How many Duggars are there now? Anybody know? I honestly lost count a few years ago and I have to assume that between now and then, with first-gen Duggars marrying off and spitting out little God-fearing rugrats of their own, the most inexplicably popular ongoing circus act in America has grown exponentially. I know their show on TLC -- what used to be known as "The Learning Channel" before it became a network dedicated solely to gawking at medical and psychological oddities -- is called "19 Kids and Counting," up from the original "17." But that title doesn't take into account the grandchildren of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, only their own seemingly bottomless brood, right? Again -- anybody?
It used to be that whenever the Duggars announced a new pregnancy or saw a pregnancy come to fruition -- when Michelle Duggar's poor, de-elasticized cervix dropped another mouth onto an already overpopulated planet -- I'd write about it over at my site. It became kind of a running gag, with me simply adding a new lede to a recycled piece I'd written a couple of years earlier. That piece, the original bit on the Duggars, came in the form of a plea to the American media to please stop treating these people like celebrities. Every year like clockwork, Jim Bob and Michelle would gather their litter of Quiverfull zealots at some maternity ward in Arkansas to welcome one more of them into the world and right on cue there would be the Today show cameras, ready to broadcast their good news to the world. They'd drop the name of the Lord Jesus Christ over and over like there was a Skinner Box treat in it for them, and they would heat their new baby in the lights of the cameras and bathe him or her in all that warm encomia.
Then about six months later, again, once a year or so, there they'd be, back on Today -- a show which for reasons that can never be satisfactorily explained acted as the Duggars' official press secretariat -- announcing that Michelle's womb had again been filled by the Holy Spirit, the turnover in that thing coming faster than a cashier position at the local Burger King. It would always be billed as a "big announcement" from the Duggars, but it certainly couldn't be called a surprise. Hell, the staff of Today probably had a Mad Libs script template ready to go for every new visit to the big city by the Duggar clan: change up a couple of numbers and add a new name beginning with the letter "J" and there you go. It's like putting together a canned obit for an old celebrity you just know will be kicking off soon.
But that's precisely the thing. The Duggars aren't celebrities. They're religious zealots who won't stop having babies. That's it -- nothing more. And yet, astonishingly, they're still managing to draw attention to an act that should've grown stale years ago. When the Duggars initially came to prominence as a media sensation, Paris Hilton was an omnipresent force in pop culture, but years later she's mercifully fallen by the wayside -- as most media fixations do these days -- while the Duggars are still going strong. It's them and, ironically, the Kardashians -- they're the two families sure to survive a nuclear holocaust like some kind of pop culture cockroach. Both provide nothing to the planet other than their own continued survival and regeneration. Their fame is existential.
This week, the Duggar women were named among People magazine's "50 Most Beautiful People" -- leaving only six spaces on the list for anyone else, apparently -- and received the requisite makeover for their photo shoot. Given their Christian extremist beliefs, the Duggar girls of course demanded that their hair not be cut and that they be dressed conservatively. In a video posted by People -- introduced by an effusive host who proclaims, "We love the Duggars around here!" -- you see the women being pampered by People's "glam squad," with Michelle Duggar being given a special "date night" look. (Because when you think of a woman who submits completely to the will of her husband and is basically an incubator with feet, you think romance.) What's fun to consider, though, is that somewhere within that glam squad, there had to be a gay guy -- and given that Michelle lent her services last year to a movement aimed at allowing for lawful discrimination against the LGBT community in her home state, one would hope that at the very least she was made uncomfortable for a little while.
Meanwhile, E! is covering the announcement by Duggar daughter Jessa that she's expecting a baby -- possibly twins -- with her husband. Another Duggar kid, Jill, just gave birth, while a third, Josiah, may be about to get married. So, you know, more of the same -- the logical extension of everything we've seen up to this point. If America doesn't finally get bored of this shit at some point, not only will the Duggar show go on unabated indefinitely, at some point the Duggar family will overrun the country by becoming the controlling interest within its population.
But all of this can end. If the media were to just stop playing carnival barker to this sideshow and lose interest in the reproductive cycles and marriage intentions of these fundamentalist weirdos, the gravy train that's made them shockingly wealthy might finally dry up. (Since the other thing that can end their reign of terror obviously won't.) If the Duggars want to overpopulate the world for Jesus, that's their decision, but they shouldn't be rewarded for it -- and media attention is absolutely a reward because in America in the year 2015 that brings with it a constant and guaranteed revenue stream.
They believe that the Lord provides for them, fantastic. Let him do it. The media shouldn't. We shouldn't. Even the Kardashians aren't cruel enough to us to keep reproducing every year.