Trigger warning: Amazon Prime Video’s Shiny Happy People: Duggar Family Secrets will rob you of your breath and make you wet a couple of tissues. Even now, after a few laboured breaths and full dedication to be brutally honest, I cannot will my heart to slow down. This is the effect Juliya Willoughby Nason and Olivia Crists’ new documentary has. It is a seemingly short, simple and sweet series about a huge family–of 21 people to be precise. However, it is loaded with so many heart-wrenching emotions and disturbing facts that nothing about Shiny Happy People remains sweet.
Remember TLC’s hit show, 19 and Counting? Well, many of you won’t. I didn’t either. But after a few minutes of quick research, you’ll know what a blockbuster this series has been. It revolved around two devoted Christians and their ever-growing family. Their happy pictures have been pierced together for us to witness, letting the world glimpse behind the lives of the infamous US politician, Jim Bob and his wife. Prime Video’s Shiny Happy People: Duggar Family Secrets exposes them in a way none of them–or us–could have ever imagined.
Shiny Happy People: Duggar Family Secrets Recap
Jim Bob Duggar met Michelle when he was 19 and she was merely 17 and had a broad perspective. Michelle was a free bird, who wore jeans and roamed around, utilizing the freedom that’s everyone’s birthright. But then, Jim Bob walked into her life and painted the picture of God in front of her. Michelle’s life was never the same again. She started wearing full-length dresses and believed that children are God’s blessings and that denying this blessing is a sin. So, the Duggar family kept expanding and the Duggar couple become parents to 19 kids out of which 4 are twins.
They joined the Institute in Basic Life Principles commonly abbreviated as IBLP. Then they proceeded to host a reality television show entitled 19 and Counting. Eventually, Jim Bob ran for senate and started preaching the holy ways of living. How holy were they?
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Quite holy, really. They welcomed people to join IBLP, an institute that superficially encouraged parents to homeschool their children and make them righteous people. Since all the 19 kids including the boisterous Jill and the cunning Josh were all meek and mild, the parents who joined IBLP trusted the judgement of Michelle and Bob. Apparently, this institute was led by the former US minister, Bill Gothard. All the children who were enrolled here were trained using seminars, live sessions, one-on-one discussions and a novel book entitled The Wisdom Book.
The Wisdom Book jotted down everything a child–especially a girl–should and shouldn’t do. It taught the girls how short skirts, sleek and open hair, bright smiles and eye contact with the opposite gender is an invitation. If they do not abide by these rules and they end up being harassed, it is their mistake. They lured a man by wearing jeans or skirts or doing any of these and it was okay if a man wore jeans or dressed in any manner he wants. Yes, this is the so-called wisdom Gothard’s book and the institution has to offer.
The sorrowful part is there have been thousands of girls who were homeschooled using the teachings of this book, who were abused and were forced to believe it was their mistake. Many women including Jim Bob’s daughter, Jill Dugger Dillard, Amy King, Tia Levings and more have come forward to Shiny Happy People: Duggar Family Secrets series and enunciated it.
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Joshua Dugger, Jim Bob and Michelle’s firstborn has been taught using the same curriculum. He possesses the very same preachings and has a rather questionable outlook on Christianity. In fact, the set of beliefs Josh and his parents follow shouldn’t even be termed Christianity. The religion doesn’t support molestation, camouflaging crimes and criminals. Neither does it encourage spanking children even if they have made some kind of a mistake. It is the Duggers, Gothard and that godawful institute, not any religion.
Jim Bob’s family friend and the former Arkansas senator, Jim Holt and his wife, Bobeye Holt come forward to share their outlook on the Duggers’, too. Josh asked Holt permission to date his daughter, Kaeleigh, so that he could one day marry her. The families got closer but then they discovered Josh was a molester. He abused four of his younger sisters and none of them reacted to it–aside from the Megyn Kelly interview.
When confronted about it, Bob simply brushed it up and they all moved on. Josh married Anna and molested her, too, but it was chalked up due to their marriage. In 2015, however, Josh was arrested and all his crimes were exposed. He was found obliterating the law by skirting around the Covenant Eyes Software. After his arrest, several women came out and stood up against Josh Dugger.
Shiny Happy People: Duggar Family Secrets Review: Who Knew A 4-Episode Documentary Could Be This Heart-Wrenching?
It doesn’t matter what country we are talking about, how developed and how modern it has become, these religious cults often lie in the underbelly of the ground. There would always be politicians, religious mentors and institution leaders who would promote these sickening activities. However, there are these kinds of documentaries that need to be made available to everyone.
Yes, I could go on and claim that this documentary series is too brisk-paced and that there should have been given enough importance to Jill’s life. But what’s delivered by Nason and Crist is too mind-blowing to be criticized. They deliver facts, stats, emotions and shreds of evidence to back up their claims and that is probably the highlight of the series. Shiny Happy People: Duggar Family Secrets warrants a 9.5 on 10, hands down.