Duggars, narcissists, Reality TV, religion

More thoughts on Shiny Happy People…

Yesterday, I watched Amazon Prime’s docuseries, Shiny Happy People as I wrote my daily blog post. The series, which was eagerly anticipated by Duggar family snarkers, was preemptively condemned by Jim Bob Duggar, who hadn’t seen it before he wrote his statement on Instagram. I shared his comments in yesterday’s post, so I won’t repost them here. Suffice to say, I think he knew this wasn’t going to be great PR for his family. However, in spite of Jim Bob’s fears, although the series promised “Duggar Family Secrets”, I’m not so sure it really delivered too much more of what most of us already knew. I did notice, though, that both Joy Anna Forsyth and her brother, Jedidiah, have respectively announced the births of their son and daughter just in time for this docuseries. Joy Anna’s baby, Gunner, was born May 17th, and Jed’s daughter, Nora, was born on the 24th. Both births were just announced within this week. Jim Bob probably hopes people will pay attention to those blessed events instead of what’s on Amazon.

The official trailer for Shiny Happy People…

What the docuseries has done is shine a light on Bill Gothard and the Institute in Basic Life Principles. It has revealed just how sick and bizarre that cult is, and how so many innocent people have been caught up in it through no fault of their own. Yes, we heard from Derick and Jill Dillard, but they weren’t the whole focus of the series. Quite a few lesser figures in the IBLP were given a voice, including a couple of men. I think people don’t realize that culty groups like the IBLP are not just destructive to females. Men who don’t toe the line can also suffer greatly.

This morning over breakfast, as I was telling Bill about the docuseries, I commented that I was so glad I wasn’t born to super religious parents who were stuck in a fundie Christian cult. I’ve mentioned before that to a lesser extent, we’ve been getting an inkling of what it’s like to be raised by an extremely narcissistic control freak through listening to Bill’s daughter. The IBLP puts that micro cult experience on a whole new level, causing a generations of young people to be stuck, undereducated and too sheltered to function effectively in the world.

Heather Heath, who wrote the book Lovingly Abused, about her experience growing up in the IBLP, spoke about how even the most intimate aspects of life were controlled. She spoke of how she bought tampons at WalMart during one of the conferences she attended. When the tampons were discovered, she was severely chastised for “taking her own virginity” with “devil’s fingers”. To be fair, this isn’t the first time I’ve heard such ignorance. Years ago, I read and reviewed a book called Do Tampons Take Your Virginity by Marie Simas. Simas was raised by strict Catholics, who had similarly odd views on feminine hygiene products.

The series indicated that Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar were moving into leading the IBLP, since Gothard was forced out for being such a pervy old man. Maybe that’s a comfort to Jim Bob, who has been trying to get back into politics so he can help turn the United States into a theocracy. I don’t think he’ll ever get back into public office, but if he’s running the IBLP, that’s a measure of power. But, then, a lot of people have seen the Amazon series by now, and will be warned away from him and his like minded friends. It’s a lot harder to suck people in to such cults now, because of the Internet and the easy availability of vast information. So, their only hope of survival is courting the ignorant and keeping the members they already have busy with breeding and church activities, hemming them in with legalistic rules.

The IBLP is just one of so many religious organizations run by extreme narcissists. Some of what was said in the series sounded a lot like things I’ve heard about religious movements, such as Mormonism. Joseph Smith, founder of the LDS church, basically “married” the wives of church members and had up to 40 wives. Some were as young as 14 years old. The LDS church has obviously changed some of its problematic earlier policies and become more mainstream. But there are still offshoots of the official church that do things more the way they were allegedly done in the early days of the church. Some of what I heard yesterday reminded me of what I’ve read about Mormonism, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Scientology, and lesser known religious cults. Really strict religious groups with lots of rules tend to have a lot in common with each other, even if their actual beliefs are very different. I was actually reminded of Scientology when I heard about how Jim Bob got a lot of his children to sign lifetime contracts that obligated them to work for him. After all, Scientology has their famous billion year contracts for members of the Sea Org.

