Thursday, May 28, 2015

Keeping Up With the Dunnevants

Yesterday, I wrote a blog about the Duggar controversy. Ever since, I've been wondering what a reality show about the Dunnevant family when I was growing up would look like. You know what I mean, right? Lots of close shots of us kids being asked questions by off-screen interviewers, a narrator describing Mom and Dad's parenting style in a deeply concerned voice, an unseen camera recording the madness for millions of viewers every week. It would be must-see TV.

Narrator: The Dunnevant family is a loud and boisterous clan of opinionated hotheads. Although they seem to hold each other in high esteem, the parenting style of the matriarch, Betty can be summed up best with the term, laissez-faire.

(Scene shifts to a ten year old Doug preparing to walk out of the house after breakfast on the first day of summer vacation)

Doug: Mom, I'm going to ride my bike.

Betty: Well, that's fine, but you better be back here before dark. I'm not holding up dinner for you if you're not!! And if you break your leg, don't come running to me!

Tight shot of Betty's face as interviewer asks...

Many people would be appalled at the lack of supervision and oversight that you and Emmett demonstrate over your children. Does it not concern you that your youngest son has been gone all day on his bike with God knows who?

Betty: Look, Douglas was born at night...but not last night! He's ten years old for crying out loud. He knows how to ride a bike. He can take care of himself.

Narrator: But, he's been gone all day and you have no way to reach him, you have no idea where he is or who he's with. Doesn't this concern you?

Betty: Let me get you something to eat, that's crazy talk! I know where he is...he's somewhere in Elmont on his bike. He's probably either with that Puryear boy or one of the Toombs kids. When he gets hungry, he'll be back.

Narrator: Speaking of eating, some of the Dunnevant children aren't exactly fond of their mother's autocratic menu planning, since she completely ignores their suggestions.

(Tight shot of Linda, the oldest daughter.)

Linda: Mom is on a liver and onions kick at the moment, we have it once a week. No matter how many times we complain about it, she doesn't fix us anything else. We have to either eat it or go hungry.

Narrator: (breathlessly) You actually go to bed hungry??

Linda: Well, no...that would be...stupid. We eat the liver and onions.

Narrator: But, I thought you just said you hated liver and onions.

Linda: Well sure...but on Wednesday nights we either eat it or go to bed hungry and who wants to do that?

(A montage of footage appears showing the children performing various jobs around the house, many of which are physically demanding and excessively rigorous. cut to tight shot of Emmett)

Narrator: Are you at all concerned that by forcing your kids to perform so many arduous chores, you might be doing real physical and emotional damage to them and their development?

Emmett: No.

(Cut to scene of Betty clanging two pans together at the bottom of the stairs at 7 am on a Saturday morning)

Betty: Time for you kids to get out of bed and come down to breakfast! Half of the day is gone, a today is blind cleaning day!!

(Cut to scene of Linda and Paula placing dusty aluminum blinds into the soapy water of the bath tub)

Linda: Where is Douglas? How come he gets to go ride his bike all day while we slave over these stupid blinds??

Betty: Now, y'all leave Douglas alone!

Narrator: The work is relentless and seemingly never ending. The Dunnevant family hierarchy seems determined to break every child labor law ever written.

(Cut to scene of Betty and oldest daughter Linda in a steamy kitchen canning tomatoes)

Linda: Seriously Mom, why is it that you pick literally the hottest day of the summer to do this??

(Cut to tight shot of Donnie, the oldest child)

Donnie: Mom and Dad are children of the Depression, so they both think that we'll starve every winter unless we can vegetables from the garden. Generally speaking, they are both cheapskates when it comes to food. Vegetable dinners every Tuesday is a perfect example!

Narrator: You mean to tell me that you have a meal once a week of all vegetables?? No meat at all?

Donnie: Afraid so. But that's not the worst of it, breakfast is the worst.

(Cut to scene of the entire family around the table at breakfast. There's a plate of homemade biscuits, a dish piled high with bacon, scrambled eggs and some grapefruit)

Paula: Mom, why do we always have to eat homemade stuff. All my friends get to eat Captain Crunch. Why can't we have Captain Crunch?

Betty: (excitedly) Well, it just so happens that your father and I went to the grocery store yesterday and bought you kids some boxed cereal!!

Kids: WOO HOO!!!!

( Betty disappears into the kitchen and emerges with a huge box of Quaker Oats Puffed Wheat)

Linda: What the heck is this?? It tastes like styrofoam!! 

Paula: This is disgusting!!

Emmett: See Betty? There's just no pleasing these kids!

Donnie: (Grabs the box)...Give me that! Yeah, says here,"Guaranteed to induce vomiting or your money back." (throws the box to Linda)

Linda: "Made from only the finest North American styrofoam."

Paula: I wanna see, I wanna see!

(Linda throws the box to Paula, it glances off her outstretched hands and flies over her head, crashing into the china cabinet sending a fine china cup crashing to the floor)

Doug: Great hands Paula...E-6!!

Emmett: And THIS is why we can't have nice things.