Thursday, May 27, 2010

Jim Bob: Producer, Not a Puppet or PuppetMaster

Two different readers have brought up two different points/questions regarding the Duggars and I thought I might respond by putting the answers in one place. One reader asked about a post that was put on another Duggar blog that was written by Anna Keller's brother-in-law after the wedding episode, depicting what went on behind the scenes. He is careful to point out that he does not know the Duggars, but that his post is merely to clear up any misinformation out there about the Kellers and Kellers alone. He was not happy about having to sign a waiver to appear on camera, when he was first told it was optional, so he refused (he was there for Anna not to be on TV) and then when everyone was standing up on stage (he was a groomsman, his wife, Anna's older sister and owner of Anna's wedding dress, was a bride'smaid) was he then publicly confronted to sign the waiver or he wouldn't be in the wedding--apparently his wife never signed one and appeared, according to the brother-in-law, on the show illegally. There were other examples of staged incidents and questions of the Duggars being "in control" or not.

The entire letter he wrote is very long, so I copied and pasted it into the comment section, if you want to read it.

So the question was, are the Duggars puppets to TLC, especially with all the seemingly staged trips, or are they laughing all the way to the bank. The other remark was from someone who, like me, doesn't share in the Duggar's religious beliefs, but respects them, and enjoys watching them. I put these two together because it struck me as another case of "watching between the lines." I still, naive as it may sound, believe the Duggars are doing this show for honest and upright reasons. I also don't think they let it control their lives--otherwise it would be many many more shows than it is, I could be wrong, but doesn't the Kate show have many more episodes than the Duggars do?

I do think that the Duggars are put in situations that they normally wouldn't think to put themselves in since the show started--trips, outings, etc--and that is due to TLC, but I think they are enjoying them and using those trips to their advantage, not necessarily in a money way, but in a homeschooling way, behind the scenes--again speculation. I think a lot goes on behind the scenes we don't know about--I personally believe they have a "tv life" and a "private life" since this show isn't a documentary, it's set up "theme-style." I have no doubt that TLC pulls some strings. However, I don't believe for a minute that the Duggars would allow their morals, or Faith to be compromised for one moment--if that were to happen, I think they'd walk and walk fast. After all I think that's why Jim Bob's name is listed as a Producer, so he has final say--they said they would only do this if their Faith wasn't edited out. And this Producer credit is apparently new, he wasn't always listed as such, and that may be due to some things that have happened during filming that the Duggars weren't pleased with, or he's just a brilliant business man, or both.

I don't think anyone believes, even the real Duggar believers, for a moment that all the trips are Duggar-planned. While in Little Rock, I'm sure that Jim Bob does want to get the kids out of the house and keep them occupied, as well he should--it's best to remind them that they are still important parts of the family and that while Josie is sick and needs attention, they need attention too. I think TLC is just helping him find places to take them and making those trips easier to come by and making access easier--and in the stressful situation they are going through personally, I'd take the help and just go with it. Back before they had this personal trauma to deal with, I think they took TLC up on the offers of help finding outings, but still used those outings to their advantage on a homeschool basis--of course not all trips on their face will be appropriate for all age kids--but you can, if you work it right, can find something out of any of those trips, to make a valid project for any age homeschooler. Also, trips are trips and experiences are experiences, and regardless of whether they are relevant to school or not, they still are interesting and exciting for the kids and help build up who they are and where they've been.

Jim Bob is not a minister or a man of the cloth. He is a man of Faith, but he is not ordained. He is a real estate investor and former politician and former car salesman. He is a businessman. So, yes, I have no doubt he is constantly eyeing the bottom line. Why shouldn't he? He's in his mid-40s and still has kids in diapers! Even if he does have money coming in from TLC he still has to manage it wisely because he has a large family and it will be at least 20 years before Josie leaves the nest, plus he and Michelle have to think of their retirement.

I have said this before and I will say this again--they do not have a gauge for fame in the TV sense of the word. They don't watch regular television, they don't pay attention to modern media or music, so they have nothing to compare themselves to. Even when asked who Dolly Parton was, someone who had chart topping hits back when they were both in high school and able to listen to her music, didn't know what she was famous for. So when it comes to their own personal fame in regards to television, they have nothing to compare it to. They do, of course, know that they are a famous family, however it could be because you've seen them in People, or on the Today show. For all they know you're waving at them because they are a large family--remember in the first documentary, they said they always got approached long before TLC came knocking. In that respect, they can be naive to what "fame" is.

