TLC Star Arrested, and a History of TLC’s Exploitation

On Thursday, October 20, TLC star Kim Plath was arrested in Florida and charged with driving under the influence, property damage, and personal injury. Plath was also 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 after they put a warrant out. 

Plath is the matriarch of the show Welcome to Plathville, a reality show focused on her Southern Baptist family. This show has been the subject of controversy for a while. Critics have condemned it 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 ran the show from 2019 through the present, though there is little information about whether they will proceed with season three.

TLC is not new to controversy in its later years. Originally branded as “The Learning Channel,” TLC used to be akin to The Discovery Channel or National Geographic, focusing on programming based on science, history, and other educational shows. However, the channel was not making a lot of money in the nineties and needed a rebranding.

In 1998, they became the TLC we know today. They began shifting their focus to programming like housing makeovers and wedding planning. This was successful, but another shift in the media would come in the following decade. 

As the reality show genre was gaining mass popularity, TLC decided to make that its main focus in 2008. From this era, they created shows like Jon & Kate Plus 8 and the infamous 19 Kids and Counting. From here on out, TLC focused on telling human stories, however, they still receive criticism to this day about the exploitative and dehumanizing nature of their shows.

TLC especially has a fascination with Fundamental Christian families, the most famous of which is the Duggars. On 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 allegations arose that the eldest son, Josh, sexually abused his own sisters. TLC took the show off of its schedule, but not before airing a marathon of the series. 

TLC now is a modern-day freak show, where people can watch the strange and unusual. The channel has given us things like Toddlers and Tiaras, a show following young pageantry, with girls as young as three parading around in skimpy clothing and fake tans. This then inspired the spin-off Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, focusing on the life of a T&T alumnus and her family. They also gave us Breaking Amish and Sister Wives, adding to the list of programs they have about extreme religion. 

The issue with TLC lies beyond the exploitation of those who are different to 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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