It turns out Amazon’s new docuseries, Shiny Happy People: Duggar Family Secrets is available on Amazon.de, which is good news. That means I can watch it on my television. But, because I want to do some writing and other stuff, I will watch it on my laptop and use my handy new Mini Pod speakers. As I wrote yesterday, I wish I didn’t care about the Duggars… but I actually think people should pay close attention to them. There are a lot of non-famous people in the United States who would love nothing more than to see conservative, white, Republican, pro-life, pro-gun, fundie Christians running the country. And one of the reasons they have such humongous families is so there are higher numbers of people like them, voting for people like them. So, I think those of us who are more “mainstream” in our ways should pay close attention.
Jim Bob Duggar is not too pleased about the docuseries. He and his wife, Michelle, have issued a statement on Instagram. See below…
I find it interesting that Jim Bob is so concerned about his privacy now, when he worked so hard to keep his reality show on TLC (The Learning Channel) for so long, even after his eldest child, Josh, was outed as a sex pest. And Jim Bob pushed for creating his show, 17, 18, and 19 Kids and Counting, even when he knew that Josh had this disturbing past.
It’s now common knowledge that, back in 2002 or so, when Josh was about 14 years old, he molested four of his sisters and a babysitter. One of his victims was just five years old at the time. Josh was, himself, a child when this happened, so his parents were obligated to do something to help him with his problems. They did eventually take action, but what they did was completely ineffective, as later results shave shown.
Life went on, and for a time, Josh Duggar was even betrothed to Jim Bob’s best friend’s daughter, Kaeleigh Holt. Jim Bob and Michelle eventually told the Holts about Josh’s issues. Their solution was to have Josh lectured by an off duty cop, shave his head, and be sent away to do hard labor for a family friend. There was no consultation with a mental health professional, nor were there any legal consequences. Later, when the relationship with Kaeleigh fell apart, the Duggars simply glossed over it, and went on with their show, for which they became world famous. Jim Bob had the added benefit of also becoming very wealthy, but he did not share his new wealth with his children, who were the real stars of the show.
In 2015, the old business regarding Josh’s sexually abusive past was revealed to the masses, in a huge bombshell that dominated headlines for weeks. When this news hit the airwaves, the Duggars were still very popular. 19 Kids and Counting was still going strong. The eldest children were being married off and having children of their own. Their lavish weddings were shown on the show, and they went on fancy honeymoons in exotic locations. Josiah Duggar had just announced a “courtship” (dating with the intention of eventual marriage) with Marjorie Jackson. In the wake of the scandal, that courtship fell apart. Josiah went on to marry Lauren Swanson.
Jim Bob and Michelle went on Fox News, where they were interviewed by Megyn Kelly. I remember watching that interview in May 2015, thinking that they were lying through their teeth. I even wrote about it in my original blog. They claimed Josh was a changed person after their “treatment”. But, of course, he wasn’t. In November 2019, the Department of Homeland Security raided Josh’s business. News came out about how Josh had paid a sex worker for a private lap dance, and had very rough sex with her. The sex worker, Danica Dillon, eventually sued Josh, although the suit was later dropped. Josh also had a secret Ashley Madison account. Ashley Madison is a website where married people pay to find others who are willing to have affairs. All the while, Josh’s long suffering wife, Anna, who bore him seven children, stood by his side… even as he was led away in handcuffs after being convicted of sex crimes against children.
When it became clear that the public still wanted to watch the Duggars, TLC and Jim Bob came up with a new concept. The spin off was originally called Jill and Jessa Counting On, which was supposed to be about Jill Dillard’s and Jessa Seewald’s married lives. But then, as more Duggar “kids” got married, they were included in the show, and then Jill and her husband, Derick, dropped out of the program. It was retitled Counting On, and went on for several seasons. The spinoff was finally canceled in June 2021, in the midst of Josh Duggar’s legal woes. Josh was sentenced to about twelve years in federal prison after being convicted of receiving and possessing child pornography.
So… all of this stuff is already very public, but this new series kind of condenses the whole thing into more salacious entertainment. This is pretty much what Jim Bob did when he agreed to put his family on TV. Only now, he’s no longer in control of the final product, and all of that stuff that he willingly put out, is now being used against him. Television is a sword that cuts both ways.
I think Jim Bob’s reputation is pretty much shot now. I guess it’s understandable that he would issue a statement pleading for privacy. However, he can’t think that his pleas are going to be taken seriously. For years, he was all over TLC, openly advertising Bill Gothard’s fundie ways to the world, trying to make it seem like an idyllic, wholesome, squeaky clean way to raise families. He influenced countless people to follow his lead and join a very damaging cult. And NOW, he wants privacy!
I have already watched the first episode of this docuseries. It’s exciting to see the people involved in this series, to include Heather Grace Heath, whose excellent book, Lovingly Abused, I read and reviewed in December 2021. Jill Duggar Dillard and her husband, Derick, are on the series, as is Jen from Fundie Fridays, a YouTube channel I have been enjoying for some time now. I understand that Katie Joy, from Without a Crystal Ball, was also contacted about being on the series. However, she does not appear on the program. I know she’s a controversial figure, and there has been some speculation about why she’s not involved in this series. However, I’m not involved in any drama regarding Katie Joy, and I have no personal beef with her. So I’m just going to say that she’s not on the show, and I don’t specifically know why. I can only speculate, which I won’t do in this post.
