Lately I’ve been kind of obsessed, watching some of the old episodes of the Duggars’ reality show that have been recently posted on YouTube. They’ve brought back a lot of repressed memories. I did used to watch the show, back in the days before we knew the truth about Josh Duggar. Even before I knew about the Duggar family, I found super large families interesting. It’s probably because of my dad’s experiences growing up in a big family. My dad and his siblings always seemed very close-knit and loving, even if my experiences as my dad’s daughter seemed to be less like that.
My dad was one of nine children, and I always thought that was a huge family. By today’s standards, it is a huge family. But my dad’s family still had fewer than half of the kids in the Duggar family. In fact, compared to the Duggars, my dad’s family almost looks petite.
Back when their reality show premiered, I thought the Duggars were fascinating. Most of the kids were cute and precocious. Even Josh, back in the day, seemed benign in his brightly colored polo shirts and khaki pants, with his neatly cut hair. It wasn’t until the specials turned into a show that I realized how smug and glib Josh appeared to be. But then there was Jim Bob… and Jim Bob frequently came off like a blockhead– a heavily shellacked blockhead. Sometimes he said things that made it sound like he’d been inhaling too much hairspray, or something. But then, after watching the Duggars for awhile, I realized that Jim Bob is quite narcissistic and uses people, especially his family. For years, he’s used his own children as a source of power and money.
Yesterday, I watched the Duggars, then listened to a couple of YouTubers opine about them and their family. One v-logger, in particular, highlighted Jim Bob’s lengthy application/questionnaire that he handed out to his daughters’ suitors. The v-logger commented that the questionnaire seemed almost akin to an audition. The young men who came a’courtin’, had to explain their religious beliefs, and describe how they planned to support the Duggar daughters.
It dawned on me that Jim Bob was holding auditions, to keep the gravy train rolling. It mattered less if the potential suitor was a good match and had things in common and basic chemistry with his daughters. He was looking for guys who were reasonably attractive, loyal, hard working, and, above all, malleable, and willing to submit to Jim Bob’s authority. So far, it doesn’t look like Boob is the best judge of character, even with that lengthy audition/questionnaire he makes his potential sons-in-law fill out for him. Ben Seewald seems to be the only one who stays totally loyal to Boob, besides Boob’s own sons. The other sons-in-law mostly seem interested in actually being the “headship”, rather than allowing Boob to stay in that role.
Then I thought about how Jim Bob had basically “prostituted” his children to TLC, using a contract in which he collected all of the money from the episodes of the Duggar series and specials, supposedly to dole out the money to the participants. However, Jill Dillard and her husband, Derick, later sued Jim Bob so they could get paid for their participation on Counting On. It’s been widely reported that Jill was basically paid minimum wage, and the cost for pursuing that money, as well as being allowed to live life on her own terms, was being ostracized from her family.
I remember when I first saw Derick Dillard. I thought he seemed reasonably intelligent. I even kind of liked him. He did, at the very least, seem to really love Jill, anyway, and God knows she needed someone to show her some authentic love. Then later, Derick was criticized for making transphobic comments about fellow TLC reality star, Jazz Jennings. It got to the point at which he was no longer on Counting On. At first, I thought TLC gave him the ax because of all of those transphobic comments he made about Jazz Jennings, and the backlash resulting from them. Later, I read that he and Jill had decided to leave the show, because they weren’t getting paid, and because they didn’t enjoy having their personal lives plastered all over a reality show solely for Jim Bob’s profit.
I also realized, sad as it is, that a lot of Americans probably have feelings that are similar to Derick Dillard’s when it comes to issues regarding the LGBTQ community. While I disagree with Derick’s opinions regarding that community, I can also understand why he still has a voice. It’s because many people agree with him, but aren’t saying so out loud. They don’t want to be lectured or canceled. It’s sort of the same reason why Donald Trump is popular, in spite of being an obvious and major narcissistic dickhead.
It would be nice if every person’s controversial and problematic views evolved at the same time, but that’s not reality. The truth is, it takes time to change public sentiment. That’s why we still have issues with racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination. Loftily telling someone to “educate themselves”, when they have an opinion that isn’t politically correct, isn’t likely to end with positive results. People don’t like to be told what to do or how to think or what their opinions should be, even if more progressive people have come to different conclusions. Telling them that they have to change their views is going to result in a lot of defiance, and championing of those who are bolder about expressing their opinions.
So, instead of disliking Derick Dillard simply because he made those offensive, transphobic comments, which are right in line with his conservative Christian beliefs, I choose to look at him in a more positive light. I don’t agree with his ignorant comments about people who aren’t heterosexual, but I like that he encourages Jill to live a less constrained life. I like that he seems to love her very much. I love that he took on Jim Bob, and doesn’t let Jim Bob run his or Jill’s lives. I love that Jill does more of what she wants, and their sons go to public school, where they are exposed to people who aren’t just like them. I love that Derick insisted on being paid for the work that he and Jill did.
