The Duggars: A Study in ‘Be Careful What You Wish For’

Maybe it’s why everybody else watched, but truth be told, the Duggars seemed like a ticking time bomb from Day One. All you had to do was play the odds. The People magazine cover was only a matter of time.

For those who are unaware, the Duggar Family is a large family who got famous more than a decade ago when the reality show of how two very religious people were raising their 18 or 19 very religious children. I think it played to the righteous, religious audience in a positive way and the rest of us like a car crash. Except I could look away. Truthfully, I only ever saw two or three episodes. Watching “reality” TV where I dislike the leads isn’t entertaining or enjoyable for me.

For those who are hardcore fans of the family, and the shows they’ve spawned, that’s cool. I may get the timeline wrong on some of this. Don’t bite my head off.

The Math Was Not on The Duggars’ Side

In a 2017 study, the Barna Group found that 32-33% of men under 30 believed they had an unhealthy relationship with pornography. If we assume that nothing has changed since that study, we can now extend that age to 35. The Duggars’ first son, Joshua, was born in 1988, making him 33 years old.

After Joshua came 10 more boys. Theoretically, growing up in the age of the Internet, 3-4 of those males should have/develop pornography addiction. I’m sure if we would have brought this up to the parents, Jim Bob and Michelle, 10 years ago, they would have said that their children don’t look at the Internet, especially that kind of smut.

And therein lies the rub. While I’ll make fun of you all day long for wanting to be called Jim Bob, I’ll urge you to not overestimate your parenting skills, especially your ability to either shut your children off from the rest of the world – as the date-monitoring, homeschooling Duggars often seemed to try – or to emulate your exact values and standards. And that’s especially if you ignore their mental health. Jim Bob and Michelle were too busy telling the cameras what good parents they were to focus on their two baseball teams’ worth of offspring.

Controversy Before TV Ever Comes Calling

Five or six years ago, it came out that Joshua Duggar had allegedly molested several girls, including a few of his sisters when they were younger. Whichever channel was airing the show pulled it and let things die down. Joshua admitted bad behavior, something about God, and that he wasn’t that person anymore. When the show returned, he was not part of it.

I guess since the molestation took place before the show aired for the first time, and no charges were filed, they could just try to whitewash Joshua from the family timeline. Things kept going fine until early in 2021, when Joshua was indicted on charges of receiving and possessing child pornography. He’s pleading innocent, but whatever the Duggars’ latest show is called, it was publicly cancelled over Fourth of July weekend, just a couple of days before Joshua was expected to go to trial.

Some People Are Doomed to Repeat History

When did Joshua, and his wife Anna, get news of the indictments? When she was pregnant with child number seven.

It’s tempting to make this article about so many different things. I don’t know the details of the indictment enough to comment on the charges. Obviously child pornography is wrong, and the situation with his sisters should have been a red flag. It’s easy to make it about testing the limits of parenting. Maybe the thing that you don’t need if you’re going to have nearly 20 kids are TV cameras around, especially if you’re portraying the perfect Baptist family. It would be easy to make it about dressing up a pig and presenting it for more than it’s worth. You can see this with your friends (and maybe even yourself) on Facebook every day.

There is so much unhealthiness going on in this family that this is really just the Jerry Springer Show. I think a lot of people who watch would say it’s not. Those are the same people who go to the lavish topless review shows in Las Vegas and claim it’s for more than just ogling breasts. They can’t look in the mirror and admit who is really there.

The Need for Fame Has Deep, Long Roots

Yeah, it would be easy to write about all of those things, but what really gets me is that going back to even before they had a remarkable amount of children, Jim Bob and Michelle were looking for attention from the public. There were runs, both successful and not, for Jim Bob serving in his state House of Representatives. The couple then became prominent commercial realtors. It’s well-known in Arkansas they owed nobody money despite having nearly 20 kids and owning a 7,000 square foot house. They were driven overachievers.