Overall, I thought the series was very well done. Four episodes aren’t really enough… and I think the producers are going to find that people would love to have more. I won’t be surprised if they make another series or another season of Shiny Happy People. It’s giving people what they want and, ultimately, that means more money for Amazon. I did notice a bunch of people wishing the series were available on other platforms, as they didn’t want to subscribe to Amazon Prime just to watch the series. Fortunately for me, I use Prime a lot, so it was not an issue for me. I don’t use the video part of the membership much, so it was good to get to use it yesterday. Especially since I have memberships to both the US and German versions of Amazon Prime. Yes, that’s right. Amazon Prime on the US version of the site doesn’t carry over to all Amazon stores worldwide. I don’t know if just being able to watch Shiny Happy People is worth subscribing to Amazon Prime, but if you use Amazon a lot, like I do, it may be well worth the money.

One other thing that really seemed very sad to me was how young children were constantly reminded of Hell and how they would be tormented forever if they didn’t instantly obey their leaders. I mentioned it yesterday, but I was especially sickened by the pastor who demonstrated how to properly spank children, forcing them to be “grateful” for the corrections. The little boy who served as the model will grow up someday, probably married to a woman who didn’t necessarily want to be his wife. He will likely discipline his children in a similarly sick way.

Or maybe not… Here’s an unlocked article from the Washington Post about a couple who were raised in Christianity and homeschooled, deciding to do things differently with their own children. It caused a huge rift in their family, but they decided they didn’t want to raise their children the way they were raised. They didn’t want to be instructed to beat their children with rods. So maybe there’s some hope.

While I’m sharing unlocked WaPo articles, here’s another one about a reviewer’s reaction to the series. I think it’s well worth reading… but really, I think you should watch the series, if you can stomach it and have the means. Hypocrite fundie blogger, The Transformed Wife, Lori Alexander, is obviously dismayed about it… For that fact alone, you should watch. She’s an idiot who really needs to zip it.

Oh shut up, Lori.

Well, it’s noon, and we have some plans for today, so I think I’ll sign off. Have a great Saturday!

book reviews

Repost: A review of Do Tampons Take Your Virginity?, by Marie Simas

I originally wrote this review of Do Tampons Take Your Virginity? A Catholic Girl’s Memoir, by Marie Simas, back when I was posting on Epinions.com. I don’t know exactly when this was posted, because the date of the original review has been deleted. I had reposted it on my original blog in 2017, and now I’m reposting it again here. Enjoy!

I love a good memoir.  I also like profanity.  And I was probably attracted to Marie Simas’ 2010 book Do Tampons Take Your Virginity? A Catholic Girl’s Memoir because of the provocative title, which told me that the author was probably going to be very irreverent.  The price was right, too.  Amazon.com was selling this e-book for 99 cents, though a paperback version is also available for $9.75.  I decided to take the plunge when I saw that the book was supposed to be funny.

Who is Marie Simas and what is her book about?

Born in 1973 and raised in California, Marie Simas grew up Catholic with a super strict father and kindly mother.  She has a younger brother, Johnny, who is apparently the favored child.  Her parents are from The Azores, so she takes family trips to Portugal, both to the mainland and The Azores.  Do Tampons Take Your Virginity is a collection of memories from Simas’ upbringing.  Each story is prefaced with a title, a year, and the age Simas was when the incident happened.  She covers her life from childhood until young adulthood.

Not that funny, but very interesting…

I mentioned earlier that this book is supposed to be funny.  It’s listed as a “humor” book.  I want to caution prospective readers that this book is mostly not at all funny. Marie Simas grew up with a very abusive father who was overly strict and behaved like a tyrant toward her and her mother.  She describes several heartbreaking incidents that no sane reader would ever find laugh-worthy, scenes that involve physical, emotional, and sexual abuse.  However, Simas does have a very irreverent writing style and uses a lot of profanity.  I like profanity, but even I was getting tired of Simas’ constant use of the “f-word”. 

That being said, I have to admit I was very fascinated by many of Simas’ stories about her youth.  Because she presents her life in chronological order, I could see her progress from being a frightened child who was bullied into obeying her father at all times to a defiant young woman who had developed the courage to stand up to her abuser.  I didn’t always agree with the way she handled her problems or the way she treated other people, but I will admit that her methods were mostly effective on some level. 

Overall, Simas comes across as an understandably angry person who could probably use some intensive therapy.  Sometimes, I empathized with Simas, even as I occasionally thought she came across as obnoxious.  I am myself an obnoxious person who grew up in an abusive environment.  I think I partially understand the anger behind Simas’ words and the reasons why she’s obnoxious and irreverent.  Every once in awhile, I also saw a softer side of Simas, a side that revealed humility and sadness rather than over-the-top anger and excessive profanity.

