Have you seen this family?
Against all matching-outfit evidence to the contrary they aren’t a singing group. Against all 19 child logic, they aren’t Catholic. Against all time-related logic the mother homeschools all of them (theoretically). Against all child labor law logic they built the house they live in WITH THE HELP OF THE CHILDREN.
And while they certainly aren’t running off to college or letting the girls wear pants or allowing dancing or conversing with regular non-giant-family people, I feel very close to this family.
That’s right, I have a soft spot for the Duggars, the vaguely-evangelical TLC super troop from Arkansas. What of it?
For the uninitiated, the early Duggar specials and later series feature a couple, Jim-Bob (yup) and Michelle Duggar and their ever-growing pack of Duggarkinder as they participate in contrived activities for the benefit of TLC cameras. Their religious beliefs, though clearly eccentric since they all dress like they live on a Mormon compound, are rarely elucidated other than to say they “home-church” and that their religion has led them to name all 700 of their children with names that begin with the letter J.
The story of their massive family size goes that Jim-Bob and Michelle choose to use birth control for a few years then suffered a miscarriage. Thinking that God was punishing them for something or other, they begged for forgiveness yada yada yada and said they would have as many children as HEEEEEEEE saw fit. And now they have 19 and are pregnant with their 20th. So yeah, happy ending?
“[Insert Recent # Here] And Counting” is part of a narrow category within the reality programming world that really appeals to my only child soul in a bizarre way. Since I totally fetishize life in a large family I am drawn to shows about parenting huge broods and the Duggars are the unlikely trailblazers in this niche. Their first special, “14 Children And Pregnant Again!” (Mrs. Duggar just announced she is pregnant with her 20th child), aired back when TLC was still in its golden age, producing programs like the classic primordial dwarfs special and showing serious-business surgery late at night. I was obviously aiming to watch highbrow scientific entertainment (as always) when I discovered the Duggars and my life has never been the same.
There is a lot of television that I disapprove of in practice but not in theory. “Dancing With the Stars,” for example, does not bother me on principle, it’s just boring. “Top Chef” sounds even borderline interesting as an idea but I just cannot make myself care enough to sit through it. That show about the family with the set of twins where one is a little person and one is not should be the height of fascinating exciting sibling/medical drama, but it’s actually kind of dull.
With the Duggars, however, I find myself in the unlikely position of only disapproving of their show in theory and finding it entertaining in practice.
The Duggars are definitely rabid Republican bible-thumping people who want to take away my right to choose (see photographic evidence to the left) and do almost nothing of interest besides have children. On principle I approve of 0% of what they believe, and I recognize how this is problematic.
Still, unlike many of the star-fuckers/famewhores that TLC has created of late in the large-family niche (JOHN! KATE! SISTER-WIVES!), Jim-Bob and Michelle seem like really decent, kind people who just happen to respectfully stand for a variety of terrible ideas and practice a totally wacky religion. Michelle is soft-spoken and caring, Jim-Bob is a loveable idiot (men!), and the kids are responsible blindly smiling citizens who bathe and feed their younger siblings and run through an unexpectedly large amount of hairspray.
Naturally their vague evangelicalism and references to birth control being evil invite a lot of questions on the interwebs. All things considered, however, unlike most of the TLC talent pool, television fame seems to do the Duggers good. Thanks to TLC the Duggerkinder have gotten a chance to see things and travel places that wacko-religious home-schooled kids do not usually get to. They have met regular people despite living in a compound surrounded by open fields. They own macbooks. I suspect one day one of the kids might just have their horizons broadened so much that they try to go to college or DANCE.
Is possible that we have all contributed positively to the Duggerkinder’s future just by having eyeballs and television sets? I like to think so. If true, it’s been the easiest community service I have ever done. Plus, perhaps our work with the Duggars can partially offset the way in which America has destroyed the Gosselin family and the “Sister-Wives” kids with our disinterested interest.
So, moving forward, can we give every wacky family in the state of Arkansas a television show? With enough passive viewership, I think we could solve some national problems with random religious tomfoolery. Plus there are only children out there who want to broaden their own horizons.
-Too embarrassed to sign this