Thursday, May 28, 2015

Reality Television's Most Recent Illusion


I have a rant. I'm going to hold my breathe a few seconds...then exhale. I'm about to post material that may annoy some of my readers...but I feel the substance is important. It doesn't directly involve subjects normally covered in this blog...but it does demonstrate how reality television (including paranormal television) can pull the wool over the viewer's eyes. After pondering what has transpired in the news the past few days, I felt like I needed to offer it to you for your opinion.

I loathe prejudice...in all forms. I know first-hand the effects of it and on a variety of levels. Be it race, religion, sexual orientation, age, social status, appearance, etc., it all equates to one thing. Ignorance. I also loathe hypocrisy...which, many times, goes hand-in-hand with prejudice. For instance, those people who preach good morals and love for others...then eventually unveiled to be the complete opposite.

Now, don't get me wrong...I'm not the most perfect person on the planet and I don't prescribe to be. You may totally disagree with what I write...I understand that. But please try and bear with me for a bit.

A similar scenario occurs time after time and the skeletons find their way out of the closet. In most cases, it's a well-known personality or celebrity who failed to cover their ass or they lowered their shield at an inopportune occasion...a 'gotcha' moment.

All of this preamble leads to the recent controversy in regards to the Duggar family, the stars of TLC's 19 Kids and Counting and Josh Duggar's sex abuse allegations. Here is a timeline of the events as reported by Entertainment Tonight.

Overall, the information is shameful...but, in this day-in-age, not completely shocking. But what I do find distasteful is a letter that was forwarded to a reporter at Defamer. The content, which I believe to be sincere, tells a broader unsavory story...most importantly, TLC's disgusting behavior. Please read it and tell me what you think.

In 2008 I worked on the set of what was then known as “17 Kids and Counting” and I have something to tell you...

During this time, the Duggars had very limited exposure to what they called the “outside world” and so most of the crew members being from larger cities, we were all very surprised at how very little they knew or understood about places like New York, Los Angeles, and London. All of their perceptions of these places were the most exaggerated stereotype cariacatures as if their only source of news was from locally produced religious cartoons from the 1980s. As in, LA is full of surfer dudes and Valley girls, and everyone in New York talks and walks like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever, walks in packs carrying switchblades, spray paints graffiti at every turn, with the only safe haven oddly being the mighty Trump Tower. Yes, Trump Tower was Jim Bob’s go-to when talking anecdotally about the elegance of lavish and luxurious places. ... They didn’t own a television or had an Internet connection at that time, so, really, next to second hand church gossip, the local newspaper was really their only link to anything outside of Arkansas. The producers of the show had instructed crew members to not ever engage in conversation on our own with Jim Bob or Michelle in fears that we may either say something normal that they would find objectionable or that they would say something to where we’d react funny because we weren’t used to their level of “unwordliness” I think it was put.

We were constantly reminded that we were not to upset them or taint their version of the world, which is why they wanted limited conversation. Even a lighthearted conversation that might actually educate them about something they were horribly ignorant about was seen as tainting their view. It was very much like being told to not tell your little sister about Santa Claus.

So, during the leadup to their first family trip to New York to appear on the Today Show, Michelle started approaching some of us about New York and if it’s “scary for kids”. Because Michelle came to us, it was acceptable to entertain conversing with her but producers would always rush over and monitor the conversation. That very day we had a couple of crewmembers new to the set not familiar with the drill. She had directed this question to four of us who all happened to be standing together. As tempting as it was to give some ridiculous answer, the producer’s face reminded us to just be polite and give her the answer she wants. Well, the followup question is when it went completely off the rails. “Well, I hear the city is overrun by ..... gays... has that been causing a lot of problems?” One of the new crewmembers laughed and said “Why don’t you ask “Jimmy”? (Changed his name) and then proceeds to yell over his shoulder “Hey, Jimmy, you giving the city lots of problems???” Jimmy as you can guess, was gay, but this fact was completely lost on the Duggars.

It took her a minute to process that the joke answer might mean that there might really be one of these gays she’s always heard about nearby! In her house, even! She pulled the producer over to the corner and started yelling at him and demanding to know if what was just said was a joke, and that she wants to see Jimmy. We’re all watching this go down from a distance dying inside at how funny this was, and how shit is about to really hit a very big fan. The producer is now in a very tough position, because Jimmy is a veteran of the industry and is excellent at what he does, but now the Duggars’ weird uncultured Pollyanna worldview is threatening to disrupt the production staff. We could see the producer trying to calm her down and offering to have a talk with Jimmy (who we all thought was at a rig about 500 feet away, far enough out of ear shot) when suddenly Jimmy appears. ...

Michelle asked point blank “So ... you’re .... gay???” The four of us are staring at this from a distance as if we’re on the edge of our seats, completely shocked that someone in 2008 would even do that, and Jimmy ... suddenly strikes a pose like a model in a pinup photo, and responds “Well, darling, depends on who’s asking!” Holy shit, the four of us watching were doubled over in pain laughing so hard at this. ...

Well, when we returned, we found out that Jimmy was removed, fired from the set, and transferred to another production, and that none of us are to breathe a word of what we saw to anyone. The official reason given to pacify the Duggars was that he was “fired due to causing conflicts with the talent”. Talent! Amazing how such a small sentence can contain so much hyperbole. He was fired 100% because he was gay and for no other reason. The conflict was because he was gay. Of course, he wasn’t really fired fired, but taken off this particular crew. Jimmy was super cool and took it all in stride, and understood the reasoning and the delicate balance the producers needed to have to please these stupid people. And the reason he never came forward or made a stink was because he was paid a bonus and moved to a more desirable production. The dramatics of the “firing” was inflated for the Duggars’ benefit, stupid enough to believe that normal people from more progressive parts of America would support the removal of a gay person from a job filled with union democrats. (Another secret they weren’t aware of!)

...They kept a very tight lid on this incident, because on future tapings when new crews would be swapped in, they were suspiciously more and more straight-edged Christian than you’d typically see on the set of a television show, any television show, outside of the 700 Club. As long as the Duggars are comfortable and safe from the scary city gays, all went according to plan. ...

Sorry this was so long, I guess I could have just told you that Michelle got someone fired because they were gay, but I thought setting the scene is important to the story. Enjoy!

My wife and I are fairly progressive...but she enjoyed watching 19 Kids and Counting because they come off as a completely wholesome family. Their quirks were endearing to many viewers...kind of a throwback to a more basic lifestyle and culture. Now because of the recent allegations, the lid has blown of the kettle. In fact, some people are referring to the Duggars as an evil cult. I don't know if I'd go that far, but it does represent why there is considerable mistrust in the media and how it portrays people.

One of TLC's former logos declared it's productions as 'Life Unscripted.' There is no question why that changed...it involved the 'bottom line.' The updated logo states 'Live and Learn.' Now, that's prophetic. Lon

Reality TV: Remaking Television Culture

Reality Bites Back: The Troubling Truth About Guilty Pleasure TV

Truth and Rumors: The Reality Behind TV's Most Famous Myths (Praeger Television Collection)


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