Not really that much about being Catholic…

Another thing I want to address is this book’s premise of being a “Catholic memoir”.  While Simas does mention some things about Catholicism and her father’s strictness, I didn’t get the sense that this book really had that much to do with religion.  There was one section in which Simas writes about one of her cousins not wanting to divorce her abusive husband because she’s Catholic, but overall, this book seemed to be more about a girl growing up with a very abusive father than anything else.  I didn’t feel the Catholic religion always had that much to do with her father’s propensity toward violence.  In fact, I felt like the family’s Old World Portuguese heritage could have had more to do with Simas’ father’s old school attitudes than anything else. 

Simas describes her father’s homeland, The Azores, as a very rustic place where people didn’t have running water or other modern conveniences and everyone’s provincial and backwards and lives in a rural village.  In my mind, even the fact that Simas’ dad is from The Azores and had a provincial upbringing shouldn’t really have that much to do with the fact that he was an abusive man who repeatedly raped his dying, bedridden wife and beat on his daughter.  I think the man was probably just a criminal.  But, he did seem to have a lot of hang ups about sex and women being attractive or independent.  Maybe that has to do with Catholicism or being Portuguese, but I don’t think Simas made that abundantly clear.

Simas is rebellious 

One thing I took from this memoir is that it doesn’t pay to be overly strict with children. It only teaches them to be deceptive and manipulative. It gives them a reason to be rebellious. Marie Simas writes that her father used to refer to her as a whore, especially when she wore makeup. He didn’t want her to use tampons because he felt they would take her virginity. He demanded that she follow his every order to the letter or risk being beaten, and he had to approve of all of her friends.

And so, when Simas became a teenager, she started wearing makeup when her father wasn’t around.  She used tampons.  She stayed up after midnight to create art and she used her friends to get her out of the house.  Simas writes that at least one of her friends “cleaned up nice”, but was actually a pretty nasty person who was not a good role model.  Simas’ father was all about his daughter not being a whore, but Simas admits to being very promiscuous and actually being really mean to some of her boyfriends.  She writes about these incidents as if the reader should be cheering her on, but to me, it just seemed like she projected her father onto a lot of the men in her life.  I felt sorry for the guys instead of identifying with Simas.

Simas apparently has issues with fat women

Several times in this book, Simas describes women as chubby or fat.  Her tone regarding these women is generally somewhat derisive and dismissive.  The only heavyset woman Simas doesn’t seem to have a significant issue with is her doctor, who helps her decide what to do when she unexpectedly becomes pregnant.  I did think it was telling, though, that Simas referred to so many women she didn’t seem to like as “fat”, “chubby”, and “ugly”.  I don’t happen to think that fat people are necessarily ugly or unlikeable, nor do I think that thin people are always attractive or appealing, but Simas seems to think the conditions are not mutually exclusive. 

Anyway, to wrap this up…

I’m of kind of a mixed mind about Do Tampons Take Your Virginity?.  I think this book is reasonably well-written, occasionally poignant, and overall, interesting reading.  Parts of this book are also surprisingly funny.  I wish Simas had written more about The Azores, which is a place that a lot of Americans never get to see.  And I wish she had written more about her life as an adult.  She describes how her son was born and mentions she has two kids, but she never writes about her second child.

I don’t think this book is really that much about Catholicism, nor do I think this book should be considered “humor”.  I don’t think abuse is particularly funny and a good portion of this book is about child abuse.  While I wasn’t offended by the stories about abuse, I want to caution prospective readers that they may be disturbed by some of Simas’ childhood memories.  No one should pick this book up and expect to laugh all the way through it.


I give this book three stars and my recommendation.  I think it’s worth reading, if you can stomach the language and stories of abuse.  Just don’t expect a million laughs.  Amazon.com really ought to reclassify this book as just a memoir so that people looking for humor won’t be disappointed. 

I will probably read Simas’ next book, Douchebag Roulette, because I have a morbid curiosity about it, despite the three star rating I’m giving to Do Tampons Take Your Virginity?. I think there’s a lot to like about Simas as an author, even if I didn’t always find her as likable as a person– at least not as she comes across in her writing. As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon when purchases are made through my site.