With 2015 on its way out, the year has had its fair share of shock and drama. Both on- and off-screen, we've had to brave everything from Ronda Rousey's defeat to Raven-Symoné's 'opinions.' But few things shocked viewers more than the scandal that surrounded America's 'most religious' family.
TLC's 19 Kids and Counting, was a huge hit for the network, regularly scoring in the Nielsen cable top 25. One episode alone - the two-hour special featuring Jill Duggar and Derick Dillard's wedding raked in 4.4 million viewers, making it the most-watched telecast for the channel in four years! With the Duggars pulling in around US$25,000 to US$45,000 per episode, what could go wrong?
Well in May, a police report was unearthed showing that the first born son of TLC's most popular family was accused of molesting young girls when he was a teenager. In the midst of the accusations, his 'loving' parents came to his defense claiming he was simply 'curious'.
How do you defend something like that?
To begin to understand the mindset of this family, we'll need to dig a little deeper. Here are fourteen things you probably didn't know about America's most 'religious' family.
14 Famous before TLC
19 Kids and Counting first aired on September 29, 2008 and soon became TLC's most popular show, averaging 2.3 million viewers per new episode. This version of the show started its run on TLC as 17 Kids and Counting, starring Jim Bob Duggar, his wife, Michelle, and their 15 biological children.
But before their TLC fame, the Duggars made their TV debut on Discovery Health's 14 Children and Pregnant Again in September 2004. Spread over three years, the pre-series chronicled the birth of three more kids, a road trip across the US and the move into their current home. The show soon became 19 Kids and Counting and we were all glued to our screens.
13 Anti Birth Control
Now, with 19 kids, you can safely say the Duggars have scant use for birth control. The couple views the Bible as their 'life's manual', and since the Bible describes children as a blessing from God, they'll accept as many as God ordains.
To each his own, but according to Michelle Duggar, birth control is sinful and not allowed by their faith. Turns out the Duggars are part of the Quiverfull movement; a group of fundamentalist Christians who see children as a blessing from God, promoting procreation and eschewing all forms of birth control.
12 The Gothard Connection
Watching the family for longer, you soon start to notice the signs of an overwhelming patriarchal element. Everyone seemed to kowtow to Jim Bob, he had the final say on everything concerning the 20+ people in his household. Most patriarchal families range from the 'ask dad first' attitude to the 'You will obey father, no matter what'. The Duggars veered even further right of the second option.
This leaning was attributed to their loyal following of Bill Gothard, a Christian minister with very strong opinions on large families, homeschooling, respect for authority, etc. Part of Gothard's teaching advocated that if women worked outside the home, they'd be putting themselves under another man's authority and therefore conflict may arise.
11 Look Away, Boys!
The unwavering kowtowing to the males became even more evident when the Duggars revealed why they never seemed to swim, despite the blistering heat of their native Arkansas.
Admitting they were being super-modest would be one thing, but Michelle was happy to explain further.
In an interview, she said the family does not swim in public, wear shorts or tank tops, “because it's just too hard for the guys to try to keep their eyes averted in those situations.”
Well, one former follower of the Gothard movement, said girls were taught that boys had no control over their sexual urges.
All the Duggar kids were raised using the controversial blanket training method, used to teach kids to sit still and stay put. The toddler is placed on a blanket and told not to move. If the child does (which curious toddler wouldn't'?), the child would get spanked and placed back on the blanket. The method is controversial as it runs counter to the normal curious nature of a baby.
9 More Tough Love
The Duggar tough love goes way past early childhood. If you watch the show closely, you'll notice just how little affection Ma and Pa Duggar actually show their brood; no hugs and kisses in this family. It almost seems like she goes out of her way to avoid touching anyone, even her grand kids.
The Duggars also advocate spying on children. Jim and Michelle snoop on their children; listening in on phone conversations, read their emails, raid bedrooms.
