all the girls wanted to be (or thought they should be) because all the boys wanted her. Add in the more mature role of still-young-mother and you’ve got Kate on the magazines. The boy version of this is the guy Bruce Springsteen sings about in “Glory Days”. We measure ourselves against them in High School and they live on just that way as though time has frozen.
What does it say about us at this time in our history that we care about the archetype? I actually think it’s kind of cute or homey that our idea of a female Villain in our society is a mother with a bunch of little kids. She’s not the rich Hollywood B—- (oooo, that Joan Collins!). She’s not a terrorist or a evil-step mother who poisons apples or the green witch who says, “I’ll get you, my pretty!” and really means it. She’s a mother with 8 kids who used to be somebody. That’s the story we’re concerned about in 2010. I’m sure it means something, but maybe because I’m old enough to be her father, I bet, I just don’t care. It’s cool that somebody else cares. It’s just not me. For now, I just “get it”.