A Look at TLC’s History of Exploitation

On Thursday, October 20, TLC star Kim Plath was arrested in Florida and charged with a DUI, property damage, and personal injury. Plath was previously charged with careless driving this past June, right around the time she and her husband, Barry, announced their divorce. According to the police department of Wakulla County, Kim Plath turned herself in.

Plath is the matriarch of the show Welcome to Plathville, a reality series focused on her Southern Baptist family. This show has been the subject of controversy for a while, as it is seen as exploitative, especially because there are many minors involved. Most of the show focuses more on the older children and how they deal with their incredibly strict and conservative family rules and marrying outside of the Church. 

Kim Plath is infamous for not letting her children drink soda or go online without a chaperone. She is also often called out for emotionally manipulating her children along with accusations of emotional abuse. 

TLC has also given us shows like 1000 lbs Sisters and the infamous Toddlers and Tiaras TLC focuses on telling human stories, however, they still receive criticism about the exploitative and dehumanizing nature of their shows.

TLC especially has a fascination with Fundamental Christian families like the Plaths. The most famous of which is the Duggars. Stars of 19 Kids and Counting, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar are Independent Baptists and are part of the Quiverfull movement. This means that they are against the use of birth control and that if God wants them to have a baby, they will get pregnant.

TLC ran this show for seven years, only canceling it after the allegations against the eldest son, Josh, for sexually abusing his own sisters. TLC took the show off of its schedule, but not before airing a marathon of the series. This just proves that TLC doesn’t really care about the exploitative nature of their shows and those who may be affected by it, but instead about the money that they can make from them. 

TLC is a modern-day freak show, where people can watch the strange and unusual. They gave us Breaking Amish and Sister Wives, adding to the list of programs they have about Christian fundamentalism. The latter of which also features children who are not given a say in whether or not they’d like to be on TV, as it is up to their guardians, who are often the exploiters themselves.

 The issue with TLC lies beyond the exploitation of those who are different from us. They also give a platform to the abusers and the exploiters themselves. With 19 Kids and Counting and Welcome to Plathville especially, TLC uses the raising of children as a source of entertainment, often leaving the young people no choice but to participate.

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