The XX Factor

Jon Gosselin, American Hero

I know that we are supposed to hate Jon Gosselin, the unfaithful half of Jon and Kate Plus 8. But after watching the mesmerizing debut of the fifth season last night, I can’t help but cheer him on. Finally, someone rebels against the constant intrusion of the camera! What’s happening to Jon Gosselin is exactly what happened to the Jim Carey character in the last half-hour of The Truman Show . He is behaving like a caged animal, restless and sweaty and desperate to escape.

For those of you who avoid tabloids and the TLC network, Jon and Kate are parents of eight small children whose every birthday party and minivan ride has been chronicled on the show. (“A holiday letter that never ends,” Hank Steuver called it.) Now it looks like he had an affair, and they can barely look at each other, although of course that’s no reason to cancel the show, is it? Quite the contrary. She seems absolutely illuminated by the latest turn of events. “I’m here every minute, for the kids,” she said several times.

Motherhood with eight kids can be brutal, but motherhood with eight kids and a reality show and a best-selling book to promote isn’t all that bad. He, on the other hand, is thoroughly emasculated. He quit his job and now stays home while she’s on a book tour. “I can’t write,” he explains. He is dark and sardonic and seems on the verge of a nervous breakdown-or drunk. “I thought they were going to barbecue it,” he says about the magician’s rabbit at the birthday party. Which, given the circumstances-eight little kids, a biting wife, paparazzi in his bushes-seems an entirely normal reaction.

Photograph of Jon Gosselin by Thos Robinson/Getty Images