Few of my closest acquaintances would accuse me of being an optimist. They’d laugh at the idea. And yet, there I was hoping that TLC would have stuck to the decision they so reluctantly came to to remove the Duggar clan from the air.
Instead, the broadcaster has announced it will air “specials” in the coming months focused on Jill and Jessa Duggar (not coincidentally two of the sisters Josh Duggar is on record as having abused). This is clearly part of the long game in which TLC has been engaged – first waiting a full 3 months to make sure we wouldn’t just forget about the whole Josh issue, then rolling out the least desirable special of all time (to prove, you know, that they care), and finally, now welcoming a family that facilitates molestation back to the air.
And have no doubt, these new specials will also feature the horror show known as the Duggar parents (who failed to report their son’s behavior after it had been pointed out to them more than once). No doubt the family as a whole will benefit financially (on the upside – less begging for money from their followers). No doubt those specials will evolve into a series.
Any right-thinking person would have to concede that these two women should not be victimized (again) for the sins of their paedophile brother; they are the least tarnished by this scandal, which is why the Duggar comeback is being packaged around them. Additionally, time heals all social media wounds. A cursory examination of articles announcing the return of the family (sans Josh) as well as the 15,000 Kids and Counting FB page, indicates that most of those outraged by the original story have since moved on to other inflammatory subjects.
Left behind is the original audience for the show: middle class white folks based in the middle of the country who tend towards evangelical Christianity i.e. not us crazy Queers on the coasts some of whom happen to produce the programming said Christians watch (unless Mamma Michelle gets us fired, that is). Those folks are thrilled to invite the Duggars back into their homes (They never understood why the liberal media elite were so hung up on the small matter of molestation – and the covering up thereof – in the first place.)
This is the audience responsible for the 19 million dollars in ad sale revenue TLC was raking in. Anyone who has ever worked for TLC knows that white middle-class folks in the middle of the country is their target demographic, and that they program accordingly. (Fun game: watch a night of TLC programming and count the number of Black and Latino people featured versus the Whites.) And let’s not kid ourselves – all networks make these kinds of choices to a greater or lesser degree depending upon their audience.
That being said, programming the Duggars is pretty fucking cynical, given how damaging their way of life has proven to be.
For instance, I can’t help but feel that Josh Duggar’s issues (and he evidently has more than one) arise out of the environment he grew up in. How can a child come to terms with his sexuality when, on the one hand, his parents are fucking like bunnies but on the other he’s getting his wrists tied together when he’s caught masturbating?
Then there’s whole repopulating the world with white Christians that the Quiverfull folks are largely endorsing; and let’s not fool ourselves that this isn’t about race – take a good look at this search on Quiverfull adherents. Notice anything?
Finally, there’s that asshole Bill Gothard, the spiritual leader of the Duggars, who’s a committed paedophile himself.
And this isn’t just about TLC (or Discovery). Why is there such a commitment across broadcasters to, say, celebrate the wives of criminals, encourage women to get into physical fights, and implicitly provoke cops to “perform for camera” with deadly consequences?
Is it really too much to ask that broadcasters (and production companies) behave as responsible citizens in their programming choices? Are there really so few topics for programming, that we can’t have programming free of right wing nutjobs and thugs? Can we really not create shows more like Little People, Big World, and cast aside the shit likes Mob Wives?
Based on what I’m seeing on the inside, this problematic shit is developed more out of laziness than a lack of viable alternatives. Both production companies and especially broadcasters would far rather copy another successful show, than develop one themselves.
Look, like most (all?) cynics I am actually plagued by idealism. I’m disgruntled with the world not because I believe it is depraved per se, but because I have a vision of how much better it could be. And reality programming, for one, could be a whole lot better if we just tried.