The Duggars are just the latest fame seekers whose lust to be special and to be held up as an example to the masses has blown up in their face. I know a little bit about this. When my addiction to pornography went public, I had just finished a city council term and was still the publisher of the most popular regional magazine. In the blink of an eye, it was all over.

Along with Jim Bob and Michelle, I really wonder if these charges are registering with Joshua’s wife, Anna. If she didn’t know about the allegations of the sisters when she married him, she still somehow rectified it in her mind. Now she has to rectify the child pornography charges. I’m guessing she just saw the opportunity to marry into the Duggar fame and fortune. That comes with holding yourself up as one thing while being something else behind closed doors.

The Duggars’ God and My God Have Different Addresses

One of the reasons I didn’t like the show, and don’t like going to church, is that I can’t stand to be surrounded by fake people. I have no problem with religion, and I’ll even talk to you about it despite the fact I don’t practice. As a dude in recovery, I know having something bigger themselves is important for many people. I know many people prefer their spirituality to come with a book of dogma. They like a building to share that dogma over the weekend, and that’s fine with me.

One of the reasons that I turned away from the church was because it was full of hypocrites who didn’t want to call out the other hypocrites, lest they be exposed as hypocrites as well. In fact, among many congregants in the various churches I’ve visited, there seems to be a silent contest of who can put on the best religious act.

And then it all comes crashing down. For the Duggars, statistics should have warned them something was up. Forget porn addiction for a second. How many of their children have/had eating disorders that went unnoticed an how many drink/drank too much or how many are just playing along for the cameras? How many have other issues an how many needed help? Statistically, it’s not just Joshua.

This Will Never See a Court Room

I would hope that Joshua’s trial, which was supposed to start this week, could be an opportunity to bring the concept of unhealthy sexual behavior to the forefront, but I know that he’ll just be painted as an evil person. He may be, but he’s clearly also a sick person. It would be nice if that narrative would be told.

But it won’t. With this delay, what I’ve anticipated from the beginning is unfolding. They have put anything off until November. I have the full expectation there will either be a last-minute plea bargain that end everything. Or they’ll go forward with the trial and let Joshua serve a small amount of time because there’s already a media deal in place for something down the line. Joshua in jail is a good show. Joshua going through the sex offender process rehabilitation is a good show. Heck, I bet there’s plenty of people who will watch a propaganda-driven “Joshua was wrongly jailed by a (Insert Negative Government Opinion)!”

I hope that like the fame seeking person I was, Joshua will wake up and realize that’s not the way to a healthy and happy life. Jim Bob and Michelle need to learn that as well. These kinds of issues hit plenty of families, but most haven’t been on basic cable for over 10 years.

The Spotlight Is Not Where the Answers Are Found

Be careful what you wish for, especially if your public presentation isn’t who you really are. I know how heavy that burden can be. Wrestling with imposter syndrome in front of crowds is something I never want to experience again.

These days, you get the genuine Joshua Shea. I don’t need to pretend I’m something I’m not, nor that my history is spotless. I stopped craving the attention and spotlight from everybody around me. Let’s hope at some point, Joshua Duggar can say the same thing.

5 thoughts on “The Duggars: A Study in ‘Be Careful What You Wish For’

  1. Good grief.

    I’m also impressed by the level with which you keep up with popular culture. I thought the Duggars were a thing of the past.

  2. I couldn’t get into the show either. The fact that the older children where left to tend to younger children and there was no seem parenting other then rules to follow and stick to was to much for me. I am for autonomy and in no way think they don’t have the right to that many children i just think it’s impossible in this day and age to raise them all to be awesome well adjusted adults is not reality. It’s also great breeding ground for grooming your siblings and falling under the radar when they’re is a serious issue.

    1. I’ve never liked exploitive TV. Whether it’s this, or Dance Moms or Teen Mom, so many of these shows seem like borderline child abuse. I just don’t find that entertaining. Call me crazy.

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