Only people of a certain age even remember when TLC was known as “The Learning Channel” and actually had education-focused programming to fit that moniker. For much of the new millennium, the cable network has become known primarily for reality shows.
It was in 2006 that TLC introduced the world to the Roloff family, and the network as it’s known today was born. The success of Little People, Big World following its 2006 debut made way for shows like Jon & Kate Plus 8, Sister Wives, 17 Kids and Counting, and Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. Even as many of its successors have come and gone, the Roloffs have remained on TLC in one form or another for 11 years now, drawing 2 million viewers per week at the height of their popularity.
However, like most reality show families, the Roloffs haven’t been able to avoid controversy. Beyond the divorce of Matt and Amy during the show’s run, there have been a number of dark moments involving various members of the Roloff family, both publicly and in private.
The Roloff family have had their share of bad publicity to match the positive impact that they have had on educating the world about the struggles of dwarfism.
Here are 15 Dark Secrets About Little People, Big World You Had No Idea About.
15. There Was A Death “Hoax” Involving Matt Roloff
A common TV trope is to have a major character suffer some sort of medical emergency, and leave viewers waiting until the next season starts to find out what happened. TLC decided that a reality show has just as much right as a fictional one to end a season on an “is he alive or dead?” cliffhanger with LPBW‘s fifth season.
The season five finale saw Matt Roloff collapse, and the episode– and season– came to an end with ambiguity as to what had happened. Fans immediately flocked to the internet with concern about Matt, wondering what was going on and if he was okay. Things eventually escalated to the point that people began to speculate that Matt had died, causing Matt himself to finally make a public statement to clear the air.
As it turned out, Matt had passed out due to severe vertigo, and by the time the episode aired, his condition had already improved to the point that he hadn’t had such a spell in months. Fans were both relieved to hear that Matt was doing fine, and also angry at TLC for being intentionally manipulative.
14. Jacob Roloff said he was “forced” to participate in the show
The member of the Roloff clan that has been the source of the most friction is easily Jacob, the youngest of the four Roloff children. Only 9 when the show debuted, Jacob spent his formative years in front of cameras, and he doesn’t have much positivity to share about the experience.
Jacob has called LPBW “inherently fake,” which perhaps isn’t the most damning criticism of a reality show as it’s no big secret that most reality shows have scripted elements.What’s more troubling are Jacob’s accusations that his parents forced him to participate in the show despite his objections, and would often make him do scenes against his will.
Considering that reality TV families have sometimes had members that chose not to participate and are simply left out of most or all of a show’s scenes– see: Rob Kardashian and Osbourne sister Aimee– Jacob should’ve been able to opt out of participating in the show if he chose to.
Of course, it’s hard to say how much of his claims are true, and we can only hope that he’s just exaggerating and that a 9-year-old boy wasn’t forced to be a reality TV star entirely against his will.
13. Jacob openly discusses illegal drug use on Twitter
Once Jacob decided he was done trying to conform to any sort of TV-friendly version of himself, his social media accounts in particular became a place for him to sound off and be as controversial and “honest” as he wants to be.
One such way he has done this is in his openly discussing his love for marijuana, including showing pictures of marijuana leaves, extolling the virtues and benefits of pot smoking, and tweeting things like, “Who doesn’t suck at selling weed?”
While it should be noted that Oregon, where Jacob resides, is one of the states that has legalized the recreational use of marijuana, the law specifies that users be at least 21 years of age. So, as it stands, Jacob is breaking the law by being a pot smoker and won’t be able to legally use the drug until January 17, 2018.
12. Matt has been arrested twice for DUI
In 2003, well before becoming a reality TV star, Matt Roloff was arrested for driving under the influence after his car swerved into a ditch. Though he was officially convicted of drunk driving, Matt had the charges dismissed the following year upon completion of an alcohol diversion program.
Then, in 2007, Matt was pulled over by a police officer when he was spotted driving erratically after leaving a bar. Matt insisted he hadn’t been drinking, and claimed he was struggling with the vehicle because it had been fitted with break extensions especially designed for his wife.
He pleaded not guilty to driving under the influence, and the case was later dismissed due to a combination of jury misconduct and failure to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Matt had been driving under the influence that night.
11. Jeremy Roloff’s wife, Audrey, accused of homophobia
When Jeremy Roloff married his longtime girlfriend, Audrey Botti, the episode featuring their wedding drew a series-high 2.3 million viewers. Since then, Audrey Roloff has become a regular fixture on the show and is as famous as anyone who was born with that last name. Unfortunately, she has chosen to use that fame to express some pretty close-minded opinions about the LGBT community.
