Why Does America Still Care About Kate and Jon Gosselin?

Suzy Byrne
Yahoo Celebrity
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It's been more than two years since TLC pulled the plug on Kate Gosselin's reality series. It's been over four years since her marriage to Jon fell apart before viewers' eyes. So why, why, why do we still care about them?

Before you mutter to yourself, "But I don't care about them, Yahoo," we'll explain that there is still interest in the "Jon & Kate Plus 8" clan. On Thursday, Kate and her 13-year-old twins, Mady and Cara, appeared on the "Today" show to very awkwardly discuss life after reality TV — and let interested parties know she and the children would like to return to the tube.

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Last week, the trio appeared on the cover of People magazine, which has a circulation of over 3.5 million and is the place most celebrities hope to one day see their mug — provided it's a positive story, like this one largely was. While the fact that the girls called their mother names made the most headlines (see "Gosselin Twins: Mom Kate 'Is So Annoying'"), within the multipage spread, which was fluffy and fun, the girls talked about, yes, their strong desire to appear on TV again.

Jon has also had his say. He's done multiple interviews with In Touch in recent weeks, lashing out at Kate's decision to keep their children in the spotlight against his wishes. This week's cover of the mag features — you guessed it — Kate, and details how she's not the "perfect parent" she pretends to be. Meow!

The takeaway from this is that the Gosselins sell magazines. They get people to tune in. But the reason people are watching doesn't seem to be because they love Kate or Jon (though their twins and 9-year-old sextuplets sure are cute), it's more because we love to hate them. Criticizing these two is so easy — there's Jon's dating life, vasectomy, job as a waiter (after losing his cushy TV gig) and Kate getting fired from coupon blogging, (unsuccessfully) competing on "Dancing With the Stars,"and jockeying for more time in the spotlight — it's become almost a hobby.

"Their story captivated America so much that they're still sort of underneath our consciousness," Rob Weiner, the pop culture librarian at Texas Tech University Library, tells Yahoo about their lingering appeal. "There's still enough interest. But their story is similar to the train that never stops wrecking." And seeing that happen makes Americans feel better about themselves. "We realize perhaps our lives are better. Our lives are not as complicated at theirs. I mean — I don't want to be to Kate Gosselin, do you?"

Absolutely not. In fact, there were nearly 500 mostly negative comments on our story about Kate's appearance with the twins on "Today," during which the 38-year-old mother snapped her fingers at a tongue-tied Mady and snipped, "Use your words," as if the teen was a baby, and snapped, "Spit it out." Kate, who has developed a reputation as a momzilla (even before her show was canceled), then said in a condescending tone, "This is the most wordless I've heard them all morning," as the young girls shifted in their seats uncomfortably.

Watch highlights from Kate's appearance with the twins on "Today":

Yahoo's commenters largely bashed Kate. She was described as "horrible," a "wicked witch" and "Mommy Dearest." User Noli's comment was a well thought out one, writing, "It's not what the girls don't say, it's what their expressions toward their mother do say. With every second of silence, their contempt toward their mother becomes more palpable. Even Kate seems shocked. But what else should Kate [and Jon] expect after years of trotting her children out in the media, in a grotesque simulation of a happy family?"

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Jo Piazza, who is executive news director for In Touch and Life & Style as well as author of the book "Celebrity Inc.," tells Yahoo that people are especially vocal about the pair because, as reality TV stars, we think we helped create their stardom in the first place.

"America is so fascinated by the Gosselins because we feel like we hold a sort of power over them," she says. "Their fans (and haters) feel like they created them by tuning into their lives and then helped contribute to their demise. Celebrity consumers enjoy building someone up so that they can rip them down. There's also a sense of the everyman to the Gosselin family. Fans feel like they could have gotten famous just as easily were there a quirk in their own fertility."

She continues, "Now as things unravel for them, it is impossible to look away. Celebrity consumers also enjoy the trope of [people being] destroyed by fame because it tells them that being famous may not be all it is cracked up to be."

And it doesn't seem that fame is all it's cracked up to be when Kate is the subject of hateful "Mommy Dearest" remarks for her appearance on the "Today" show and Jon barely sees his children and has no say in their exposure to the public. (Their custody arrangement allows him to have dinner with his children once a week and an overnight every other weekend.) Further, their drama isn't even lucrative. Kate keeps saying she'd love to return to TV, but offers don't appear to be pouring in. Last year, she said she's "piecing and patching together" an income to support the children.

That makes the whole mess pretty sad, doesn't it?