The brand new Duggar doc is the chilly, onerous ‘actuality TV’ we would have liked all alongside

For seven years, plus specials, plus spinoffs, America had the doubtful pleasure of following the every day lives of the Duggar household, a supersize gaggle of well-scrubbed Arkansans who procreated with such zeal that the title of the present saved altering: “17 Youngsters and Counting” turned “19 Youngsters and Counting” by the point of its cancellation, at which level matriarch Michelle’s astounding uterus lastly retired.

The Duggars wanted a bazillion pancakes to get via breakfast. The Duggars drove a literal bus. An entire episode may very well be made from Duggar laundry day, and of the cheerful means the older daughters mini-mama’d the family chores. The household was just a little bizarre. They eschewed all contraception and prohibited kissing or hugging earlier than marriage. However TLC principally performed it as gentle-weird, perhaps even aspirational-weird, up till 2015, when the present was yanked from the air following allegations that oldest-child Josh had as a youngster molested 5 women together with, as his mother and father later affirmed, 4 of his sisters.

That’s the backstory you want to be able to watch “Shiny Comfortable Folks: Duggar Household Secrets and techniques,” a brand new Prime Video exposé in regards to the Duggars and the deeply conservative spiritual group, the Institute in Primary Life Rules, that molded and formed each side of the household’s life. (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Publish.)

Lists are already showing on-line of the documentary’s most stunning takeaways: The Duggar youngsters have been by no means paid for his or her participation within the collection; dad Jim Bob guarded the purse strings even whereas no less than one of many older youngsters was compelled to go on meals stamps, daughter Jill Duggar tells the digicam. She additionally says that she was made to signal contracts with out figuring out what they have been, and to reluctantly movie her labor and supply as a result of viewership spiked throughout wedding ceremony or child episodes.

After watching all 4 elements of the collection, right here’s a tiny little nugget I can’t cease fascinated with: within the tradition of IBLP — a uniquely American spin on Christianity the place the brand is a bald eagle touchdown on a Bible — boys in households are discouraged from altering their child sisters’ diapers.

The pondering, as defined by the previous IBLP adherent who mentions the rule, was that publicity to feminine genitalia, even these belonging to an toddler, could be an excessive amount of temptation for a pubescent male.

It’s onerous to think about what sort of unhappy mind would even provide you with such logic — or perhaps it isn’t, as a result of the documentary additionally notes that greater than 30 girls accused former IBLP head honcho Invoice Gothard of harassment earlier than he was ousted from his submit.

It’s not onerous to think about the injury that such a educating would inflict on the parishioners who internalized it — the parishioners who have been taught that women and girls are temptresses, that boys and males are deviant at coronary heart, and that the best way to deal with discussions about intercourse and our bodies is to by no means, ever have them.

Maybe you bear in mind the Megyn Kelly interview that Jim Bob and Michelle sat via in an obvious effort to avoid wasting their status after allegations of Josh’s sexual abuse got here to gentle. A saucer-eyed Michelle advised Kelly that the household had enacted “safeguards” to ensure nothing like that ever occurred once more.

“Little ones don’t sit on large boys’ laps, except it’s your daddy,” she defined. Not one of the youngsters have been allowed to play hide-and-seek, nor have been a brother-sister pair ever allowed to be in a room alone with no third to chaperone. The household’s insistence on “facet hugs” — scientific peripheral squeezes moderately than something requiring two arms — had been famous on-line however all of a sudden had context.

The Duggars appeared to sincerely consider that they may safeguard sin away from their family by sporting longer clothes, subscribing to inflexible gender roles, praying more durable. “Shiny Comfortable Folks” makes it clear that this wasn’t a determined household’s magical pondering. This was IBLP doctrine. A organizational workbook for grade-schoolers contained an train during which college students have been instructed to circle the harmful, “conceited” apparel — an uncovered knee or shoulder — worn by a collection of ladies.

In 2015, Jim Bob and Michelle defined that they’d despatched Josh to a church-run program to rehabilitate him. “We had taken care of all that years in the past,” is what they advised Kelly. It by no means appeared to happen to them that IBLP may be spectacularly ill-equipped to deal with a troubled boy like Josh. Within the documentary, a number of girls recount how IBLP teachings had made them extra inclined to abuse: as women, they have been taught that it was their job to at all times obey males, they usually have been denied the intercourse training obligatory to speak, and even totally grasp, when dangerous issues occurred to them.

In 2021 Josh, now a 30-something man, was sentenced to greater than 12 years in a baby pornography case, and is at the moment in jail.

To be very clear, I’m not saying that the IBLP brought on Josh Duggar’s conduct. Lots of of kids have been raised within the religion and grew as much as be respectable, well-adjusted adults.

What I’m saying, greater than something, is that “Shiny Comfortable Folks,” moderately than “19 and Counting,” is the fact present that ought to have been made all alongside.

We didn’t want episodes in regards to the gallons of peanut butter consumed by the Duggar family, and we didn’t have to marvel on the means the Duggar youngsters all appeared to do their chores, apply their devices, and go on chaste, chaperoned dates with romantic prospects of their mother and father’ selecting — smiling all of the whereas, and with out grievance. How did the Duggars do it?!

They did it — no less than, as the previous IBLP adherents describe the state of affairs — as a result of they have been in a “cult.” They did it as a result of their inflexible religion preached frequent corporal punishment, subjugation of ladies, and a profound concern and mistrust of the skin world. They did it as a result of the self-discipline and obedience depicted on digicam might need been a church advantage, however these virtues got here at an enormous value and viewers by no means noticed that value weighed when the digicam was rolling.

That’s what we would have liked to see. The associated fee. The complexity. We would have liked to know that the Duggars’ preoccupations with purity and modesty weren’t a part of a kitschy household creed, however have been as a substitute do-this-or-go-to-hell necessities of their religion. We would have liked to know that the identical spiritual doctrine that brought on this household to thrive had damaged different households.

And, by the best way, had it brought on the Duggars to thrive? Or had it merely taught them that displaying misery, and even asking questions, could be seen as a private failure or signal or ethical decay?

I don’t know whether or not the present I’m describing would have lasted for seven years. However so far as actuality tv goes, it could have been much more actual.

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