When the Prime Video docuseries Shiny Happy People: Duggar Family Secrets was announced, many figured they'd already heard all they needed to about the now infamous reality TV family. But is Shiny Happy People actually about the Duggars and the Duggars alone? Distractify spoke exclusively with the docuseries' director and executive producer Olivia Crist and executive producer Blye Pagon Faust about their vision and the story they'd hoped to tell.
Shiny Happy People is about the Christian church organization the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP), the Duggar family's connection to it, and the family's part in helping it become mainstream. The four-part docuseries also explains the early teachings and scandals of the church and how the goal seemed to be "world domination" from the start.
Is 'Shiny Happy People' about the Duggar family?
The title of the docuseries does feature the Duggar name and multiple members of the Duggar family are interviewed in the docuseries. Second eldest daughter Jill Duggar and her husband, as well as cousin Amy King and her mom, Deanna Duggar (Jim Bob Duggar's sister) are a big part of the docuseries. But at its core, Shiny Happy People is about the IBLP, those who were able to break free from the religion and culture, and awareness for those who don't know about the behind-the-scenes of the IBLP.
"It's such a bigger story, right? The Duggars are the vehicle by which we enter into this world and we follow them as we start to learn how this has gone," EP Blye Pagon Faust shared with us. "So we're not just going to rehash, you know, the Duggar story that we all know… a lot of that has been on the news, but what is the real story behind them? I think that's what really motivated us."
Director / EP Olivia Crist explained that when she fell down a "rabbit hole" of information regarding survivors of the IBLP, she felt moved to make the docuseries and shed more light on something that the mainstream world, outside of the religion, seemed to know very little about.
"What really kind of drew me into this story is when I kind of fell down a rabbit hole of research with the IBLP," she said. "And that brought me to a site called Recovering Grace. And, you know, you start to hear some of the survivors' stories. And I think that's really the motivator for getting the show off the ground."
'Shiny Happy People's director and executive producer shared thoughts on some Duggar family members.
Although Shiny Happy People isn't just about the Duggar family, it does touch on the major moments in the family's history on television. From their first TLC special to the cancellation of 19 Kids and Counting and its spinoff Counting On, which was later canceled amid Josh Duggar's arrest and conviction for possession of child sexual abuse materials, the Duggars have remained in the public eye for better or for worse.
Neither Olivia or Blye could say for certain what the future holds for members of the Duggar family. However, they did agree that they would be supportive, should another adult child "break free" and publicly open up about the negative aspects about the IBLP and their upbringing.
"I think that we can never speculate in terms of how the Duggar family will receive this," Blye admitted. "But I think the hope is that they and others will look at it and reflect on [the docuseries] and think about what, exactly, the reality [is] and how, with a larger picture, it is in terms of how it does treat women and children."
The IBLP operates under a number of churches throughout the Untied States and beyond. One of the tenets of the belief system is an "umbrella of responsibility." It places the male head of household at the top. Under him is his wife, and under her are the children. Shiny Happy People explains the way the religion and culture surrounding it place emphasis on outdated family roles and an unbalanced power dynamic in relationships.
The docuseries is here to "lift the curtain back" on the IBLP religion.
Blye also shared with Distractify that she hopes when people who are part of, or were part of, the ideology and belief system of the IBLP watch the docuseries, they might feel like "they're not alone" in their struggle to move past it. But, according to Olivia, this is just the tip of the iceberg.
"As filmmakers, you try to tell a story that is cohesive and clear, and gets across the main themes and messages that you need to," Olivia shared. "But, you know, it was four episodes, and IBLP has been around since the sixties. So there are so many other stories."
Shiny Happy People: Duggar Family Secrets will be available for streaming on Prime Video on June 2.