For more than a decade, audiences around the world watched the Duggar family — parents Jim Bob and Michelle, along with their ever-growing family — on the TLC show “19 Kids and Counting,” a feel-good reality series where entire episodes were dedicated to, say, how the heck they do all that laundry.
The Duggars, who portrayed an image of wholesome Christian values, had their pristine image tarnished in 2015, when reports surfaced that eldest son Josh Duggar was accused of molesting multiple girls when he was a teenager — including his own sisters. Months later, Josh admitted to being unfaithful to his wife after reporters found his account on the infidelity website Ashley Madison. In 2021, an Arkansas jury found Josh guilty of receiving and possessing child pornography.
A new Amazon Prime docuseries premiering Friday, “Shiny Happy People: Duggar Family Secrets,” takes a closer look at the family — their rise to fame and their connections to the ultraconservative Christian organization, the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP), which until recently was a major player in the Christian home-schooler movement.
The revolt of the Christian home-schoolers
The thesis of the four episodes, which feature interviews with daughter Jill Dillard and her husband, Duggar family friends and former IBLP believers, hinges on this relationship — arguing that Josh’s crimes were a reflection and a product of a wider culture of abuse, both within the family and the religious group they belonged to.
1. Family friends say the Duggars wanted Josh to confess to molesting young girls — after he was married
In the first episode, “Meet the Duggars,” the docuseries introduces two close family friends, Jim and Bobye Holt, who were also IBLP members.
As a teenager, Josh Duggar began dating the Holts’ daughter, Kaeleigh. Referred to as “courtship” within the community, the process requires young men to first ask their love interest’s father if they may date — for the purpose of marriage.
The Holts said they found out about Josh’s alleged abuse after the two started dating in 2003, when Josh was 15 — five years before “19 Kids and Counting” debuted on TLC.
According to Bobye, Josh’s father, Jim Bob, told them: “Josh has gotten into some trouble. You know, he’s touched his sisters inappropriately.” Josh had apparently been doing so since he was 12, the Holts said.
Jim Holt asked the Duggars when they planned on telling him and Bobye about Josh. According to the Holts, Michelle said they hadn’t planned on saying anything. The Holts recalled her saying: “We were going to have Josh confess to Kaeleigh once they were married.”
“So, are you saying you were using my daughter as, like, a carrot to get him to behave the right way?” Jim Holt remembers asking. “And [Jim Bob] goes, “Well, yeah. Kinda.”
Bobye Holt added that, in conversations with the Duggars, Jim Bob and Michelle refused to use the word “molest” to refer to their son’s actions.
2. Family members say the Duggars referred to physical abuse as ‘encouragement’
The documentary features commentary and testimonies from multiple former IBLP members, who describe the organization as a “cult” that tried to advance Christian fundamentalist teachings. Several said the Duggars’ TLC show reminded them of their own strict upbringings, especially depictions of the docile, obedient Duggar children in their pilgrim collars and pantaloons.
“When I was watching the Duggars, the attitudes of the children are what I noticed right off the bat. My heart broke for them, because they were so calm, and they were so peaceful and well-behaved, and I knew what it took to get there,” said Lara Smith, a former IBLP follower.
Part of that was instilling fear in children by hitting them, sometimes going to extreme measures, ex-IBLP members said.
They described a method called “blanket training,” which involves placing a child — as young as 6 months old — on a blanket with a favorite object just out of reach. When the child reaches for it, the parent hits them. If they continue to reach for the object, they’re hit again.
“The idea is you’re breaking the rebellious spirit,” said Eve Ettinger, a writer and podcaster who grew up in the IBLP.
Michelle Duggar wrote about blanket training her children in her 2008 book, “The Duggars: 20 and Counting!” An excerpt appears in the second episode:
“Throughout the day, when I knew I would have five minutes or more of interrupted time, I would focus on blanket training,” Michelle wrote. “Some days we might practice blanket time three or four times; other days we only got it in once. But gradually, it became a common practice.” (In her book, Michelle doesn’t specify hitting her children. Rather, she “corrected” them.)
Jim Bob’s niece Amy King told interviewers she saw her cousins being beaten with a rod by their parents when they were children.
The parents “called it ‘encouragement,’” King said. “But it was, like, in the sweetest tone ever. Like: ‘Do you need encouragement? I think you need encouragement.’”
3. Jill, one of her brother Josh’s victims, says she felt ‘obligated’ to help save the show
The fourth child of Jim Bob and Michelle, Jill Dillard, recalled the “urgency” with which her father and TLC producers tried to figure out what to do after Josh’s behavior first became public.