It started when Audrey expressed her dissatisfaction with beauty brand CoverGirl choosing openly gay male model James Charles as a brand ambassador, saying she didn’t like the “message” that it sent. It was also revealed that the pastor at Audrey’s church is a very vocal opponent of gay marriage.
Just to make sure that there was no confusion as to how she truly felt about such things, when people criticized Jeremy and Audrey’s marriage advice blog for not addressing same-sex couples, she said via the blog that they would never claim to be a source for gay marriage advice as it is not something they personally agree with.
10. Audrey’s controversial pictures and marriage advice
It turns out that Audrey’s opinions about opposite-sex marriage have been known to stir up drama as well. On her and Jeremy’s aforementioned marriage blog, Mrs. Roloff has been known to parlay some rather old-fashioned advice to women that suggests that wives should be submissive to their husbands.
In one particular blog post aimed at the wives of the world, Audrey wrote, “Our bodies are no longer our own.” She continued, “We should desire to sexually please our spouses. So get naked.”
As Audrey would later learn, there is a downside to courting such a strongly conservative fan base. When the mother-to-be posted pictures of herself on Instagram wearing a sports bra and showing off her baby bump, she saw a major backlash from her fans, saying it was “disgraceful” for her to bare so much skin and that that only her husband should be seeing that much of her body.
9. Jacob dropped out of high school
The Roloffs seemingly tried to have their kids live as normal of a life as possible in spite of being reality TV stars, and that included attending normal schools. However, Jacob ended up dropping out of high school before he graduated and picked up his remaining credits through online schooling.
What’s surprising about Jacob’s reasons for leaving school is that they didn’t seem to involve his fame or his problems with LPBW. Jacob said that he got tired of all of the drama of people worrying about who to date and being concerned with unimportant, superficial matters. In other words, teenagers being teenagers.
It would be forgivable if Jacob had said he was struggling to be treated like a normal kid at school because of him being on TV, but to find out that he simply got fed up with the same nonsense that every high school kid in high school history has to deal with and used that as an excuse to drop out definitely makes it a little bit harder to avoid judging his decision.
8. Jeremy’s MySpace Page Contained Homophobic and Racial Slurs
Jeremy Roloff has been known to speak out against the use of the word “midget” when describing little people– a term that has come to be considered politically incorrect at best, and a slur at worst. Because he had been so celebrated for his fight against derogatory language, it was more than surprising when The National Inquirer uncovered dozens of examples of Jeremy and his friends casually using racial and homophobic slurs on his MySpace page.
In the period of time when Jeremy was between 15- and 17-years-old, his MySpace page contained numerous examples of him freely using the N-word, as well as gay slurs and derogatory comments about Latinos. Jeremy also badmouthed fans of LPBW, and bragged about drinking alcohol– again, he was only in his mid-teens at that point.
While some people attempted to defend Jeremy’s actions, chalking it up to harmless high school banter and claiming that all teenagers talk that way among their friends, it was rightly pointed out that MySpace was hardly a “private” venue and that such talk shouldn’t be excused anyway– especially from someone who had made a name for himself as something or a moral crusader.
7. A visitor to Roloff Farm sued the family
In 2009, Radar Online obtained court documents that showed that a woman named Linda Farrall was suing the Roloffs for negligence after she injured herself during one of the public tours that the family was conducting of the premises.
Farrall said that she was accidentally bumped by another tour guest and fell off of a pavilion platform, leading to $100,000 in medical bills from a fractured femur and torn ligaments in her legs. Farrall was seeking $1 million in damages, claiming that the Roloffs were negligent and failed to provide safety measures such as guard rails that would easily prevent such accidents from occurring. The Roloffs responding by saying that Farrall’s tumble wasn’t their fault and that they weren’t responsible for her injuries.
6. There have been squabbles over money owed from the show
Jacob may claim to have never been a fan of– or willing participant in– LPBW, but he still feels like he should be well-compensated for the years he put in on the popular show. It may not be surprising to learn that he doesn’t believe he has gotten what is coming to him money-wise from the producers of the show.
In 2015, Jacob didn’t mince words on his thoughts about financial compensation, tweeting: “Man I wish it didn’t feel like I was getting [expletive]ed out of the money from the show that was my childhood right now.” He would eventually stop appearing on the show altogether following contract disputes. The website Celebrity Net Worth estimates Jacob’s current net worth as $300,000, which definitely seems small given the huge success of the show– and the fact that the same website puts his dad’s net worth at $4.5 million.
