In The Spotlights Glare – Are The Duggar Family & The Bates Family Media Whores?

In The Spotlights Glare – Are The Duggar Family & The Bates Family Media Whores? August 26, 2012

by Calulu

Another television season is upon us again and that means one thing. More of the Duggars “19 Kids and Counting”. The show starts anew on Tuesday, August 28th on TLC Channel at 9 pm est. This year their friends theBates have a show too – “The United Bates of America” There are preview videos for both series up now on the TLC website.

Looking through both videos I have noticed one thing, both families have changed a great deal in the short time they’ve been in the spot light. Which is ironic considering how Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar have stated from the beginning that they are to be a light shining out to the world, a shining city on the hill. That’s not quite what I’m observed through the years, I’ve noticed that they tend to respond to criticism of the show by changing in the next show series/special.

Look at the changes wrought in Michelle Duggar. No more the higher the bangs the closer to heaven, a more natural and modern look.

When the TLC channel unleashed the Duggar family into the television viewing audience they were very different and almost identical to many fundamentalist quiverfull families I knew.  In fact, at my old church there was a lady that could have been a dead ringer for Michelle Duggar in the early specials, same hair, same clothing, same little girl voice and same brood of stair step children. She was as absolutely quiverfull as you could possibly get. Sweet lady. But she’s still the same as she was, Michelle Duggar has changed as the viewer input has remarked upon things.

The first special, “Fourteen Kids & Pregnant Again!” showed the Duggars, who were just like a million other home schooling, bible believing, fundamentalist quiverfull families scattered around the United States. Michelle explained so many aspects of their lives that have since either disappeared or been downplayed enormously. I remember in that first special seeing the Duggar girls and Michelle herself dressed in those voluminous cotton jumpers over white shirts with enormous collars tricked out with lace, ribbons or embroidery.  Michelle explained to the viewers that this style of dressing was to preserve modesty and the large fancy collars were meant to drawn attention to the countenance and away from the body. As time when on and people commented on the TLC message boards, in reviews and around the internet the family started gradually changing the way they dress. Except for the fact that the daughters are donning denim skirts instead of tight jeans they could be any teenager. Gone are the hideous calico jumpers and ‘countenance’ enhancing huge collars.

Every special, every season something was critiqued and the Duggars changed. In that first special they were extolling the virtues of an ATI based education, never to be mentioned again. Michelle explained a version of Michael & Debi Pearl’s ‘To Train Up a Child’ discipline, explaining about blanket training and smacking the small child or baby that would not lay contentedly on the blanket with a wooden spoon. Never mentioned again.  Complaints that the kids were only ever glimpsed eating processed crapola food and no vegetables or fruit and lookie see, the next special contained images of the kids getting oranges and baby carrots with their white bread sandwiches. Over and over and over again America commented negatively upon some aspect of the Duggar family and before you knew it that very thing was modified.

The Duggar family as they are shown now on TLC are almost unrecognizable if you compare them to their old first television special selves. I wonder if they’ve considered how much they’ve morphed and how they are mentally parsing it with their faith.  Fame has changed the Duggars. I’m just not sure if it’s for better or worse, this change, but it’s surely been interesting. I’m looking forward to see where this season brings new changes. It’s a slippery slope.

And now we have the Gil and Kelley Bates family to add to the mix. At first glance during the Duggar specials it seemed like the Bates family was even more modest than the Duggars. The Bates girls didn’t wear those calico jumpers with countenance enhancing collars, they wore very old fashioned dresses festooned with ruffles and covered with coordinating pinafores. Very “Little House on the Prairie wear. But do not confuse the Bates with Prairie Muffins!

Searching the internet I was unable to find still shots from the first few times the Bates family appeared with the ruffly aprons and dresses. This photo of the Duggars and the Bates and mixed broods at that favorite Duggar-approved vacation spot Silver Dollar City in Branson, Mo is the closest I came. You can see most of the young ladies in the shot that weren’t Duggars wore very old fashioned dresses, just not as extreme as the early episodes.