But despite their spying, they don't actually 'watch' their own kids. The family pairs the older kids with their younger siblings, meaning the older children are in effect, raising their younger ones.
8 135 Months
You'd think a mother of such a large clan would love holding her kids but not Michelle. She seems to break her rule for only one member of the family; she can't seem to keep her hands off Jim Bob.
The woman seems to enjoy getting pregnant; their house has a calendar marking her monthly cycle! Jim and Michelle even went to see a fertility specialist after already having 19 kids! In a Today Show interview, when asked if he and Michelle were going to have another baby, Jim Bob blurted, “It’s fun trying!”
Looks like she wants to add another couple of months to the 15 years that she has already been pregnant for.
7 “Be Joyfully Available”
Michelle's views on a woman's role in a marriage, are going to blow your mind.
Regarding marriage, she advises her daughters, to be at “the beck and call of their husbands and be willing to submit to them sexually”. According to her, “anyone can fix him lunch, but only one person can meet that physical need of love that he has.”
Michelle also advises “when you fall into bed exhausted...don’t forget about him...be available, be joyfully available for him. Smile and be willing to say, ‘Yes, sweetie I am here for you.”
6 Michelle Duggar
You may be tempted to think Michelle Duggar was indoctrinated into this way of life from birth. But no, a teenage Michelle was a cheerleader, who wore short skirts, sleeveless tops, even mowed lawns in a bikini. You know, like many teenage girls. In pictures that have surfaced of a young Michelle and Jim Bob, the pair are seen kissing, long before they were married. They've even told their children that they took their physical relationship “too far” before they were married.
Their teens are not allowed to go anywhere alone; they must always have a family member tagging along as a chaperone of sorts. Dates, volunteering, anywhere; their buddy system means every outing is with another sibling, to keep tabs on them. When the older siblings chaperone a date, they can earn by charging a hourly wage. #weird
The family also claims they never allow the boys babysit the female children, play hide-and-seek or allow the daughters sit on the laps of their older brothers.
To further prevent any interaction with other teens or teachers who may hold different beliefs, the Duggar kids are homeschooled, using the strict Advanced Training Institute curriculum. As per Internet in the Duggar household, it is restricted to avoid 'temptation.' Except for 70 approved sites, including Pinterest and Twitter.
The Duggar kids aren’t even involved in general church activities! The family has a “home church” where pre-approved like-minded families get together to worship.
3 Nosey Much, Dad?
You'd think with the kids growing into marriageable age, they'd soon be free of the clutches of their controlling parents. But not in the Duggar household. The family handpicks spouses for their kids and arranges their marriages. Jim Bob and Michelle chose the spouses Josh, Jessa, Jill eventually married. They even supervised Skype calls and text convos between Jill and her current husband, Derek, while Derek was abroad!
Reports say at some point they even tried to arrange a marriage between Jana and Tim Tebow. Without the knowledge of either party!
2 Joshua Duggar
Now, you may be tired of hearing just how kooky one family can be, but 2015 saw the kookiness descend into a total debacle. Following a May report by In Touch Weekly, it was revealed that Jim Bob Duggar had told the Arkansas State Police that Joshua had molested five underage girls between 2002 and 2003. The police report claimed some of the five victims were his own sisters.
Soon after, he was also named as having two Ashley Madison accounts, had visited strip clubs and had sex with a adult actress. These are shocking revelations but get this; his parents, Jim Bob and Michelle didn't feel the need to go to the police when it happened. To their own daughters!
1 The Show is getting Multiple Spinoffs
Now you'd probably think TLC would pull the plug on the show, right? Afterall, when the scandal broke, many major sponsors did. But as it turns out, 'the show must go on.'
There's already a spinoff, Jill and Jessa: Counting On, a three-part series featuring the newly wedded sisters and their young families. Not to be outdone, in December 2015, Jim Bob and Michelle announced they were considering adopting another child, to make their family 20.