Orlando Shaw: This Man Has 22 Children, So Why Are We Laughing?


One man has fathered "roughly" eighteen children. Unfortunately, this situation is not the topic of the next TLC special. Though his story will not come with a catchy title like "Kate plus 8," it will probably be auto-tuned, remixed, and tweeted, sending this man —misguided as he may be — straight to the top of the "most watched" list, and granting him instant digital celebrity status.

Many people will watch Orlando respond to this reporter, chuckle, and maybe even consider the upsetting circumstances under which he and his children find themselves; however, in its mass diffusion, the stark reality of this story will ultimately be forgotten.

There are eighteen children, fathered by one man, who do not receive financial support and whose relationship with their father is likely made up of phone calls and "rotations."

One might argue this is not uncommon, though, the extreme number of children and mothers may be. That is to say, there are many single-family homes wherein one parent does not — and often times cannot — support their children. Should this sad state of affairs necessarily stop us in our tracks and induce overwhelming lamentations? No, but it also should not be cause for viral Internet success and rapid cultural praise like the Leprechaun in Alabama and infamous "rack em'" Willie.

Digital media is in need of examination, and videos like this one point to the very real reasons why. See, when society has reached a point where misfortune and neglect characterize the object of its enjoyment, and showcasing a lack of educational, social, and financial means represents news casting, something has gone awry. Even more troubling is the seemingly silent but rather insidious way that this breed of YouTube stardom falls disproportionately on certain demographics — the political implications of which render us either too scared to acknowledge the problem, or too defeated to change it.

Falsely praising these on-screen personalities, we delude ourselves into thinking that what we are laughing at is somehow divorced from our world. Not only is Orlando simply a man whose life choices have provided a striking headline, but his children's welfare has become a hapless afterthought, separate from their actual existence in those fourteen disparate homes across Tennessee. 

But why bother caring when you can just watch the video, laugh, and share it with your friends? Does it actually hurt him, his children, or their mothers? Perhaps his eventual fame may bring him the financial help needed to contribute to his children's lives, but this we will almost definitely never know. Instead, I would argue that it hurts us. As a society, we become more and more cut off from the world around us while we believe ourselves to be ever more connected in the digitized world, and our ability to support exploitation like that which we find in videos like "Nashville Father of 22 Children by 14 Women Gives Amazing Interview," only serves as proof of this devastating disconnect.