Thursday, April 1, 2010

Duggar Reality or a TLC Dream Come True

We all know by now that there's reality and then there's reality tv--they aren't exactly one in the same. There's also documentaries which tell a story that can be realistic and then there's reality tv revolving around families that still somehow doesn't always tell the whole story.

When we first learned about the Duggars on a grand scale it was through a documentary called "14 Children and Pregnant Again" and it was very true to their life. There were more documentaries about the Duggars to follow that were also true to their life, because they were just 1 hour documentaries spaced out over a few years--we weren't following them through their day to day lives, but just a few days out of their lives--a small difference. We were being shown how they live, not how they live every single day. Looking back the documentaries seem to be much more informative than the new 30 minute TV show.

The TV show they now have is on a theme format rather than a documentary format, therefore instead of learning exactly what there day to day life is really about, we learn what's going on with their "theme of the week" with a little day to day life thrown in around the edges. So it makes you wonder, who's deciding the Duggars daily life now--the Duggars or TLC? The trips to Dollywood, NYC, the ostrich farm, digging for diamonds....would they have done all this without the cameras following them around?

People have also criticized them for this and for the children act of TV--the kids are out of control, the girls answers sound canned. My theory is that there are cameras around. The little kids have learned that, like all little kids, if you "act up" or "act rambunctios" you're going to get attention---especially on a TV show filming you. So if they act up they are going to get the camera guy's attention which is probably why we see a lot of acting up on film. And let's not forget that what we see is 30 mintutes of film hacked down from hours and hours of footage. As for the "canned answers" a few of the girls have said they don't like talking to the camera, even though they are used to it. Jim Bob has said he doesn't like speaking in front of crowds. Yes, they are quite used to having cameras in their faces and have said the camera crew has become "like family" but that doesn't mean that you're going to behave instinctually the same way you would even in your own home as you would without cameras around. So in the true sense of "reality" we aren't getting reality.

I have a feeling that when the cameras aren't there life runs a lot more smoothly. Homework and reading books is probably a lot less stressful when someone doesn't have a camera pointed at you. I'm not sure how well I'd concentrate on a book with someone filming me, yes even if I'd been filmed all my life. I'm not sure how well my dinner prep would be with someone filming me, yes even if I'd been filmed for most of my life. And I'm sure my mothering skills would be scrutinized with cameras on my children running around the house mugging for camera time.

As much as we see on camera, I think it's very very important to think about what we probably aren't seeing. Remembering that these are theme shows and remembering back to the original documentaries, this family ran pretty smoothly--yes there was noise and yes the little boys all ran and played--but they are little boys and that's their job. Frankly it amazes me because if the little kids sit and behave then the Duggars are criticized for raising robots in a cult and if the kids are running free like little children should then Michelle is being criticized for not being a hands-on mom who just lets her kids run wild without any care for safety or discipline--so in that sense she's in a no-win situation with Duggar critics.

Frankly I'm one of those who fully understands the reality of reality TV. It is what it is--not all that real. Especially the new theme format. How real is it to be invited to Dollywood? For a family of 19 that has their TV show--well that could be real. As for the other things, I understand that when the camera crew is gone, and I believe it's not there as much as it is there, life is pretty happy go lucky and normal---save for this time when they are stressed and worried over little Josie--Hashem watch over her.


  1. Marybeth
    Very insitefull. The reason there were a few documenterys first was that TLC weighs the ratings and then fiqures out if the show is series worthy. I think your right about the kids acting up for the camera. Sorry about the spelling! History major not English major!

  2. I personally like to see the kids "act" up. It makes it seem more real to me. Sorry, I'm just glad to see they are NOT perfect. Now if some of the older kids would briefly show out...that would make for an interesting topic. I just think they all are very a positive and interesting way.

  3. It's a double edged sword---can't win for losing. They get criticism for the kids running amok because they aren't "parenting and paying attention" or if the kids are sitting still and behaving then they are "raising robots that quote the canned answers." Some people will never be happy with this family.

  4. TLC needs to expand the show to an hour so we can see more of how the Duggars make it work. When we are treated to chicken pox, Josie's progress and Michelle's father dying all in 23 minutes, there just isn't enough time to do any of that in depth. Yes, I did write to TLC about this. To date I've not received an answer. It doesn't seem as though they would have to film any more. Just edit the the film they are taping already.