So because of that, I have no problem in believing that they are true to their word that they are really trying to be an encouragement for others---it's not about fame. I don't have a problem with them being paid a deserving wage for their time and trouble, after all it's not all wine and roses, as we've seen having a camera crew wake you up at 5am as you're leaving on a trip to the airport. I do think there are days they probably wish there wasn't someone following them around, even if that someone has become "part of the family."

That's my take--I will say this, I do feel for the brother-in-law. He was torn. He and his wife did want to be there to support Anna and the Keller family. However, I think he should have been a little more realistic...he and his wife knew going into it, long before they showed up for the wedding that it was going to be filmed for TV and they knew long before they showed up for the wedding that they didn't want to be filmed. I think he either should have signed the waiver without making a fuss about it or opted out of the wedding and done something else to support Anna and the Kellers. Obviously he was angry because he was reading things on the blog about the Kellers that he didn't like and he was blaming it all on TLC, I get that, but what I don't get is that Anna's parents knew from Day 1 that Josh and Josh's family were on a TV show--they said that in their first interview--we like them, not because they are on tv, but because they are great people, or something like that. So Anna's parent's knew what was coming--the rest of her family had to have known too. I think he was kind of out of line about it--did TLC deceive him about the waiver? We only have his word on how it happened, and if they did, that was wrong, but anyone knows, and he obviously seems to know how it works, that if you appear on tv you have to sign a waiver, and he said from the beginning that he didn't want to appear. So again, I ask, why even agree to be in the wedding? You can politely decline and give the reason "I don't want to be on TV." The Kellers, being the nice people he says they are, certainly would have understood. He could have been an usher, done something off screen. Is it just me?

Pulling this together, I think the Duggars have managed to stay on top of their world, without compromising their values, beliefs, or morals. The wedding episode aside, I do think that TLC probably has a lot to say about the episodes, but I do believe that Jim Bob and Michelle have veto-power over what happens and what gets onto the screen. I have no doubt that the wedding day was insane--even without a film crew show me a wedding day that isn't a mad one ready for pictures? Sounds like my first wedding. Actually it sounds typical of any wedding, just add a camera crew and waiver signing. I do feel badly that the Kellers weren't portrayed as well as he feels they should have, I don't remember them being portrayed badly--however this show isn't about the Kellers, it's about the Duggars. Now, at least, we know why we don't see more of the Kellers--Mr. and Mrs. Keller aren't fans of being on film. I think brother-in-law was overly defensive over remarks on a blog by people being mean to his in-laws (the Kellers) and he vented at TLC about it, I probably would too if I saw my in-laws being called horrible names by faceless people who didn't know them. But when it comes down to it, I think the Duggars are not puppets of TLC and doubtful they ever will be. I think their entire mission is to be an encouragment to as many as they can--just the sight of them with Sara and Samuel in the NICU should prove that.


  1. Mary Beth,

    Another excellent post, you're on a roll here!

    I agree with what you said about the BIL. When you're involved in a wedding, or any social event for that matter, it is your responsibility to be gracious and go along with whatever the plans are. If the plans offend you, you don't have to participate. You summed up my confused thoughts in a manner that made things easy and clear. Thanks!

    I do think the TLC editing does take things out of context and presents them to the viewer in a different way than they were sometimes intended. Anna's father did come off as being pretty extreme in the show. I think he is a great dad (from what I know) and Anna really does love her parents. I guess I like knowing that people are better than they are portrayed.

    Same goes for Jim Bob. I remember him talking about how they don't see the show until it premiers each season, and they go to his sisters house to watch. He is often portrayed as a bumbling and not terribly bright dad. I think that's due to editing. We ALL say stupid things, or things that can be taken out of context.

    Jim Bob is a very successful business man. That's not an accomplishment that can be attained if you're stupid! He is probably smart enough to allow TLC to make him look silly as long as they accurately portray the family faith, and are not mean-spirited. It's a reasonable trade-off. I think he is very smart with the TLC income, it's a great opportunity for his family to have a level of financial stability that they didn't have before.

    What is that old saying? Jim Bob is dumb like a fox!

  2. MaryBeth I think you have it done pretty well. Yes the Kellers were portrayed in a slightly less than favourable light, but mostly thru their own comments. Then of course we have the judges online who see a manufactured home "trailer" and make assumptions. Having driven thru portions of the south there are a lot of people who live in manufactured housing it's cheap and easy to heat/AC. I have lived ina trailer and would easily go back to one,I actaually found it to be quite a nice little place (as long as the neighbours were nice).

