Saturday, January 25, 2014

My take on Duck Dynasty controversy

Long before Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty fame made controversial comments about gays and minorities in a recent GQ profile, I placed a reserve for Duck Dynasty Season One DVD at the public library. And because Duck Dynasty is the most popular show in cable television history, it took months before my turn came to watch the episodes, which I did last week. Having never seen the show before, I wanted to know: Why is it so popular? What do people see in these bearded rednecks?

I enjoyed the show. Of course it is scripted. Of course all their hillbilly antics are probably fake. But Duck Dynasty appeals strongly to the 'Murica element of society, simple, God-fearing, hard-working folk who are a bit put-off and bewildered by modern day life. Life with the Robertson clan is wholesome family fun, semi-rural, agrarian, back-to-the-land, frog-catching, beehive dropping, Kennedy clan football playing. A potent mix of the Andy Griffith Show, the Waltons, and Little House on the Prairie. It also throws religion in with family prayer around a dinner table and a wholesome message, a morality-tinged voiceover, to recap each episode. There's crazy uncle Si, Phil, the even-keeled, often-barefoot, patriarch, Kay, who cooks and does community outreach service projects, the rival brothers Jep and Will who concoct odd schemes and competitions, and the visual candy, the smoking hot wives who married in to the family. Plus, they're rich! And funny! This is the American Dream condensed into 21 minutes of madcap hilarity.

But.... As the GQ profile reveals, there's an underbelly to all this wholesomeness. When Phil rails against "citified yuppies," he's referring to another class of people that bear no connection to his worldview or ways of life. The world of Duck Dynasty and the rest of redneck 'Murica has no room or tolerance for gays, minorities, sissies, gun control advocates, or, worst of all, Liberals!!!

What I don't understand is the public's surprise about Phil Robertson's views on gays and minorities. Most rednecks have enough common sense to keep their more controversial views under wraps because they are aware that mainstream society doesn't share their opinion. In fact, the redneck identity hinges on this separation, this "otherness," the bad boy outsider status that distinguishes them from the mainstream. Additionally, Robertson fancies himself a preacher, a modern day prophet, who preaches from the pulpit both at home in Monroe, LA, and in guest appearances at churches around the country.

And the views he expressed in the GQ article are preached by hundreds and thousands of conservative religious folk from hundreds of thousands of pulpits every Sunday. It's old news. It's kind of sad and bewildering to me, but it is what I expect from someone of Robertson's mien. This is country. This is redneck.

I like this video because its impassioned narrator rightly concludes that the entire "controversy" may be contrived to boost sales of Duck Dynasty merchandise and that it will only benefit the family.

What's interesting is that A&E, the cable network that airs Duck Dynasty, is in a bit of a bind. They don't want to alienate their viewers, but also don't want to cancel their cash cow franchise. They instead did a half-ass effort, first suspending Phil from the show, but then reinstating him when the rest of the family balked. It on;y proves that progressive values are all well and good as long as they don't affect the bottom line.

Yes, we have an African-American in the White House. Gay Marriage laws are being passed around the country. You can smoke weed legally in two states and the war on drugs is being seen as the money-making farce it really is. But, as Duck Dynasty, and its continued popularity reminds us, there is a vast population in this country that sees gay rights, minority rights, alternative lifestyles, and anything "citified" as an effrontery to their way of life. They may not have the numbers, but they've got the guns, and the money, to wield a powerful influence over unsuspecting 'Murica.

Let the culture wars continue....

1 comment:

Dr. Larry Mitchell said...

This is the most well thought-out and comprehensive piece I've read on the subject. Good piece of work.