Jim Bob Duggar was paid millions of dollars for showcasing his massive family, and being a living billboard for the Institute in Basic Life Principles, a fundamentalist Christian sect founded by Bill Gothard. Gothard never married or had children, but he expected his followers to marry and have huge broods. Additionally, Bill Gothard had a certain way he preferred the girls in his movement to look. He liked girls with long, curly hair. So, years after perms went out of style, the Duggar girls and their ilk were perming their long hair, so they could please their cult leader, Bill Gothard.
I am probably so interested in learning more about the IBLP and Bill Gothard because I’m interested in cults. I’m not just interested in big, established cults, though. I’m also interested in mini-cults… those within families. Cult leaders are usually narcissists, and they typically behave in telltale ways. My husband’s ex wife, for instance, is kind of like a cult leader within her own family system. When her children were young, she controlled every aspect of their lives and refused to allow them to be influenced by anyone above her. That meant that when her relationships with their fathers fell apart, the kids were expected to take her side. If she had her way, they’d never leave her home or her sphere of influence. But it’s not because she loves them so much. It’s because she craves absolute control, and she sees other people as tools.
When the kids were young, there was a facade presented that indicated that the kids were “happy” (although we had our doubts). Now, we are hearing that actually, things were pretty bad, and there was a lot of lying going on, to present a certain image. Listening to Jill Dillard now, I can see that she went through a similar dynamic. Yes, when she went on Megyn Kelly’s show on Fox News, she was lying… Lying for her father, to preserve the show and her connection to her family… But she didn’t feel good about it, and now she is openly stating that it was all a lie, that didn’t turn out to be enough to save the family’s tarnished reputation.
I see people like Jim Bob Duggar as mini-cult leaders. Look at how Jim Bob has managed to keep so many of his children under his control, even though they are adults. And most of them don’t seem to realize that he’s controlling them so much. He uses the prospect of being cast out and ostracized as a means of controlling his children… to include their spouses and their children. Because they don’t get adequate educations, it’s hard for the children to break away. Heather Heath’s book addresses this issue, as does Tara Westover’s book, Educated. Westover was raised Mormon, as were Bill’s daughters. Not all Mormons are like Westover’s parents were, just like not all Christians are like the Duggars. But these are just examples of people who use extremist religions as means of keeping a viselike grip on their children, forcing them to stay trapped in their cults and continuing the indoctrination with their own children.
The second episode of Shiny Happy People includes a horrifying segment on how children in the IBLP are disciplined. At one point, a pastor demonstrates how to spank a child. A little boy comes up to the pulpit as the pastor pretends to spank him. Then afterwards, the boy is forced to give the pastor a hug. When the hug isn’t good enough, the pastor admonishes him and says he needs another spanking, which he delivers. Children in this movement are not allowed to move or defend themselves when they are receiving corporal punishment. They are expected to remain still, as this “discipline” is for their own good. Then, they are supposed to be “grateful” for the correction, even if it’s extremely traumatizing.
As if that wasn’t sick enough, the show also includes clips of lessons given by Michael and Debi Pearl, authors of the book, To Train Up A Child. This book is very popular and well known within the fundie Christian community. It’s basically all about how to beat your children, and they provide very explicit directions on which implements to use. The Pearls are extremely abusive, in my opinion. My father was a spanker, but he used his hand, and basically did it when he was very angry (not that that’s the best time to spank, either). I wasn’t forced to hug him or tell him I loved him after he hit me. And he didn’t use dowels or glue sticks.
There’s also discussion about how women in the IBLP are expected to just accept whatever man shows up and says he wants her… as long as her father approves, of course. As I mentioned up post, Josh Duggar was originally supposed to marry Kaeleigh Holt, eldest of Jim and Bobye Holt’s eleven children. This pairing was decided when both Josh and Kaeleigh were teenagers. When that fell apart, he ended up with Anna Keller. They were married when they were both about 20 years old. They now have seven children. Anna has all of Josh’s kids, and obviously made herself “joyfully available” to her husband. But that wasn’t enough. He still cheated on her and consumed illegal porn. Meanwhile, Anna had to present a perfect, happy image to the world, often while pregnant and on television.
It amazes me that the Duggars were able to keep up their facade for as long as they did. Jim Bob is “pleading” for privacy, and yet he’s the one who put all of that stuff out there in the first place. People love to see people fall off of pedestals, especially when they are as sanctimonious and smarmy as Jim Bob is. So… I suspect that things are going to be harder for Jim Bob and Michelle. I am sorry for their innocent children and grandchildren. I especially feel sorry for Josh’s kids, who will have to live with the stigma of their infamous father for the rest of their lives. I hope they can escape the cult and raise their children in a better way.
I’ll probably write about this tomorrow, after I finish the last two episodes. For now, I think I’ll end this post. It’s already pretty long. Hope you have a great Friday.