Looking at the still photos from the TLC channel website I think it’s pretty safe to conclude that the Bates, just like their pals the Duggars have been seduced by their budding fame and have already started the process of metamorphosis in the harsh glare of the spot light of popular culture. Both families have not made a genuine change to pop culture, except to show a rosy false  picture of patriarchy and quiverfull lifestyles. There is not much of a grain of truth to it, the Mary Poppins spin, hiding the endless work that falls to the kids, the penury that seems to accompany living the life, no showing the probable educational neglect, the control, the subjugation of women, the realities of reducing men to petty tyrants and the list goes on. It’s not likely they’ve won anyone over to their culture via this show, only built up the self esteem and ‘that’s right’ self righteousness in the other quiverfulls watching.

But the culture has impacted them in ways I’m betting they never imagined, much more than they’d impacted the culture. Both families have become very much more worldly than they started out. The kids cannot help but be impacted by the excursions and experiences that they’d have as a result of their television show and celebrity. You can see it in the clothes the daughters now wear in both families, the new homes, in the behavior of the teens more like normal teens now than teenaged programmed robots.

I’ll be watching this year, both shows, just to see what type of shift, organic growth towards the world will be happening this year. I’m hoping ten years out after the shows are over that we’ll hear something of these kids. I’d like to see how an expanded view and opportunities ultimately resolved. Most kids of quiverfull families never get the chance to go to the Grand Canyon or any of the Duggars other trips. The farthest they’ll go from home in most families is to a nearby homeschooling convention.

Change is part of life but I often wonder how much change a family can take and not fall apart or warp.

Comments open below

Read everything by Calulu!

Calulu lives near Washington DC , was raised Catholic in South Louisiana before falling in with a bunch of fallen Catholics whom had formed their own part Fundamentalist, part Evangelical church. After fifteen uncomfortable years drinking that Koolaid she left nearly 6 years ago. Her blog is Calulu – Roadkill on the Internet Superhighway

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Flora Kitty

    Regardless they all still creep me out.

  • Karen

    I expect they see making “minor” tweaks to their lifestyle, as suggested by the TV crew, a good investment to keeping the TV show going… and a much needed source of revenue coming in. It’s sort of like a Star Trek tradeoff where, if you reduce your shield to 4/5ths, the aliens won’t mind watching you as opposed to shooting you out of the sky. But your shield is still active! At any moment it can be cranked up to Maximum! So you’re still OK.

  • Erin

    I want to start out asking…How many of your readers have the same hair and clothing style from ten years ago? I find that both families have gone through a lot of criticism for how they raise their families and every little thing beside the matter. I personally believe that it is between the Lord and them…not half the nation and every body and their brother.

  • Carol

    I do. I don’t care about fashion, and I don’t follow the trends. I dress exactly the same as I did 10 years ago. My hair is the same simple, easy to maintain style. The Duggars must have thought they were going to bring their modesty doctrines and spanking techniques to the world and be glorified for exactly who they are, and it turns out, they weren’t. So in order to make a buck, they had to change for TV. End of story. They’re on a network that exploits fetishism and unfortunate mental issues like hoarding and so forth, so whatever was between them and their lord left the building the minute they got started on TLC.

  • BB/VA

    It SHOULD be between them and the Lord – however, they made it the business of “half the nation and everybody and their brother” when they allowed the camera crews in the house.

    I feel bad for the kids. Tough way to grow up.

  • Nancy B

    Carol and B/VA are absolutely right. Human beings have lots of reasons to want to jump in front of TV cameras. And other human beings will tear you to sheds on message boards, blogs and other media for everythung from your butt size to your choice of art. I don’t think anyone who signs on the dotted line is unaware of the scrutiny they’re opening themselves up to. But like most other human beings, the Duggars had a price. TLC met it.

