Perhaps you have caught on to the extreme conservatism (and extreme progressivism for that matter) holding the United States hostage right now. The Duggars, as public evangelicals whose sole purpose is to normalize fundamentalist Christianity, are contributors to and a byproduct of the public sphere currently reshaping American politics and ideologies. Beyond that, as I’ve written before, 19 Kids and Counting and now Jill and Jessa: Counting On are part of a larger, complex media system. As much as you might hate the Duggars’ presence, they’re sticking around for a reason. Continue reading “Counting On: Meet the Duggars 2.0”
Have you heard about Freeform? If you haven’t, then you’re probably not invested in Pretty Little Liars’ five-year jump. (Seriously, can anyone explain how Alison is a high school English teacher?)
Announced in October, Freeform is the new and improved, edgy teenage version of ABC Family. It’s a less wholesome kind of family with more of exactly what ABC Family has been producing since 2010, when PLL became the network’s staple show. Unlike Secret Life of the American Teenager, current shows like Switched at Birth, Chasing Life and The Fosters present complicated and poignant portrayals of young adulthood and families without preaching or pandering. Nevertheless, the rebrand is a necessary shift for ABC Family, a cable network whose key audience has changed and whose brand identity has always been… wait for it… freeform. According to Variety, Freeform “marks a continued effort to evolve the young-skewing network past traditional family viewing and toward its target audience of “Becomers,” a network-coined term defined as those in the life stage spanning ages 14 to 34”.
No other reality TV family has broadcast as many lies, secrets and falsehoods as the Duggars. They are the perfect public figures to build a standard, ripped-from-the-headlines, whodunit narrative around. But this episode of SVU presents an elaborate fantasy. The path the fictional patriarch and matriarch take to healing and redemption is unlikely to ever unfold in the real world space the Duggars occupy. Continue reading “Matriarchy Wins: Law and Order: SVU Takes on the Duggars”
The Duggars of 19 Kids and Counting are many things. They are an unorthodox family. They are Conservatives. They are public Evangelicals. They are hypocrites.
In the week since InTouch Weekly published the police report about Josh Duggar’s acts of child molestation, tabloids, advertisers and networks have been quick to respond. You can no longer stream episodes on either Hulu or TLC.com. The latest issue of People, typically the Duggars #1 fan, also covers the scandal.
There are also rumors that TLC is considering developing a 19 Kids and Counting spinoff, which would focus on daughters Jill and Jessa.
I know what you’re thinking. How can TLC possibly be considering a spinoff? Hasn’t this family already gotten away with enough hypocrisy?
First, as I have previously written, 19 Kids and Counting is TLC and Discovery’s most profitable show. The network and mass media company will go to great lengths to keep any Duggars on television. Second, a spinoff centered around the Duggar daughters could be intriguing reality television and a potentially genius move.
For those not up on the lives of every Duggar, Jill and Jessa are both married and starting families. (Jill gave birth in May; Jessa is due in November.) They are also presumed to be two of their brother’s victims.
After 200 episodes, 19 Kids and Counting has become boring reality television. Like really boring. When the Duggars 2.0 began courtships, engagements, and families of their own, the show’s plots became redundant. There are only so many wedding and birth episodes a viewer can take. Even before the scandal broke, the show needed a major shake up. Obviously a child molestation scandal is a terrible way to generate new story material and interest in a long running series, but that is exactly what is happening. (Or at least, what TLC is presumably hoping will happen.)
Now consider this. The Duggars have gone to great lengths to keep much of their public lives and agenda separate from the image purported by their reality show. Even as the Duggars 2.0 began using social media (something they can’t do until they begin a courtship) and revealed their strong conservative political/social beliefs, the show itself remained rooted in the idea that the Duggars are just an abnormally large family living the American Dream. But the truth has come out and the aftermath is potentially devastating for both the Duggars and TLC.
For a spinoff to be successful and worthy of any viewers time, Jim Bob, Michelle and Josh must be removed completely. Josh Duggars deserves no platform to redeem himself. Neither do Jim Bob or Michelle, who have little purpose on their own show. (Their oldest daughters do most of the actual child rearing.)
19 Kids and Counting has spent nearly a decade masking extreme patriarchy behind a veil of Christian family values. So yes, a Duggar spinoff centered around the Duggar women would be revolutionary. And if handled properly, it is the kind of show that might actually earn the (some) Duggars actual respect.
(An alternative scenario for a spinoff, and there are many, is perhaps more likely. But I prefer to imagine a Duggar spinoff as close to Breaking Duggar as possible.)
“Reality TV promises its audience revelatory insight into the lives of others as it withholds and subverts full access to it.” — Laurie Ouellette and Susan Murray, Reality TV: Remaking Television Culture
It finally happened. After almost a decade of being America’s favorite oversized Evangelical family next door, the Duggars of TLC’s 19 Kids and Counting are experiencing a scandal for which there might actually be repercussions.
Here is (some of) what we know so far:
On Thursday May 21, InTouch published a police report indicating allegations that oldest son Josh Duggar was accused of child molestation in 2006. His father Jim Bob waited more than a year to report the accusations.
Josh Duggar has since apologized and resigned as Executive Director of the Family Research Council (FRC).
Various blogs and websites are now uncovering many of the less often discussed aspects of the Duggars religion and lifestyle. Buzzfeed, for instance, has a post on the homeschooling practices the Duggars promote via 19 Kids and Counting.
Other media outlets have reported that the allegations about Josh Duggar have been circulating on the Internet for years. (This is true. I first heard about the allegations some time ago.)
TLC has pulled, not canceled, episodes of 19 Kids and Counting. You can still watch full episodes on TLC.com and there remains significant demands for cancellation.
While it seems that the scandal has simmered down over the long weekend, expect more news to spiral in the coming days until TLC makes a definitive decision on the future of 19 Kids and Counting.
Coincidentally, I wrote a final paper on 19 Kids and Counting for my Media, Culture & Power in International Communications course two weeks ago. (Snaps for grad school.) For the past month, I have been researching everything from the Duggar family and the Institute of Basic Life Principles (IBLP) to representations of extreme lifestyles on reality television to the branding of TLC and Discovery Communications. Needless to say, I have been following this scandal more closely than I ever paid attention to the similar fallouts that occurred with Here Comes Honey Boo Boo and Jon & Kate Plus 8.
Much of what is being written across the Internet right now focuses on the scandal itself – especially the cringeworthy behavior of various Duggars over the years. Yet what is not being discussed is how a show like 19 Kids and Counting is an integral part of a complex media system.
When you examine a show like 19 Kids and Counting, you quickly realize that more is going on than you could ever imagine. These are the main points we should focus on when we talk about the Duggars, the media empire they’ve built, and what is at stake for TLC/Discovery Communications.