Part of this attempt to save the show involved appearing on Megyn Kelly’s Fox News program in 2015 — mere weeks after the allegations against Josh had surfaced. The interview was arranged by Jim Bob’s publicist, Chad Gallagher (who has also worked with former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee). On Kelly’s show, Jill and younger sister Jessa shared details about the incidents with Josh — and came to his defense.
“Our case, it’s very mild compared to what happened to some,” Jill said at the time. “I’m sad because this is my older brother, who I love — a lot — and I had to make that choice to forgive him. It wasn’t something that somebody forced.”
“In hindsight, I wouldn’t have done the Megyn Kelly stuff,” Jill said in the documentary.
“I don’t really like to even talk about [the interview], because it’s not something I’m proud of,” she said. “If I hadn’t felt obligated to, one, do it for the sake of the show and, two, do it for the sake of my parents, I wouldn’t have done it.”
Her husband, Derick Dillard, called the PR move a “suicide mission,” adding: “You’re going to destroy yourself, but we need you to take the fall so that you can carry the show forward, because the show cannot fail.”
After the interview, “19 Kids and Counting” was taken off the air and replaced with “Jill and Jessa: Counting On.”
4. Jill didn’t want TLC filming her delivery. Footage was aired anyway.
Duggar births and weddings drew huge ratings for the show, so when Jill became pregnant with her first child, producers assumed that they would be filming the birth, she said. A few weeks out from her delivery date, producers floated having one person filming in the room with her. Jill told producers she didn’t want them there at all.
“I knew for sure, I was like, nobody’s in my delivery room. Like, nobody. And nobody’s there for the labor, watching me. Like, I don’t want any of that,” Jill said.
Producers were shocked at first, Jill said, but ultimately got their way: The couple were to shoot the delivery themselves. Jill and Derick bought cameras and shot “diary cams” and other footage for the show.
After the birth, Jill and Derick said they asked TLC to pay them “just enough” to cover the out-of-pocket costs for delivering the baby. Producers told them they had already “paid the family” — meaning Jim Bob. For 7½ years of her adult life, Jill continued, she was never paid for her time on the show.
“The women and girls in this family, they are really the draw of that show,” said Danielle Lindemann, a sociology professor who appears in the docuseries. “The Duggar women are doing the labor, literally doing the labor, but they’re being shut out of who has the money and who has the power.”
4. Jill said she was manipulated into an extended TV contract
In June 2014, on the eve of her wedding to Derick, Jill said her father laid out a contract on their kitchen table. It was already open to the signature page.
“‘Okay, I just need you guys to sign these.’ Like, everyone was signing them,” Jill recalled. “I didn’t know what it was for.”
They found out in 2016, when the couple was living in El Salvador doing mission work. They had told show producers that they would be in El Salvador for 10 months, and producers had traveled to film them. But Jill and Derick said they were being pressured to return to the United States for additional shoots. They refused to go.
“Now it’s a matter of principle. We’re going to be here,” Jill said. “That was the first time we really put our foot down and said no.”
But contractually, they had to. The contract Jill had signed the day before her wedding meant she was now obligated to appear on the TLC show for the next five years. “That’s not what I thought I was signing,” she said.
At that point, the couple began asking about being paid for their work on the show.
“Jim Bob said, ‘What do you want, $10 an hour?’ And I said, ‘I don’t know. What’s it worth?’” Derick said. According to him, he never got a straight answer from the Duggar patriarch.
Jim Bob eventually offered a few of the older children a “lump sum” for being on the show, Derick and Jill said, but to get the money, they would need to sign another contract with Jim Bob’s production company. “It would be like, forever,” Jill said. “We were automatically like, we’re done.”
6. The show may have elevated Jim Bob’s standing within the ultraconservative IBLP
Much of the series is dedicated to explaining the culture of the IBLP, specifically by examining its founder, Bill Gothard. Under his leadership, the IBLP became a major influence in the Christian home-school movement, creating a full curriculum based on the bible. It also had several other initiatives, including a paramilitary organization, former members and journalists said.
At the height of its power, the ministry’s teachings seeped into public school classrooms, private prisons, police and military groups. According to Ettinger, one of the ex-IBLP members, leaders of “the Joshua Generation” — a multigenerational plan in which Christian home-schoolers gain control of the U.S. government — were inspired by Gothard’s teachings.
Gothard resigned from the IBLP ministry in 2014 after facing accusations that he groomed, molested and sexually harassed women and girls he worked with. One woman alleged he had raped her. But while his influence waned, his teachings persist, and the institute still wields an “enormous amount of money, assets and funds,” ex-members said.
