I was catching up with my friend on the phone the other day and we were talking about our jobs when he asked, "Wait, who are the Duggars?" Working in entertainment journalism, I know that I tend to be a lot more familiar with celebrities and reality stars than the average person. But after we broke the Josh Duggar molestation scandal just a few years back, I kind of thought everyone had heard of the Duggar family.
After all, it's not like they're the much-lesser known Bates family, who people seem to know predominately because of the Duggars' show. No, these are people who've been on TLC for years, released books, have been featured on the covers of magazines, and even made appearances on the Today show. But for all the TV my friend does watch, I knew this wouldn't mean much to him. So I set out to explain, first by directing him to my visual guide of the Duggar family tree, and it went a little something like this.
"Oh, s--t. That's a big family tree."
"Yeah, they have 19 kids. They wanted to have 20, but didn't quite make it all the way there. I mean, if you count the grand-nephew that they adopted, then I guess they do technically have 20? Rumor has it that Jim Bob, the dad, has set his sights on 100 grandkids, though."
"The dad's name is Jim Bob?"
"His dad's name was Jim Lee. So it's like a whole thing with that family. Honestly, it's kind of surprising that he didn't name any of his kids Jim something."
"Josh, John-David, Jana... Wait, do all their names start with J?"
"Oh, yeah. And some of them are pretty funny because one of the youngest girls is named Jennifer. It's like, wait, you didn't think of the name Jennifer until you'd already had six other daughters and named one of them Jinger with a J?"
"Jinger with a J. Uh, okay. And why is Jordyn's name spelled like that?"
"I don't know, why is Jinger spelled with a J? And her name is Jordyn-Grace. They're a big fan of hyphenate names in the Duggar family. Jordyn-Grace, John-David, Joy-Anna. You might notice a trend."
"There's a Joy-Anna and a Johanna? Isn't that basically the same name?"
"Well, Joy-Anna goes by Joy a lot. And I think "Johanna" is pronounced like jo-anna and Joy-Anna has the y sound in it. Anyway, Joy is one of the older girls and Johanna is one of the younger girls. So it's different or whatever. There's like six other boys between them."
"Jesus. Wait, why didn't they name any of them Jesus?"
"Probably a little too on the nose, honestly. They're super religious, like really strict, and they homeschool and everything. Jeremiah and Jedidiah sounds pretty biblical, though. But you should hear some of the grandkids' names. That's where things really start to get crazy."
"How many grandkids do they have?"
"I think right now there's nine? But like three more grandkids have been born since I made that visual guide. Josh and Anna had their fifth kid, even though nobody really knows why they stayed together. On top of the whole molested-his-sisters-when-he-was-young thing, he was also on that cheating-on-your-spouse dating website that we exposed a few years ago, Ashley Madison. He's actually being sued for catfishing on it. Don't ask me what catfishing is, we can just watch an episode of Catfish next time I visit. But the Duggars don't believe in divorce, really, so they're still together. A bunch of Anna's siblings are actually divorced, but I think that probably made it even harder to leave, not easier? There's actually been a bunch of divorces in the larger Duggar family for people who don't believe in it. Austin Forsyth's dad got divorced and remarried, too. But anyway, Jill and Derick Dillard also had another kid and Joy-Anna is pregnant now, too."
"Hold on, you just name dropped a bunch of people. I'm Googling."
"Who, Austin Forsyth? Oh, sorry, that's Joy-Anna's husband. Derick Dillard is Jill's husband. He's kind of the worst, honestly. Jeremy Vuolo and Ben Seewald are probably the best ones, or at least they seem the most normal. Except Ben and Jessa named one of their kids "Spurgeon," so there's that. They named their other kid "Henry," which is pretty much the most opposite name of "Spurgeon" that I can think of, but his middle name is "Wilberforce" and they're both Christian figures or something. And Joe — sorry, he's Joseph on the family tree — is married now, too, to Kendra Caldwell."
"Jinger and Joy-Anna are married? They look like they're 15!"
"Jinger is 23 and Joy-Anna just turned 20, actually, but yeah, they get married pretty young. Jana Duggar is 27 and people basically act like she's a hopeless old maid, which is funny since like... a lot of people don't get married until their 30s. But it's definitely weird for the family and she still lives at home, which sucks.
"That's not that bad, though. 27 isn't that old to live at home."
"I mean, yeah, but it is when you have to share your bedroom with a bunch of eight and nine year olds sleeping in bunk beds or whatever, it's gotta feel not great. She's basically like a second mom to a bunch of kids that she didn't even decide to have. But I think Jill and Derick live in one of the other houses that's like right near their big main house, so at least she's got some other adults nearby."
"Wait, why did you say Derick is the worst earlier? Shouldn't Josh be the worst?"
"Okay, Josh is like the actual worst. But Derick tried to run over a cat with a sled one time. And he's always tweeting transphobic stuff about Jazz Jennings. So that's pretty bad, too."
"Who's Jazz Jennings?"
"She's another TLC star who has her own show called I Am Jazz. It's about her life as a transgender teen. Just normal reality TV show stuff. But it's crazy because TLC is also the channel that airs the Duggars' show, Counting On."
"And TLC is cool with that?"
"Actually, they just kicked Derick off the show. I mean, he hadn't really been on it lately. But now he won't be on it in the future, either. So at least that's something."
"How do you keep up with all of this?"
"What can I say? And I didn't even cover everything, by the way. Don't even get me started on how they're not allowed to wear bathing suits and wearing pants is a form of rebellion. Honestly, I could've kept you on the phone for like three more hours. But that's life at Life & Style. It's all in a day's work."