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Docuseries aims to expose “the truth” of reality TV’s Duggar family and the “radical organization behind them”

The Duggar family rose to fame when TLC began documenting their lives on the reality TV show “17 Kids and Counting” in 2008, showing how the devoutly Christian Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar balance religion with raising their many children. Now, Amazon Prime is preparing a docuseries committed to “exposing the truth” behind it all.  

The trailer for the Prime Video limited docuseries, released on May 18, starts with a simple line, “World domination was the goal.” It then goes into a mix of soundbites from various people – including one of the Duggar children – about IBLP, or the Institute in Basic Life Principles, a religious organization founded and until 2014, run by Bill Gothard, that teaches a “biblical authority” with God in the highest position, followed by husband, then wife, who is to “submit to the leadership of her husband … created perfectly to meet his needs.” 

The religious group has been shrouded in controversy, with further strict teachings that sought to prevent the influence of pop culture and prioritize committing to a life that aimed to please God. Gothard’s role came to an end upon his resignation in 2014 after dozens of women accused him of sexual harassment. 

“[Gothard’s] teachings, in a nutshell, are based on fear and superstition and leave you in place where you feel like, ‘I don’t know what God expects of me,'” Jinger Duggar Vuolo told People earlier this year. “The fear kept me crippled with anxiety. I was terrified of the outside world. … There are a lot of cult-like tendencies.” 

Members of the Duggar family appear on the
The Duggar family appeared on NBC News’ “Today” show in June 2011.

Peter Kramer/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

Further controversy surrounded the Duggar family when it was revealed that their son Josh Duggar had allegedly molested five girls. Charges were not brought against him as the statute of limitations had passed by the time those reports went public, but in 2021, he was found guilty in a separate case of having downloaded child pornography, some of which showed the sexual abuse of children who were younger than 12 years old.

Vuolo’s sister, Jill Duggar, makes an appearance in the Amazon docuseries, saying in a trailer clip that “there’s a story that’s going to be told and I’d rather be the one telling it.” 

“Shiny Happy People: Duggar Family Secrets,” which premieres on June 2 on Prime Video, promises to unveil the “real story” of what happened behind the scenes of the family’s life on reality TV. 

“As details of the family and their scandals unfold, we realize they’re part of an insidious, much-larger threat already in motion, with democracy itself in peril,” the description for the trailer says.

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