A ducking stupid controversy
December 22nd, 2013
So if you ask the long-haired wild-bearded Southern hillbilly redneck biker-wannabe Jesus freak from the reality show about long-haired wild-bearded Southern hillbilly redneck biker-wannabe Jesus freaks about gays, it turns out he has long-haired wild-bearded Southern hillbilly redneck biker-wannabe Jesus freak opinions. Who’d a thunk it?
In the past week we’ve added two new equality states to the total, the Ugandan parliament has passed their odious Anti-Homosexuality Bill, and three world leaders have announced that they will not be attending Russia’s Olympics due to its homophobic laws. Anyone care?
Not much. Instead the media and blogosphere is obsessed with Phil Robertson. Does he have free speech rights? Should A&E have fired him? What other things has he said? Will Cracker Barrel carry his merchandise?
I couldn’t ducking care less!
But as this thing doesn’t appear to be going away, here are my two cents. Don’t spend them all at once.
For those of you who have blissfully missed the controversy, Phil Robertson is the patriarch of a family that operates a duck-call manufacturing business and which is the subject of a reality television show called Duck Dynasty. He was a hard drinking, pill popping, bar fighting kind of guy who found Jesus and settled down to hunt ducks and raise a family.
Duck Dynasty is the highest rated show on the A&E Channel.
This year the hype caught up to me so I recorded and watched a few episodes of the show. It’s bilge, reality television at its worst.
Reality television, that genre in which artificially contrived plot lines and scripted scenarios are acted out by ‘non-actors’ who generally use their own names, is pretty light-weight entertainment to begin with. This show, however, takes artifice and banality to all new highs. Not only are the self-promoting family members (this is their third reality show after creating a youtube series) completely artificial roles, but the antics they get up to are absurdly unrealistic. Even their trademark beards used to be shaved after duck season; now they are part of the show’s contract.
The program is supposed to be about Phil Robertson, his wife Miss Kay, three of his four sons Willie, Jase, and Jep, as they live a hunter’s life and run a multi-million dollar business. But very little business appears to get done, or duck-calls made, and we are treated to the family drama of a family without drama. Basically Leave it to Beaver plotlines, but without the charm or the convincing acting.
In one of the episodes I watched, Jase wanted an office so he built one right off the outside door of Willie’s office. In one afternoon. Without anyone noticing. And when Willie found out, he attached a rope to the office and drug it to Miss Kay’s so it could be a goat shed. Supposedly down a public road. Without wheels. And it arrived intact.
In another, the family goes to Hawaii where the drama was whether the family would go along with Willie’s itinerary. Oh, and will Phil sleep all day? I found that last question to be so inspiring that I turned it off, deleted all the episodes, and went to bed.
But the show has a huge following, and I think that is for a simple reason. Most television is designed to appeal to the largest television markets, urban centers. And those who live outside cities seldom find television shows that reflect their lives, issues, and interests.
And this is especially true when it comes to faith. More than 40% of Americans claim to attend church weekly (and at least half of them actually do), but almost no one on television goes. None of the big network lineups seem to have even a passing acquaintance with church attendance and certainly you don’t see anyone praying. In fact, the only shows I can think of in which the family regularly attends church are animations.
So Duck Dynasty with it’s praying, church going, rural living good ol’ boys who spend a lot of time loving and caring for their family has an appeal to people who seem themselves as similar. And having sat through more than a few dreadful gay movies, I can see how something even as craptastic as Duck Dynasty could have the appeal of familiarity to a huge chunk of this country, even if it is an entirely fictitious presentation.
But now there’s a huge huge big dramatic oh my god clutch your pearls controversy. In an interview with GQ Magazine, Phil decided to evangelize.
“We’re Bible-thumpers who just happened to end up on television,” he tells me. “You put in your article that the Robertson family really believes strongly that if the human race loved each other and they loved God, we would just be better off. We ought to just be repentant, turn to God, and let’s get on with it, and everything will turn around.”
What does repentance entail? Well, in Robertson’s worldview, America was a country founded upon Christian values (Thou shalt not kill, etc.), and he believes that the gradual removal of Christian symbolism from public spaces has diluted those founding principles. (He and Si take turns going on about why the Ten Commandments ought to be displayed outside courthouses.) He sees the popularity of Duck Dynasty as a small corrective to all that we have lost.
“Everything is blurred on what’s right and what’s wrong,” he says. “Sin becomes fine.”
What, in your mind, is sinful?
“Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men,” he says. Then he paraphrases Corinthians: “Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.”
And in case that wasn’t enough, he later expounds on his religious conversion.
As far as Phil is concerned, he was literally born again. Old Phil—the guy with the booze and the pills—died a long time ago, and New Phil sees no need to apologize for him: “We never, ever judge someone on who’s going to heaven, hell. That’s the Almighty’s job. We just love ’em, give ’em the good news about Jesus—whether they’re homosexuals, drunks, terrorists. We let God sort ’em out later, you see what I’m saying?”
And he expounded a bit more on what seems to be a real concern of his
“It seems like, to me, a vagina—as a man—would be more desirable than a man’s anus. That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.”
The significant number of gay employees at A&E didn’t much like being thrown in the same category as terrorist or goat aficionados. And that he threw his former drunk self in the mix wasn’t much solace.
So A&E put him on “indefinite suspension”. And the duck hit the fan.
People were furious that a good Christian man could be fired just for saying what the Bible says. Those little parts about terrorist and goat aficionados were irrelevant, this was an attack on free speech and religious freedom.
Conservatives and religious, family, and anti-gay groups squawked and quacked. NOM (having decided that anything anti-gay is now ‘defending marriage’) launched their most successful petition to date, demanding Robertson’s reinstatement and getting more signatures in a few days than either their Dump Starbucks or Dump General Mills efforts did in months.
A&E is continuing to air episodes shot before the kerfuffle and it remains to be seen how long (or if) Robertson’s shooting schedule will be limited to ducks. The family has announced that if he’s banned, they won’t perform.
So that’s the story and now on to the questions.
Is Robertson a bigot?
Yeah, that’s probably a good term. If you think that immorality starts with homosexuality and then spreads to bestiality and terrorism, you aren’t really basing your views on logic, thoughtful discourse, or even the bible.
Is Robertson entitled to spout his nonsense?
Yep. Just like I’m entitled to call him an ignoramus.
Should he have been suspended by A&E?
That’s really up to A&E. If they believed that he offended their employees or that sponsors would pull out or that he had poorly represented the network, then they are entitled to boot his vagina-loving ass.
But, we probably also should be aware that they had to know that the controversy would fire up the crazies and that their ratings are going to go through the roof.
And, as a bonus, now they have a new plotline to write about that isn’t completely and entirely contrived.
Is the show going to downplay religion?
Nope. In fact, Alan Robertson, son number four, joined the cast for their fourth season. Before joining, Alan had been the pastor of a church for 20 years and he sees the show as a way to preach his beliefs.
And with all the new fine Christian people tuning in to see what it’s all about, you can be sure that there will be a strong religious component to keep them coming back.
Is Robertson being attacked for his religious beliefs?
No, he’s being attacked for being an ignorant idiot who thinks that the height of immorality is two people of the same sex falling in love. If your launching point to Jesus is always from the handful of Scripture that can be read to be anti-gay, your issue has little to do with Scripture or with Jesus.
But he would definitely think that is why he’s being attacked.
Can we all just shut the duck up about this nonsense now?