The Holts, longtime friends of Jim Bob and Michelle, said they believe the Duggar patriarch is trying to “emulate” Gothard. “From what my understanding is, it’s that Jim Bob and Michelle are now his replacement.”
7. Ex-IBLP members feel TLC did ‘propaganda’ for the group
Several former IBLP adherents shared their shock and dismay that TLC had followed the Duggars in the first place. The show ended up being highly consequential for the network, Lindemann, the sociologist, pointed out. After “19 Kids and Counting” — and all its other iterations — TLC transformed itself from a network that aired medical documentaries to a reality TV juggernaut.
“TLC went from being ‘The Learning Channel,’ to ‘The Lurking Channel,’” Lindemann quipped. And made many millions of dollars in the process.
The arrangement was mutually beneficial: Jim Bob made no secret of viewing the popular cable show as an opportunity to minister to the masses. And he was successful, the documentary argues: popularizing a sect of Christianity that had been largely underground until that point.
Josh Pease, a journalist and pastor who appears in the docuseries, compared the Duggars with Tom Cruise. The actor “kind of legitimized Scientology,” Pease said. “In a lot of ways, that’s exactly what the Duggars were for Bill Gothard.”
'Derogatory and sensationalized': Duggar parents criticize 'Shiny Happy People' documentary. Scandal-ridden reality TV parents Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar are pushing back against a new documentary alleging their family were "poster children" for a cult that "franchised" abuse.What is the new documentary about the Duggars? ›
The Duggar Family, best known for a series of reality TV shows based around their lives, are at the center of Amazon Prime's latest docuseries, Shiny Happy People: Duggar Family Secrets, out June 2.How many episodes of Happy Shiny People are there? ›
In the four-episode docuseries Shiny Happy People: Duggar Family Secrets (Prime Video) directors Julia Willoughby Nason (LuLaRich, Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal) and Olivia Crist delve into the history of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, who became a reality television sensation with their TLC series 19 Kids and ...What is Duggar family secrets? ›
“Shiny Happy People: Duggar Family Secrets,” which debuted Friday on Prime Video, delves into both the lives and the beliefs of the stars of the former TLC series “19 Kids and Counting.” (CNN and TLC are both part of Warner Bros. Discovery.)What is the name of Joy Duggars baby? ›
Joy-Anna Duggar unveiled her and husband Austin Forsyth's newborn son's name and birthday days after announcing his arrival. “Gunner James Forsyth 💙.Why do the Duggars dress modestly? ›
The girls explained in their 2014 book, Growing Up Duggar, why their parents came up with such strict rules when it comes to their dress code — and it has to do with their traditional, religious values. "We do not dress modestly because we are ashamed of the body God has given us; quite the contrary.Are the Duggars in debt? ›
We don't have any debt, so it makes it easier to live." Even before the Duggars became a household name, they were still living debt-free. Michelle and Jim Bob credit a 16-hour financial freedom seminar by Jim Sammons for their financial success, as reported by Business Insider.What religion is the Duggar family on TLC? ›
The Duggars Follow the IBLP Sect of Christianity
Though the famed TLC family has remained cagey about their religious affiliation, Jinger Duggar revealed in her book, Becoming Free Indeed, that the Duggars follow a non-denominational religious organization known as the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP).
Not to mention, Michelle Duggar even has a favorite actor, Growing Pains alum Kirk Cameron. “We are very selective about what we watch, Jim Bob explained. "We actually don't watch broadcast TV.” If you're like me, then you're probably thinking: How in the heck did they survive with 19 children and no TV?Where can I watch Shiny Happy People? ›
Watch Shiny Happy People: Duggar Family Secrets - Season 1. Prime Video.
"Shiny Happy People" is a 1991 song by alternative rock band R.E.M. and is the second single from their seventh studio album Out of Time.How many times has happy been streamed? ›
It had also been streamed over 25 million times and was the first song released in the 2010s to go 3× Platinum.Can the Duggars kiss before marriage? ›
Everybody knows the Duggars don't kiss until their wedding day. After moving forward from their courtships to engagements, the Counting On couples save it for the ceremony.Can the Duggars drink alcohol? ›
The Duggars abide by a long list of strict rules, and one of those includes abstaining from drinking alcohol.Which Duggar daughter is unmarried? ›
Jana Duggar, In Her 30s, Is The Oldest Duggar Daughter
While John-David was married in his late 20s (to wife Abbie Burnett), Jana was left behind, and not just figuratively. In being the eldest child at home, Jana was literally left living at home with her parents and a gaggle of younger siblings.
