Media families

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Out of sheer curiosity, I follow two reality shows. These shows feature surprisingly similar families, but many people probably wouldn't think so. What are the shows? "Keeping Up with the Kardashians" and "19 Kids and Counting," of course.

Most of us know about the Kardashians. Led by matriarch Kris Jenner, the family has sought and acquired fame since 2006. Kim Kardashian is the most famous person in the family. After all, she's the reason her family's reality show exists. It wouldn't have been possible if she hadn't taken part in an inappropriate home video that was later "accidentally" leaked to the public.

On their reality show, the Kardashians constantly refer to Kim's video as if it's a joke. The sisters joke about each others' sexuality all the time, sometimes even with their mother present. You'd think the family would struggle with staying relevant more than 10 years after the reality show began, but Kim takes part in nude photoshoots every now and then to remind everyone why she is famous.

The Kardashians are all about what's on the surface. They want fame at all costs and will allow cameras to follow them through doctor's appointments and even childbirth. It's all the same to them if they can make money off their show.

So how is the Duggar family of "19 Kids and Counting" like the Kardashians? That family is wholesome and all about their faith, right? Until last year, I'd have agreed with that. I began following a forum about the Duggar family shortly before the oldest son's molestation and cheating scandals became public and found everything I thought I knew about that family was dead wrong.

The family's show, which was canceled after Josh Duggar's transgressions became too much, mostly focused on how neat it is to have a lot of kids. Parents Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar did discuss their faith, but never in depth. Most of the time, entire story lines were devoted to menial tasks like going to the grocery store.

The show became really popular when daughters Jill and Jessa began courting and eventually married. Those episodes were the highest rated in the show's history. Once the family started getting really famous, it became much more apparent how much Jim Bob and Michelle cherish their public image.

The molestation scandal brought all this to light. Last summer, several media outlets reported that Josh Duggar had molested several of his sisters and one family friend when he was 14 years old. The police report from the incident revealed that Jim Bob and Michelle not only knew about the molestation but tried to cover it up.

The parents released a statement last summer saying all their kids received proper therapy after it happened, even though Michelle admitted in the police report that they sent Josh away to build houses with a family friend until the dust settled. This all happened just a couple of years before their show; Jim Bob was already in politics, so the family had public exposure.

I'm not going to criticize how parents deal with their son molesting their daughters, but I do think it was in poor taste for Michelle and Jim Bob to sign their family up for a reality show on a major network just a couple of years after their daughters were molested. That's a really difficult thing to deal with, and it was swept under

the rug so the family could become famous outside of Arkansas.

It worked. Today, the family has thousands of likes on social media despite all the scandals. Fans hold them up as the pillar of morality even though Jim Bob and Michelle have clearly wanted to be famous more than anything, including helping their daughters receive proper help after being violated by someone they trusted.

They aren't liberal or blatantly obscene like the Kardashians, but their quest for fame puts them in the same company. Now that their show has been canceled, the family has begun releasing videos on their Youtube channel to keep interest.

Michelle and Jim Bob need to be on camera. They crave it. They're found their audience and want to keep it; fading into obscurity is terrifying for them.

I'm sure they'd insist otherwise, but they're not too different from the Kardashians after all.

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Samantha Jones is a reporter for the Carroll County News. Her email address is CCNNews@cox-internet.com.