5. Neighbors of the Roloff’s Farm aren’t fans
Other than being reality TV stars and other business ventures, the Roloff clan earn income via their 34-acre farm that they open to the public every year for pumpkin-picking season. Naturally, Little People, Big World doubled as an advertisement for Roloff Farm, and as the show grew in popularity, so did the crowds. What began as a farm that was only built to accommodate a few hundred vehicles at a time had starting seeing crowds that far exceeded capacity.
The autumn of the show’s debut season, over 30,000 people flooded into Roloff Farm to visit the grounds and hopefully get to meet members of the now-famous family. Things got so bad that local law enforcement actually shut down the farm on one especially busy Saturday because the rush of cars and people had gotten to be a safety hazard.
All of the newfound attention hasn’t won the Roloffs many fans in the area, either. The farms and homes surrounding Roloff Farm, who likely settled there because of the peace and quiet, haven’t been too pleased about the rush of people and the media attention that has come with LPBW‘s popularity, making the Roloffs not particularly well-liked in their community.
4. Jeremy’s wild bachelor party
Even if you’ve never watched LPBW, you’ve probably gathered that the Roloff family– and Jeremy in particular– are pretty conservative when it comes to women and sex. So even though Jeremy technically had a bachelor party prior to his wedding with Audrey, all signs pointed to a likely lack of the traditional shenanigans involving naked women that often go along with a man’s “last night of freedom.”
Surprisingly, though, there was indeed a fully-exposed rear end on display at Jeremy’s bachelor party… only it belonged to Jeremy himself. Twin brother Zach took some naked photos that Jeremy had taken and blown one of them up in order to show all the attendees at the bachelor party, a prank which resulted in a very embarrassed Jeremy.
3. Jacob is an anti-vaxxer
Despite numerous studies that have failed to find a credible link between childhood vaccinations and autism– and the fact that the original report that made those claims has been thoroughly discredited– a number of celebrities have come out against vaccinations for those (debunked) reasons, a group that has come to be known as “anti-vaxxers.”
The controversy-bating Jacob Roloff has joined the chorus of anti-vaxxers. During an online discussion on the topic, Jacob asked one of his Twitter followers: “If we don’t even know the risks [of vaccination], how would we know the benefits outweigh them?” He then came right out and stated, “My kids won’t be vaccinated don’t worry.”
For what it’s worth, Jacob is currently the only of the three Roloff boys who doesn’t have a child and/or isn’t currently expecting one, so whether his opinion on vaccinations will change once he has a kiddo on the way remains to be seen.
2. Jacob has severed ties with most of his family
Between his claims of being forced against his will to be on LPBW, his disputes about compensation from the show, and just having a personality that seems at odds with the rest of his family, it probably doesn’t come as a major shocker that Jacob has become mostly estranged from the rest of the Roloff family.
As soon as he turned 18 and was legally an adult, Jacob left the Roloff home to live on his own. As previously stated, he has also since stopped being a part of the TV series. And just to further hammer home his attempts to distance himself from his family, he no longer follows any of the other Roloffs on any of his social media accounts with the exception of sister Molly.
Obviously, it’s impossible to know the exact nature of Jacob’s private relationship with his family, but given his disconnect from the show, the family finances, and their social media accounts, all signs point to Jacob and the rest of the Roloffs not currently being on the best of terms.
1. Matt’s divorced Amy and started dating his former employee
While much of the original charm of LPBW was in the Roloffs being a tight family unit and Matt and Amy having a seemingly happy marriage, the couple shocked the world when they announced their separation in March 2014.
Amy claimed that she didn’t want to get a divorce, and that it was 100% Matt’s idea to consider ending their marriage of 27 years. Despite her best efforts, the divorce was announced the following June and was finalized in May of 2016.
Even though divorce is typically complicated and is rarely the result of any one single issue, a few eyebrows were definitely raised when Matt quickly rebounded from the divorce and was already going public with a new girlfriend the same month that his marriage officially came to an end. Even more intriguing was that this new girlfriend was Caryn Chandler, who just so happened to have worked at Roloff Farm prior to their relationship– as the farm manager, no less!
We aren’t saying Matt didn’t behave himself while he was still married, but it’s always a little questionable when someone jumps into the arms of a previous acquaintance right after a break-up.
Do you know any other surprising facts about Little People, Big World? Share them in the comments!
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