Epilogue: Four Years Later
Ahh, Trading Spouses. A chapter in Abbott history. We wrote the following article in the spring of 2005, shortly after our family appeared on the show. At the time, we felt like we’d just been sucker-punched. Keep this in mind as you read our stinging remarks—we took great pains to make this article as sharply-written as possible, and it shows.
I revisited this page when the show entered reruns on CMT a couple years ago. I had almost forgotten how critical it was—ouch! Yet it accurately represents how we felt at the time, so I’ve left it mostly as-is, for historical purposes.
But, that was then. Today, all the frustration and bitterness at what the editors did is gone. We’ve moved on. In retrospect, we are so very thankful to have had the opportunity to experience this adventure, and if we had to live life over, would do it again in a heartbeat. (Once in a lifetime is plenty, though!)
Many folks are curious as to what we’re up to these days. Take a look down the sidebar to see. Our blog is probably the best way to stalk us right now.
Luke Abbott, 2009
The Abbotts’ “Official” Trading Spouses Page
(as of early 2005)
The Reality of “Reality TV”
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
You wouldn’t believe the extent that deception played in the last two episodes of Trading Spouses. Portraying a family’s core values diametrically opposite to the truth through an elaborate string of lies is unethical. We did not apply to be ‘actors’ in a libelous twist on our life. In fact they contacted us through our website. We agreed to do the show only upon their continuous assurance that this ‘reality’ show would be a truthful, albeit condensed, reflection of who we are.
Below is an overview of Fox’s ‘professional’ approach and practices, followed by a detailed account of the scenes and sentences they fabricated; deliberate actions to carry out the deception.
We believe that exploiting families in this way, and children in particular, is ethically unacceptable for a society which prides its family values so highly.
In every episode of Trading Spouses, the producers match up two families with as many differing qualities as possible. This was certainly the case with the Abbott and Lowe families: different race, diet, religion, hobby, music, and so on. The only true similarity is that both families are good decent people. The biggest difference between us, however, was in the area of tolerance. We did not project our values onto Vickie, but rather accepted and loved her for who she was. Vickie, on the other hand did project her values onto us. She was intolerant of our life and our ways and she held to that throughout. That was the key.
Carl was often portrayed exactly opposite to how he is through the elaborate splicing of sound bites.
After the people in charge of editing saw our two families realities, they chose to make our family’s reality into a lie to justify Vickie’s intolerance. To accomplish this, they often portrayed Carl (the father) exactly opposite to how he is through the elaborate splicing of sound bites. In television, it seems, a ‘reality show’ only needs to be ‘good’ and ‘entertaining’. Truth is of no concern. For instance, they unscrupulously used Carl’s brother’s death to falsely portray him as unable to let go of his children (See the next page). A vile lie to make their lie more believable.
An experience like this should begin with informed consent. Screwing over adults is one thing; it’s despicable to involve children. In our case, to have their father portrayed to the larger community as a controlling brain washer is cruel, especially in a country where a father perceived as standing in the way of his children’s independence is tantamount to child abuse. Sure, our close friends know this is a lie, but many of our neighbors and acquaintances don’t. The American family is in crisis already; it doesn’t need Fox twisting the dagger.
More damaging to the public good, however, was their libelous portrayal of the religion which we profess. Need more be said?
Extreme Editing Practices Revealed
Luke carefully reviewed the recording, noting every factual inaccuracy, and compiled these fabrications into what we like to call the “Parade of Lies.” Many of these fabrications are quite extreme. Here are only a few fabrications centered around one basic lie:
Lie: Carl runs everything at home. Luke and Kyle have been brainwashed by him, and he controls their life.
Reality: Nothing could be farther from the truth.
- Instead of being happy about receiving money for the new bedrooms that the family was going to build anyway, Carl is shown saying, “Heavens, no.”
- Instead of linking Carl’s comment – “No, you’re not old enough . . . 18, 28, 38, 48 . . . ” – with being old enough to understand a deep philosophical concept, the comment is used to portray Carl as not believing Luke is old enough to be on his own.
- During the driving lesson, instead of including any of Luke’s side of the debate, all the arguments presented were Vickie’s. Actually, almost all the arguments presented throughout the entire show were Vickie’s. None of Luke’s arguments were presented in any way.
- After the lesson, the following sentence is stitched together, using phrases from many disparate interview questions, to make it appear that Luke said, “What Vickie had said made me think of [CUT] things that [CUT] I never really thought about before. [CUT] Yeah, [CUT] from time to time [CUT] I think [CUT] wouldn’t it be nice if things got a little more exciting?”
- Later on, instead of refuting Vickie’s opinion, Luke appears to agreed with it by saying: “My dad especially wants to [CUT] protect us from the outside world and keep [CUT] Kyle and I here at home.”
- Too many more to list!
Want to hear the whole story? Read the entire Parade of Lies and get an inside look into how this fictional drama was constructed in the editing room…
In the months following the airing of Trading Spouses, Carl posted some of his comments on our CenterTao.org message boards. (For a period of several months, the message boards were basically taken over by “Trading Spouses” talk.)
Before the taping had even finished, Luke predicted what the story would be and wrote a lengthy letter to the editors, explaining the situation in detail.
After watching each episode, Luke wrote down what he was thinking and feeling. Here are his first reactions to the shows, as well as an explaination of why he was so upset if he was portrayed ‘positivly.’
As part of my announcement email I sent out before the show aired, I wrote up a little FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) document explaining how and why we went on. If I had only known! Here are some of the Q&A’s I wrote up.
We were the subject of an article in the Sunday, November 14th edition of the Santa Cruz Sentinel. The article discusses, among other things, what really went on during the shooting.
Finally, A Summing Up…
The principle reason we agreed to participate in this show was the slight chance that we might encourage families to play music together. For Leslie, it was the sole reason. The whole experience up to the airing of the show was a joyful adventure for both us and the Lowes. We thoroughly enjoyed the time we spent with each other. Since the airing of the show the joy has been replaced by bewilderment, among other feelings. Nevertheless, it has brought us a deep appreciation for all the support and understanding many people have given us, individually and as a family. That alone makes this experience a blessing.
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