Want to splash around in morbidity for a moment?
There’s always the new season of 19 and Counting.
And Counting – geddit? It’s not really “and Counting” now because Michelle Duggar miscarried #20. The new season is kind of morbid that way.
And not just that way. I find it kind of morbid overall. “Morbid” isn’t really the right word, I suppose – the Atlantic’s “creepy” is better – but it is, in a way – what’s dead is the mind. The whole atmosphere is Stepfordish. Yes they’re all very cheery and smiley and friendly and warm – but so would programmed pod people be.
This is, at least on film, a defiantly wholesome family; these kids aren’t constantly moaning about shopping malls and video games, cellphones and parties. Maybe that stuff factors in off-air, but in TLC’s carefully edited version of the Duggars’ world, all children, ages 2 to 18, are happy to be gamboling about together in a cornfield. That’s fine! It’s a little weird, of course, but why would anyone watch TLC if they didn’t want something a little weird?
Yes but the weirdness isn’t really fine, given what we know about how this weirdness is achieved. As Richard Lawson goes on to say.
And then of course there was the infusion of religion that probably earns the series a fair number of looky-loos (ahem). Michelle Duggar, the broodmare who gave birth to this baseball team, was invited to speak to a ladies group at a nearby church, and though what we saw of the speech was mostly a series of platitudes about family and children and all that, there was a single shot that said much more — the camera panned over a handout that Michelle brought to the event, and the content was pretty unsettling. TLC maybe included this shot for people like us, who of course paused it and advanced the frames to read as much of it as we could, and, whooo boy, was it unpleasant. It was all about how to make your husband happy in a marriage, which is of paramount importance to patriarch-dominated Quiverfull families. There were things about how wives shouldn’t refuse their husbands’ sexual advances, about how self-reliance is what kills marriages, about not stepping out of bounds in terms of what your responsibilities are as a wife (do too much and you emasculate him, you see). It was all reeeeally gross stuff that you never really hear the Duggars talking about on the show, but is absolutely the unspoken (on camera, at least) foundation of their family.