Joy-Anna Duggar and Austin Forsyth are now a family of five. The Counting On alums have welcomed the newest addition to their family — a boy! The adorable new arrival joins big brother Gideon, 4, and Evelyn, 2.What are Joe and Kendra Duggar's baby names? ›
As for the newborn's name, Kendra and Joseph landed on a very fitting choice: Brooklyn Praise Duggar! Baby Brooklyn joins Kendra and Joseph's older children, Garrett David Duggar, 2, and Addison Renee Duggar, 15 months.Did Joy-Anna have a miscarriage? ›
Joy-Anna revealed in an Instagram post shortly after the miscarriage why she chose the name Annabell Elise.
A DUGGAR family member was “asked to join Dancing with the Stars, but was forced to turn the role down” after patriarch Jim Bob disapproved. Jim Bob, 56, raised his daughters to dress modest, and prohibited them from dancing and listening to music.Do the Duggars dye their hair? ›
Jill Duggar Dillard has a new look. On Tuesday, the 19 Kids and Counting alum, 30, shared that she dyed her hair blonde, unveiling the lighter locks on her Dillard Family blog. "So, today I dyed my hair for the first time ever," Dillard wrote of the smiling shots, which show off her newly transformed hair.
Meanwhile, some of the family members have gone as far as to distance themselves from Jim Bob and Michelle. The first Duggar child to become estranged from the family was Jill Duggar, who has kept her distance after her husband, Derrick Dillard, was fired from Counting On in 2017.Who is the richest Duggar? ›
Jinger Duggar's home
According to Showbiz CheatSheet, she might also be the most wealthy member of the family. She has a net worth of $2 million alone, with income coming from her TV appearances and social media accounts (she has 1.4 million followers on Instagram!)
They spend about $3,000 a month on groceries, Michelle Duggar told TODAY's Savannah Guthrie, who visited for breakfast Monday. They do one big monthly grocery shopping, plus weekly shopping to tide them over. Here's a grocery list for the food it takes to feed the Duggar family for one -- yes, one -- typical day.What church did Jinger Duggar leave? ›
Jinger Duggar Vuolo's memoir has just been released — she's promised in recent interviews that in it she'd disclose what it was like to grow up in a cultlike religious environment. She left the Institute in Basic Life Principles, a nondenominational Christian organization, in 2017.Do the Duggars still follow IBLP? ›
The Duggar Family grew up under a belief system called the IBLP. A core belief in the system was that children should always obey their parents. The conservative Christian organization still exists, but its leader resigned in 2014.Who is the youngest Duggar? ›
Check Out What Josie Duggar Looks Like Today, Years After Her Premature Birth. She's come so far. Michelle Duggar gave birth to 19 children, but her last and youngest child, Josie Duggar, was her most difficult delivery.Do any of the Duggars actually work? ›
Although Jim Bob Duggar has a successful commercial real estate business — that's in its fifth generation — the rest of the family either works with him or does sporadic jobs like handiwork, house flipping and missionary work.Do the Duggars have a nanny? ›
Although the Duggar family turns to the older children when it comes to babysitting and necessary house chores, that doesn't mean they don't get any outside help at all. According to a reddit user, they actually have two live-in tutors which are essentially private teachers for the kids who are still in school.How much does TLC pay Duggar family? ›
But all told, the Duggars likely raked in nearly $18 million during their time with TLC, based on the estimate of $850K per season for a total of 21 seasons (10 of 19 Kids and 11 of Counting On).
"Shiny Happy People" is a song by the American rock band R.E.M., released as the second single from their seventh studio album, Out of Time (1991). It features guest vocals by Kate Pierson of the B-52's, who also appears in the music video.Is Shiny Happy People free on prime? ›
Just sign up for a free trial to Amazon Prime, and you can watch Shiny Happy People: Duggar Family Secrets for free! The service costs $14.99 per month after the free trial, but you won't be charged if you cancel before the trial expires.What streaming service is the Duggar documentary on? ›
Shiny Happy People: Duggar Family Secrets' is a four-part docu series streaming on Amazon Prime Video. It features the accusations against the reality TV parents who are known to have raised 19 children with conservative values.What genre is shiny happy people? ›
The B-52's and R.E.M. are on such different ends of the rock spectrum, but you both actually share a kinship by originating in Athens, Georgia.Who wrote the song Shiny Happy People? › What is the most-streamed single of all time? ›
The most-streamed song in Spotify history is credited to… The Weeknd's "Blinding Lights." The song, which was released in November 2019, has been streamed over 3 billion times on the platform!Who is the most-streamed of all time? ›
Since 2012, Spotify has published a yearly list of its most-streamed artists, which has been topped by Drake and Puerto Rican rapper Bad Bunny a record three times, with Bad Bunny being the only artist to do so in consecutive years (2020–2022).What was the most-streamed song in the world? ›
|Ed Sheeran||Shape of You||3.96 billion|
|Luis Fonsi||Despacito||3.25 billion|
|Lewis Capaldi||Someone You Loved||2.88 billion|
|Tones And I||Dance Monkey||2.85 billion|
|Post Malone||rockstar (feat. 21 Savage)||2.71 billion|
But honestly, the reason the Duggar religion probably doesn't have a problem with makeup and hair is that their religious beliefs are extremely dictated by the male gaze, and cater to upholding a very strict definition of how a woman should look and act.