    I think TLC has brought opportunities to the Duggars that they would not otherwise have done just because of being money conscious. Before TLC they had not bowled,skydived, even the Dolly Parton encounter was mmost likely created by hte TLC exposure. Of that episode, I do believe Michelle knew who she was taling about her childrens knowledge of who she was not her own.

    As for JB having a Producer's credit a lot of companies do this as a way of giving a "raise" without doing so. It allows a little more imput from the Person with the credit so we might see the context of the shows poerhaps change a little- I think people would like to see a little more of the indepth Faith of the DUggars-sure some people will probably complain and say "Told you so" but the Duggars use the show to bring their Faith to others and I am sure the money will go a long way to providing for the famiy long after TLC has gone its merry way. I do not see the Duggars using it excessively as it is against the way they think.

    People are too used to being told by the system to do what the system wants.I remember a few years back when they were giving a rebate to all taxpayers(about $700) and all of a sudden there were ads to buy a FS TV, and al of a sudden everyone wanted one! I laughed and paid a tax bill.

  3. Unfortuantely it won't let me post the BIL's comment--I think it's too long... here is the URL if you want to go read it:

  4. I do agree that people don't give the Duggar parents enough credit. Sadly part of it may be due to the fact that they are Southern--thank Jeff Foxworthy for that--as funny as he is, he also made is socially acceptable to think all Southerners aren't as smart as the rest of the country. Of course Jim Bob has brains, you don't put together real estate deals the way he has and live debt free with 19 kids juggling a budget they way they do unless you have a few brain cells sparking away. You also don't make it to your State House of Representatives. I think it's because he gives the credit to G-d, not giving himself the credit that people assume he's not as smart as he is. He's humble, humble isn't stupid, it's grateful.

  5. I do agree that the Keller's may not have been portrayed accurately, but I never saw them as negative. I just don't think we've ever gotten to know them. All they've ever told us on the show was that they worked in prison ministry and they were also a homeschool/ATI family. We really have never heard anything else about them on the show. We heard they came to visit the Duggars after meeting them at an ATI conference after Josh and Anna met. And we got a few snippets of Mr. and Mrs. Keller speaking, but now we know that Mrs. Keller doesn't feel comfortable on camera (not many people do, so that's certainly fair, and we now know his health isn't good.) As to the grape juice/wine quote, that didn't phase me at all, because most churches I've ever been to, including the one I grew up in, uses grape juice for wine, and if the explanation was indeed 45 minutes long, did he really expect all of it to make a 1 hour show? Of course not. He's lucky the one quote made it in.

    I think he was angry at TLC and people he didn't know on random blogs saying mean things about his in-laws and he wrote about it. I don't think he holds the Duggars responsible. I also think he may have a little chip left on his shoulder from his upbringing, as he and his wife seem to have left that life behind a little, so he's trying to prove he's "not like that" while protesting a little too much.

  6. MaryBeth, I agree with your very last paragraph. I think he was angry and just wanted to defend his family. Does anyone know which Keller girl he married? I'm guessing the blond one with the shorter dress and very low V-neck. She was the one who looked the "least" conservative. If the BIL didn't want to be on TV, he should have just sat in the audience. But I'm sure Anna asked them to be in the wedding and it would have been hard to say "no" to family. He didn't want to do it...but he did. I know all TOO well what it's like to do something for others, that you simply DON"T want to do. I think he did the right thing.

    I don't believe JB is a puppet. I believe he is an "opportunist", and I don't mean in an unethical way. This show is an opportunity to share their faith and family info. It is also an opportunity for his family to make honest money and learn from the experience. JB is no Ozzy Osbourne, but he will make money "his way". The Duggars were traveling before TLC. They just get to go more places now. Now whose gonna pass up a free trip?:)

    The big question will be how long will JB agree to have a show?

  7. The Duggars visited my workplace a few months ago, and I did have to sign a waiver to appear on tv.

    However, although TLC coordinated the logistics of their visit (date/time/length), Jim-Bob was the one that wanted to come here and suggested the trip. I got the feeling that the trip was for the kids to learn, prevent cabin fever in Little Rock, but also for taping - all three reasons working together, without one really feeling like a "main" reason. The Duggars were all a pleasure to be around and talk to, on and off camera.