  • Lisa

    I’m with Carol. I’m 26 and I still dress almost exactly the same way I did in highschool. I have short hair and I wear jeans and t-shirts, with light jackets and sneakers or sandals. And I agree with everyone else who replied to you. How they raise their kids wouldn’t be anyones business, if they hadn’t made it everyone’s business by signing on with TLC.
    You could use an analogy of growing tomatoes. How I plant them and how they grow has nothing to do with anyone. Unless of course I set up a youtube channel called “All My Tomatoes” in which I brag about my methods, and how great they are, and how much better it is to grow tomatoes my way, and how the nation would be a better, happier, more productive, more Godly place if only everyone would grow their tomatoes like me. THEN people have every right to comment and question my methods and their outcome, as well as offer suggestions about how they garden their plants and how well it works for them.
    If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. And if you don’t like people commenting on your clothing/parenting/contraception methods, don’t build a glass house to live in!

  • Karen

    The Duggar girls now wear clothes that basically couldn’t distinguish them from any other girl at my college, or any one of my sister’s friends. Heck, they dress more modernly than I do, and I’ve never been anywhere near a part of the movement. Has there been any response from the general QF/P community about this?

  • I’ve never known either the Duggars or the Bates families to purport it’s their way or the highway. They are simply, before the camera, living their lives honestly, lovingly and exemplary. They have never proclaimed that the rest of us should do anything their way. However, the rest of us can AND SHOULD learn many valuable life lessons from these two wonderfully imperfect families, striving the best they can to live set-apart for Jesus in our corrupt society.

  • Lisa

    I haven’t followed the Duggar family since day one. I’ve only watched a couple of seasons of more recent shows. I don’t really see a big problem with changing hairstyles (they’re still long) or wearing more “modern modest” clothing and eschewing the jumper days. These transitions might have happened regardless of being on t.v. I think that the Duggars are learning and growing just like we all are and they are considering other ways of doing things while staying true to their beliefs. If they were just crazed legalistic fundies than I guess you wouldn’t see any differences between them then and now. I do agree though that it’s probably time to hang up the show and move on with their lives. They’ve said what they wanted to say.

  • Laura

    What is the matter with you? So WHAT if the Duggar girls actually want to look stylish? You must really have nothing better to do than to look for dirt. With all the garbage out there today and the true society problems that exist I would think you could find a better topic to spew venom on to than a decent Christian family. It sounds like maybe you have some bitterness to deal with.

  • So tell me again about the love of Christ?

  • Linda

    As a Christian woman who is getting divorced (not of my desire) I wish I had followed Christ as fervently as the Duggars. I see how their young ladies speak about relationships and marriage and I find it hard not to envy their purity. You can say that they’ve changed certain aspects of what they look like, what they talk about… But they’re the same. Watch the episodes where they are pregnant with a 20th child and then lose her. Precious family. Yes, tv means your family is scrutinized, but wouldn’t it be a perfect world if we could look at one of the remaining wholesome families on tv and say, “wow, thank God someone is standing up for Christ that isn’t having to go about it like Duck Dynasty!” (Whom I also love!!!!!!) the picture shown in this article as current is also false. Michelle still wears her hair curly and bang-ful lol. They tried to give her a makeover and she curled up her modern haircut. No the family isn’t constantly talking about discipline, but that doesn’t mean they’ve changed their style. It’s just not publicly displayed as much to keep viewers interested in the novelty of a huge family. I used to think this family is insane… Until I really sat down and watched the show. Christ followers. Oh and take a look at the “modernly dressed” girls again. All skirts below the knee and very high necklines. Modern so the girls can go out and tell without being looked at as a freak and modest so no distractions can happen either.