A lot of the ladies in the Duggar family have started wearing pants in public and on social media over the last couple of years. This was very notable when it first happened, as the 19 Kids and Counting kids always wore over-the-knee skirts growing up.Who was the youngest Duggar wedding? ›
Justin and Claire Love Timeline
She married Austin Forsyth, a long-time family friend, at the tender age of 19. To this day, she is the Duggar daughter who married the youngest. However, worth mentioning that Michelle Duggar was not even a legal adult when she married Jim Bob at 17 years old back in the day!
(WJW) — According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons website, Josh Duggar's 12 ½ year prison sentence has been extended by nearly two months. Duggar, whose large family was the focus of TLC's “19 Kids and Counting,” was convicted on child pornography charges in 2021.Which Duggar is married to a pastor? ›
TLC star Josh Duggar sentenced to more than 12 years in prison for child pornography. Duggar moved from Arkansas to Texas, then to Los Angeles, after marrying pastor and former professional soccer player Jeremy Vuolo in 2016.Why do the Duggars not wear pants? ›
The girls explained in their 2014 book, Growing Up Duggar, why their parents came up with such strict rules when it comes to their dress code — and it has to do with their traditional, religious values. “We do not dress modestly because we are ashamed of the body God has given us; quite the contrary.Who is the oldest girl in the Duggar family? ›
Jana Marie Duggar (born January 12, 1990) is an American television personality.Which Duggar wife is pregnant? ›
“We are excited to share the announcement of baby #2 due in May !” In the 13-minute video, Duggar, 23, and Nakatsu, 24, beamed with joy as they appeared in front of the camera. “We have some news. Big news.Have any Duggar kids had twins? ›
After tying the knot in July 1984, Jim Bob Duggar and Michelle Duggar (née Ruark) welcomed a total of 19 children, including two sets of twins, and the couple bestowed all of their little ones with J-monikers.Do the Bates family know the Duggars? ›
The Bates And Duggars Were Childhood Friends
But as the years went on, the connection between the Duggars and Bates was less visible. This was, in part, due to the fact that the Duggars' reality series began focusing more on the older Duggars' lives, with many of them getting married and moving out of the family home.
Additionally, the family has also made money through speaking engagements, book deals, and other media appearances. Another source of income for the Duggars is their real estate business, which includes buying and flipping houses as well as rental properties. They also have a used-car dealership.
A federal judge has sentenced reality TV's Josh Duggar to about 12 1/2 years in prison for his conviction on one count of receiving child pornography. FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Former reality TV star Josh Duggar was sentenced Wednesday to about 12 1/2 years in prison after he was convicted of receiving child pornography.Why do the Duggars wear skirts only? ›
“Modesty was a huge topic in our house, and we believed that wearing skirts instead of pants was a central part of being modest,” the Arkansas native wrote in their 2021 book, The Hope We Hold. “[I] realized that biblical modesty is deeper and more profound than wearing skirts instead of pants.Who is the oldest unmarried Duggar? ›
As the oldest daughter in her family, Jana Duggar has really carved her own path. Although many of her younger sisters are already married and have started families of their own, Jana is still single and doing her own thing.Which Duggars have covenant marriages? ›
Other Duggar Family Members In Covenant Marriages
The two couples married in Arkansas, one state that recognizes covenant marriages. Besides them, Josiah and Lauren Duggar, Ben and Jessa Seewald, Austin and Joy-Anna Forsyth, and Jeremy and Jinger Vuolo tied knots in Arkansas.
It seemed plain to many that Jim Bob and Michelle clearly still prefer Joshua Duggar, their eldest, over many of his siblings.What religion are the Duggars? ›
The Duggars are Independent Fundamentalist Baptists. In addition to their religion, they follow a conservative Christian Organization known as the Institute of Basic Life Principals (IBLP).Why do the Duggars have custody of their nephew? ›
So, why do the Duggars have custody of Tyler? Well, the young boy has reportedly had a pretty rough life and it seems that the famed family wants to help him live life with less stress and a bit more normalcy.