  8. Josh and Anna asked the BIL and the sister to be in the wedding... since they asked, and since it was THEIR wedding... it was their repsonsibility to make sure that everyone who did not want taped was not taped AND was not harassed about it. If Josh and Anna are capable of being married, then they should have been capable of doing that. They obviously were not. BIL had the right to make comments in a internet forum just like all the rest of us.

    And seems to me that the Kellars aren't any more extreme than the Duggars and the Bates.
    Since none of them watch TV, I doubt that they had any knowledge of what TV reality shows are like behind the scenes.

  9. There was a part in the post about how Mr.Keller fought a chronic health condition. Most said he looked like a 'creepy child molester' and I dont blame him for being so defensive. The Kellers looked glad to see Anna and Josh back at Christmas. I think the ticker for most was when Mr.Keller talked about the transfer of authority from him to Josh. (let's just say it's a good thing I wasnt eating or drinking at the time) I read up on the wine and grape juice. If you search you find some interesting opinions. According to the post he married the second Keller girl.

  10. Anonymous who had the Duggars visit: thank you for sharing your story, you cleared up a lot of speculation and answered a lot of questions! We appreciate you telling your story, and I thank you for coming and sharing your experience with my readers and with me. It was very kind of you!

  11. raise some interesting points and it falls down to opinion, I think they all should have talked ahead of time, but what's done is done....however about your last paragraph about "behind the scenes" if you read the BIL's post, he clearly seems to be savy about the legality of appearing on screen with or without a waiver being signed and it sounds like he and his wife aren't living that lifestyle anymore

  12. I think they see it as a ministry of sorts - an opportunity to witness and share experiences. I see a lot of staging, particularly with the field trips etc but I think that is a combination of TLC and the location they are visiting --- I'd think that enormous publicity is sure to follow so they roll out the red carpet for the family and get some advertising in too. I just wonder about Josh's car-lot promos lately. Some of it is genuine - an update on them and how they spend their day, but sometimes it seems like a commercial and I wonder who is behind that?

    Oh well, I don't see them prostituting themselves to the public the way certain other families have. They seem to be largely still the same as far as their values and lifestyle goes.

  13. I agree in that I think the Duggars see the show as a way to "spread the word" and show how they use the practices in their daily lives. I can only imagine that things are staged at times & TLC is filming/creating a show they want viewers to want to see. Even with all the "haters" I think that translates to viewers & so TLC doesn't care what the opinions of the Duggars are as long as there's viewers. Every time people post something negative or positive if they have facts from the show it means they're watching & that includes the online videos. :)

    I can see where the Anna's BIL was upset about comments being made on the Keller family. I actually tried to point out to some who are sharp tongued that their comments are hurtful to the children who identify with their parents. I was told the children don't read the message boards & I guess that allows them to say as they please? What they don't understand is that these comments still get back to the Duggar children & that there are children of the Kellers & In-laws & Duggar neices, nephews, cousins etc that ARE online & they DO read... I can whole heartedly understand why Anna's sister & BIL would have not wanted to be in the show for the wedding episode & look what happened when Mr. Keller spoke. The poor man has a disability & can hardly walk & he's called a child molester? I feel so bad for poor Amy, here she is the more "mainstream" that everyone says the Duggar girls should be more like & she's bashed at every turn by the show haters! Others ARE online like Anna's BIL & they are reading along & the online verbal abuse of family members can't be lost on them.

    Ok thanks I think I feel better having said this. :)

  14. Angie, Anna's 2 sisters were in the episode for the baby shower where they were coming in at the airport & then Anna's mother came in as well, right? It was funny to see the 2 sisters look so much like Anna & yet they looked SO different. I think the one you're speaking of is the one with the light blonde hair? I thought she had a low cut shirt on that day too but her other sister wasn't dressed all that conservative either. They're all very pretty girls.

  15. The brother in law really did seem angry. I think he did leave out an important fact though. The camera crews are not the duggars or even conservative Christians. So they may not handle things in a manner the duggars approve of. The duggars are not the kind to correct or reprimandsomeone in public. If they don't with their own children why would they to a cameraman or producer. We don't know if Jim bob spoke to the guy later or something.

    And yes Jim bob is stupid like a fox lol. I love that phrase

  16. Hey M2C! Yes Anna and her sister's are very pretty. I noticed 2 were dressed like Duggars and 2 who were dressed with low cut shirts that day. They all looked very nice.

    I heard on another blog that Anna grew up listening to different types of music and even watched TV. Not sure how true it is.