Puppy Surprise and Reality TV: America’s fascination with uncontrolled breeding

In the early 1990’s there was an upsurge in children’s toys featuring a mystery number of hidden offspring. The most popular of these fantastic, albeit disturbing, toys was probably Puppy Surprise (or Kitty/Bunny/Pony Surprise, if you were so inclined).

Puppy Surprise, for those of you who don’t know or remember, worked something like this: Upon becoming a proud “Puppy Surprise” owner, you would rip open the Beast Mommy’s Velcro belly, and discover the number of puppies hidden inside. As the commercial breezily sang, “there could be three, or four, or five.”

Author’s note: There were always three. Always. Unless you were my childhood friend, Leslie, who hit the statistical jackpot and got five.

Looking back on the playground battles over who had the coolest Puppy Surprise, it’s not really shocking then that reality shows such as Kate Plus 8, Table for 12, and 19/God knows who’s Counting are currently such huge televised ratings draws. Fertility drugs, in vitro, and yes, even religion, when used irresponsibly can create unpredictable numbers in procreation.

Some might argue that pop culture’s fascination with multiples was truly born with the Canadian Dionne Quintuplets. After all, those five little girls caused so much media attention that the Canadian government actually forced them to leave their home and live at a tourist attraction called Quintland. They grew up being watched more closely than the baby lions at the Smithsonian zoo.

But since I’m guessing many of our readers have never heard of the Dionne Quintuplets (unless, like me, you watched the awesome Lifetime original movie, Million Dollar Babies) then perhaps the recent craze over child litters should really be blamed, like all things in America, on Kate Gosselin.

Kate, first mentioned in a previous post, originally came screeching into our lives with dumpy brown hair and too many cute Asian kids to count. But after a tummy tuck and some sorely needed highlights, Kate started to change. She went all “Hollywood Mommy.” She and the children’s father, Jon, divorced and suddenly American viewers started to feel guilty intruding during such a personal and rough time. Or at least I did.

Then came the Duggers, to restore our faith, so to speak. And boy did they ever. With their Bibles and Amish-chic clothes, they took leaving birth control up to the big J.Christ to a new level.

After spending the last few weeks watching the Dugger Family via Netflix instant watch, I can safely say the Duggers and I disagree on many things. For instance, evolution. And premarital kissing (yes, you read that correctly). The Duggers would probably consider me a sinner for a variety of reasons; in fact, they might even being praying for me right now.

But no matter how much I disagree with just about everything they believe, I cannot find it in my heart to make fun of the mom, Michelle. (Her husband Jim Bob, however, is open season).

Michelle Dugger has been breastfeeding for over 22 years straight and given birth to 19 (as of this post) children. 22 YEARS, PEOPLE! Does she even think of her breasts as sexual objects, anymore? If she didn’t foolishly shun alcohol, I would send her a huge bottle of Jose Cuervo right now.

So the real question is this: Do American viewers watch shows featuring large families because we want to cheer on our fellow man or because it makes us feel more in control of our own little lives as we sit eating nachos on the couch?

I know what my answer is. Go grab the chips and turn on the TV. I’m okay with being the kid with only a three-puppy surprise.

– Lindsay

About Lindsay Golder

Freelance writer, book-fiend, lover of shamefully bad films regularly featured on TBS or TNT.


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