Jim Bob acts like a pimp, and his wife and children, and now his grandchildren, are pressed into service to make money for him, just as if they were prostitutes for TLC. I’m glad Derick stopped allowing Jim Bob to prostitute him and Jill, using them for his personal gain. While some people may not like that I use the terms “pimp” and “prostitute” to describe Jim Bob and his family, if you look up the definition for “prostitute”, you will find that it’s not always a word that’s used for sex workers. It’s also used for people who surrender their self-respect and misuse their talents for personal gain. A pimp is a “go-between”– a “purveyor” of services rendered, especially if they’re sexual. But, if you think about it, Jim Bob kind of does sell off his offspring, if not for reality entertainment value, then for their abilities to reproduce and make more bodies who can be raised to think the way he does.
The Duggars, and the people who have married into that family, are all conservative Christians. Most of them hail from the southern United States, which is Bible Belt territory. I think it’s unrealistic to expect most of them to change their beliefs about homosexuality and transgendered people on a dime. It would be nice if they could instantly join us in the 21st century and stop being homophobic and transphobic, but that isn’t reality. While I think their show should have been canceled ages ago, I also think the fact that it wasn’t is a sign that a lot of Americans are, deep down, more like them than they’d like to admit, political correctness be damned.
Maybe it’s not necessarily a bad thing that the Duggars had a reality show for so long. If anything, the show and the incredible fall from grace the Duggars are experiencing, shines a light on the very disturbing and destructive IBLP and ATI cult formed by Bill Gothard. If not for the Duggars, would most of us even know about Bill Gothard? I don’t think I would. Maybe I would have eventually gotten around to reading a book about fundies, but it takes more time and effort to read a book than watching a TV show.
Personally, I think it’s better to try to understand the Duggars where they are, and realize that for now, they are homophobic and transphobic, and that’s not likely to change anytime soon. We have to work with what we have. They aren’t going to change their beliefs simply because I tell them they need to educate themselves. They have to want to change. And right now, they have bigger fish to fry, as eldest son Josh awaits his sentencing and trip to federal prison. Speaking of which…
Lately I’ve also been watching videos made by former prisoners. I’ve been watching Jessica Kent, who served time in New York and Arkansas, for some time, but I’ve also watched a few videos by Christina Randall, a winsome YouTuber from Florida who did time in prison there. Recently, I saw her video about what it’s like to be transferred to prison, and how terrible an experience that was. I think Josh has some terrible days ahead of him, but at least he won’t be pregnant when he goes to prison.
I don’t have any pity for Josh. I don’t think he is someone who should ever be on the outside, mainly because people like him can’t be rehabilitated without extreme measures. Basically, he’d probably need to be castrated to have any hope of quelling his deviant desires. We know that’s not going to happen. He poses a danger to the world’s most innocent and fragile people. But even though I don’t pity him, I also know that he’s going to be in for a rough time. And I know that in spite of how I feel about his family– especially his father– there are people in that family who love him in spite of what he’s done. So I have some compassion for them, and basic compassion for Josh, because he is still a human being who has done really terrible, monstrous things.
Josh is not ever going to be trustworthy, especially around children. And it is sad for his SEVEN children than their father is a sexual deviant who is going to prison. Although it would probably be sadder for them if he had been acquitted, and allowed to raise them, since it’s likely that they were victimized by him. The sad fact is, people who look at what he was looking at usually have to produce it themselves, in order to be trusted in that sick community. I would be surprised if Anna doesn’t get investigated, too.
Of course, not everyone in the Duggar family is guilty, and they shouldn’t all have to pay for Josh’s mistakes, or the fact that the patriarch trotted them out on reality TV so he could make a fast buck. They can’t help being who they are, or how they were raised… and even if the world is telling them they should be different, it’s a scary proposition to reject one’s family and upbringing, and the ideals that they learned during their formative years. I have hope that some of them will break away and have the courage to live life on their own terms, rather than being Boob’s enslaved prostitutes for publicity.
Anyway… this whole fiasco has been an epic shitshow. It’s really something to watch the oldest episodes of the Duggars’ reality show and see just how deceptive they were, and how much “actual reality” was being obscured by “reality TV”. It’s always sad when someone’s image is significantly less than the reality of who they really are becomes obvious. But I do take heart when I see glimmers of hope and light, and I do see those when I see Derick Dillard take on Jim Bob and Josh. No, he’s not perfect, and I certainly don’t agree with his homophobic or transphobic opinions, or his conservative political views. But I think it’s a beautiful thing that he supports his wife in her recovery, and doesn’t let Jim Bob whore him out to the highest bidder. That’s got to count for something.