WEST Virginia locals have slammed the alleged exploitation of the famous inbred family, The Whittakers.
The Whittakers, a family living in an isolated shack in a town called Odd, located in rural West Virginia, have been featured in a documentary by Soft White Underbelly and filmmaker Mark Laita.
Shane and Melody of the Real Appalachia YouTube channel have discussed the inbreeding, which they say is a stereotype of Appalachia.
In one of their YouTube videos, the couple discusses the documentaries that have been made on the Whittakers by filmmaker Laita, who has shared more about the inner workings of the family.
The couple claimed that Laita “ostensibly is doing all this good work for them and raising money for them” but that the documentary “perpetuates the stereotype that has been around for decades” relating to inbreeding in Appalachia.
They also slammed the fact that a GoFundMe was started for the family.
Shane and Melody noted that the more than $50,000 raised for the family was given to them “in parts.”
“Does that mean that he took some of it as like a founder’s fee kind of thing?,” Melody speculated.
“I just feel like a lot more could be done for these people,” she continued.
“I think he’s trying to act like he’s doing a lot for them.”
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The Whitakers made it to the spotlight after Laita first snapped them for his book, Created Equal, in 2004.
In 2020, Laita once again visited the family in Virginia, but this time he made a video of his visit, which went viral.
The video is titled Inbred Family – The Whitakers and has amassed over 29 million views and 383 thousand likes on YouTube.
The video showed the family with members of older generations living in a small town in the Appalachian region who work at their father’s farm.
The video also highlighted how the Whitakers were struggling to make ends meet in their small house with their several dogs.
The Whitaker family is British by descent and initially included Ray, Lorraine, Timmy (only cousin), Freddie, and an unnamed sister.
Sadly Freddie died of a heart attack a long time ago.
It is also believed that there are a few more individuals in the family who have not been addressed.
Some members of the Whittaker family have mental and physical abnormalities.
A few members only communicate through grunts and cannot speak.
Some did not attend school.
‘CRAZIEST THING I HAVE EVER SEEN’
When Laita first visited the family, he called it “the craziest thing I have ever seen,” on an episode of the Koncrete KLIPS podcast.
He didn’t receive a warm welcome. An angry neighbor appeared with a shotgun, threatening to use it if Laita didn’t leave them alone.
Neighbors are incredibly protective of the family and will chase away anyone who shows up looking to photograph or taunt the Whittakers.
“They are kind of protected by the neighbors and the relatives don’t like these people coming to ridicule them,” Laita said on an episode of the Koncrete KLIPS podcast.
He was, however, able to snap some photos of the family, offering the service so the family could place the portrait in the casket of a relative who had recently passed away.
That began a relationship that would span nearly 20 years.
Over the years, he returned to visit the Whittakers but never recorded video footage.
But then, in 2020, he was able to shoot a documentary on the family and their reality and relationships. The film has been viewed on YouTube more than 28 million times.
In the film, Laita speaks with the three siblings: Betty, Lorraine, and Ray. Other family members appear as well, including a nephew named Timmy.
At first, Betty would not confirm whether or not her parents were related to one another.
“There is no way I would be able to confirm that the Whittaker parents were related, but given that this does happen in this part of the country and the Whittakers are the most extreme case I’ve seen so far, I would bet that inbreeding was at least partly responsible for the mental and physical abnormalities seen in Lorraine, Freddie, Ray, and Timmy,” Laita wrote in a caption accompanying his film.
But a year later, in 2021, when Laita again followed up with the family, Betty did confirm that her parents were related – they were double first cousins.
Her father was a coal miner, she says, and her mother stayed home.
Laita conducts the interviews from the family’s porch, sometimes going inside to reveal the reality of their home.
While the family’s four dogs appear well taken care of, some of the Whittakers appear to have dirty, disheveled clothing and living conditions. Some family members appear on camera in stained, ill-fitting clothing.
Laita asked Betty about the intellectual and physical abnormalities her relatives have, but she claimed to not know what caused them.
In another video, a different relative, Kenneth, is asked the same question, specifically talking about the issue all of the family members have with their eyes not facing forward. He responds, “Might be coal mining.”
Laita again visited the family this spring for another follow-up. The conditions inside of the home appeared to have improved.
The filmmaker also mentioned the fact that he has given the family money, which was used to fix up the home and purchase a pickup truck.
Following that visit, Laita created a GoFundMe to help the family make necessary improvements to their home. It has raised more than $55,000.
The U.S. Sun has reached out to both Shane and Melody as well as Laita for comment.