Since our discussion in class about brands and icons, I have been trying to think of an icon that we had not already discussed or used as a class example. Several icons have come to mind…Hannah Montana’s change to Miley Cyrus, Mary Kate and Ashley Oslen, Britney Spears (from teenager to adult) and the change that we will see in Justin Beiber, when the “Beiber Fever” returns to a normal temperature. But then I thought back to a show I used to watch all of the time…new episodes and reruns, but no longer watch because the brand of these icons has changed! My favorite television show and a TLC record breaker used to be…Jon & Kate Plus 8!
There was something about Jon & Kate Plus 8 that was real life to me. It was a normal family with 8 children, jobs, who were experiencing the typical pressures of life. I enjoyed watching their home life and typical days. It was even more interesting to me that a family with 6, 2 year olds and 2, 6 year olds would even consider traveling 3 hours from home for a day at the zoo. But they did, and to me it was entertaining and something I could never imagine myself doing.
During the first couple of years of the show, Jon and Kate created a brand for themselves. Jon was an information technology employee who worked long days and came home to his 8 children just in time for dinner, baths, and bedtime. He was a loving father, who cared for his wife and his kids, and was the all-American family man that we all hope to find. Kate was a mother who left her career as a nurse behind in order to stay at home with her 8 children. She was organized and rarely ever asked for assistance from anyone, although was thankful for help coupon clipping, folding laundry, and in emergency cases with the children. Kate was also the typical mother, who looked like a typical mother wearing sweatpants, sweatshirts, and sneakers who was all about her kids…not the money, the fame, just a mother trying to make the best of a rather unusual situation.
But just as the brand has changed for several other icons, Season 5 created a shift in brands for Jon & Kate as well as their 8 children. America watched on TLC the marriage of this television couple fail, the challenges, the heartache, and the media tearing a beloved family apart. Many fans wanted to believe that the Tabloids weren’t true…How could Jon have an affair with a college student he met at a nightclub? And would Kate really have an affair with her bodyguard just to get back at Jon? The media attention of this scandal created and changed the way America would look at this family and took “the real factor” right out of Jon and Kate Plus 8.
The show ended in season 5, but Kate wanted to return to TLC featuring, Kate Plus 8. I was one of those fans that wanted to have faith that things would be similar to the way they had been, but I certainly was wrong. Kate came back to the show as a “fashion diva”…wearing high heels, make-up done to perfection, and hair extensions transforming herself into a “teenie bopper” again and losing her motherly appeal. And the house changed too…from a typical Pennsylvania home in a small town neighborhood to a gated community with a 2.5 million dollar home, several acres of land, and a place to raise chickens. The brand for this icon negatively changed and honestly, I think it killed the image of these parents, this family, and this television show beyond return.
The show now consists of “fashion diva” Kate traveling the world with her children in tow. Trips to California, trips to Hawaii, days at the spa…it is the farthest thing from “real life” I have ever seen. Most people with 8 children do not take such extravagant trips, nor to most parents pull their children out of school several times a year for these adventures. I can no longer relate to the show, or Kate, or their lifestyle. I am a college student that doesn’t quite picture my future in this way. While Kate’s brand has gone backwards into a world of fantasy, Jon is back with the “college students” saying that he is not ready to be a parent and live a family lifestyle. Guess it’s a little late for him to change the fact that he is father, but still these sort of affairs do happen, but they are not something I wish to continue following.
Personally, I feel that some icons change their brands for the better…embracing new audiences, strengthening established audiences, and improving their own careers. In the case of Jon & Kate Plus 8, I feel the exact opposite. Their brand has gone from “real” to “fake,” from “imaginable” to “unimaginable,” and quite frankly, is disrespectful to parents raising children in today’s society. I do not aspire to be like Jon & Kate Plus 8 and I do not aspire to have children who have seen the world as these children have. Jon & Kate Plus 8 are the perfect example of a changing brand of popular television icons that has gone from good to bad…and then, even worse.