  • NH

    I think part of the shift in clothes is fairly expected. They buy all their clothing secondhand. 10 years ago when the first special started they were building a house, didn’t have the income from the specials/now tv show, etc. the clothes they could afford from the second hand shop would have been the really old stuff from the early to mid 90s. Which is exactly what they were wearing in that first special. Now their house is done, they have been making a regular income from the show, they also have made several more property investments, they can easily afford the much newer stuff at the thrift shop. And I agree with one of the above posters. They are still dressed extremely modestly and I really respect that. Do I think they are perfect? No. And of course there are some aspects of their lives that have changed bc of being in the spotlight. Whether for good or bad. But I think they really have good intentions for their show and try very hard to uphold their values. We also have to consider that the show generally follows them on trips or special occasions. They don’t have the tv crews there every week of the year. So we are only seeing a small, controlled, portion of their lives.

  • I’ve noticed the changes also. But I wondered ten years ago how the Duggars would manage all these kids as teenagers and young adults- that they could’t possibly dress them all alike for too much longer. I have noticed that they do not even wear the same color anymore- years ago they would all wear the same color shirts- just to make laundry easier to do. But with the bigger laundry room and multiple washer/dryers this is not a concern. I have three children and often wish I had two washers! It is not a luxury- it is a necessity. I do not parent like JimBob and Micheel, but I do admire them, like most parents we all start out wanting to protect our children from outside dangers, keep them surrounded by love and with people who love them- they have done this. Kudos to them!

  • jess

    I think all you being nasty and negative about this family should stop they decent people probably one of the most decent family’s in the world ok they have 19 kids they don’t sponge off the government they support them self’s and they help others i bet none of u can do what they do they fab peeps and don’t deserve this nastiness no wounder the world how is how it is today with nasty people like some of u disgusting they schooled there kids on there own they have graduated and some of girls going to be midwifes wow what an amazing thing they have done the duggers do the best fr there kids you need to think and look at yourself s before you start being negative about other family’s roll on a new season of them and hope they many more to come

  • jess

    well said laura

  • Your posts are incredibly hard to read or understand due to the lack of any punctuation and the appalling text speak. Try again.

  • Lula Dell

    They have put themselves out their in the spotlight and on tv. It is dishonoring and they are selling themselves for money. I dont care how you look at it. They have devalued themselves. the bible talks of doing stuff in secret or private. money changes people and then they want more money or fame which is to be known and seen. they are not immune to this. no one knows their private thoughts which may be sinful. they may crave attention money and fame on a subconscious level. besides what she is doing is no different or famous than what the african american family did for years and years. many have had 18 kids and more. this was to support the farm and etc. why is she getting publicity. it is a money cash cow method. it can not be made okay because today allows people to get on tv stations and show themselves off as a super family with good morals. she could have been on tv initially to show what they do. but to do it year after year. this shows the agenda is fame and money. it is not honorable , it is devaluing and distasteful to put yourself and your kids you bear on tv and let all watch. if a family of a different heritage did this it would not be received so well. it is funny how some in society do things and everyone just thinks it is so cute. it is not. it is selling themselves for money and devaluing themselves and their family. if you have the kids do it in private and not for the world to see. do an interview or write a book and leave it alone. dont appear on tv weekly and sign up with a cable network. they just cheapened the whole experience because a dollar tag is put on them and the kids. they are all for sale. humans are not commodities to be sold. what would Jesus do? He would not allow himself and his kids rto be filmed for money and get a check in the mail. it is cheap and tawdry. african americans raised 19 kids for years and years and no camera filmed it or gave them money and interviews etc. Ridiculous is ridiculous. and just because you can do it , does not mean you should. keep your kids and life private and stop garnering all the fame and attention for doing what people have done for years. They a re not the winners of a contest. as far as helping others, they can not do that. the family has broken down and watching them will not restore the state of the american family and the loss of family values. enough! i dont watch this exploitation of a female bearing excessive kids and i never ever will.

  • Nea

    They support “them self’s” by selling their children to be gawped at on TV. Decent people don’t treat their children like animals in a zoo. It’s also not very amazing that they’ve told the girls that they can have only one possible career out of the many options available for women and stunted their education so that they are unable to do anything else.