The patriarch of Duck Dynasty has been kicked off his A&E show for disapproving of homosexuality. His Biblical reference was to Corinthians, but his image, particularly in still photographs, is evocative of Moses. The fear that inspired A&E’s overreaction was that he might convey an impression of authority that goes deeper than his words.
If you see an amazingly irrational response, look for an irrational cause. Clearly, A&E isn’t making a business decision here. The network’s management is cutting its own throat. Duck Dynasty is the most successful series A&E, or any cable network, has ever had. The demographically tiny segment of viewers who are LGBT can’t compare to the 14 million viewers the show draws.
This is about paranoia, repressed guilt, and existential fear. The campaign for gay rights has been, from the first, a stick-and-carrot sales job. Support us and you are one of the new cool ones. Oppose us and you will be demonized, relentlessly ridiculed and punished. The mass media have been a huge component of that sales job. Reality TV has played a key role. Channels like Bravo, shows like Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, multiple shows about fashion and wedding dresses, and an infinitely creepier show in which gay men organize and emcee beauty pageants for prematurely sexualized little girls as young as three have tirelessly promoted the notion that gay men in particular are a pop cultural treasure we must learn to admire.
Not one of these shows has been as successful as Duck Dynasty.
I’m sure the A&E brass have been uncomfortable with Duck Dynasty for quite a while now. They undoubtedly thought the show was a joke, an opportunity for their elite, PC-simpatico audience to laugh at the backwoods rubes in ZZ Top beards. They flat misread the appeal of similarly cynically conceived reality shows like Call of the Wildman, Swamp Loggers, Gold Rush, and Rattlesnake Republic, perhaps because they were thinking of Honey Boo Boo as a programming cousin, an exercise in discreetly unstated producer contempt for their subjects.
But it wasn’t urban liberal intellectuals who glommed onto Duck Dynasty and made it a hit. The audience that set viewing records was the very demographic for which they hold the greatest contempt.
Then Phil Robertson began to chafe publicly, began to speak in public about his Christian faith, drawing even more attention, more viewers from the detested rural traditionalists A&E never intended to reach. What if his image speaks to those others at a deep level and galvanizes them into a counterattack that submarines the sales campaign? And deep, deep, deeper, all the way down deep, what if he is somehow right? What if that eerily Old Testament visage is a message from, you know, about divine judgment and everlasting…… uh, Forget that. Not true, never happened, can’t be. Moving on…
What to do? Reap the bonanza and get excommunicated from the entertainment establishment’s Church of Political Correctness? Or regain its blessing by biting the bullet in hopes of getting back on track with the elitist liberal blitzkrieg on the foundations of our civilization?
It’s not really a business decision, but it’s an explicable if irrational one because it’s also based on an article of religious faith. If we hew to our ideological allies, we will be rewarded in the after-season. Next year or the year after.
Who knows? Their faith might yet be proven right. If the Robertson family continues with the show absent their patriarch, they will be revealed as hypocrites who are as easily seduced by money and fame as anyone else. If they go elsewhere, the true believers will reward A&E’s demonstration of orthodoxy by tuning in to new reality shows about transgender makeovers, gay-couple child-rearing, and hidden camera exploration of the racial sensitivities that put a human face on the Knockout Game, not to mention new “arts” offerings (long absent from A&E) celebrating LGBT fingerpainting and Mapplethorpe-quality photographs of the beautiful ugliness of squat Lesbians in camo, some of whom go duck hunting with or without ZZ Top beards. Full circle from mere success to salvation and (hopefully) awards show and ratings success. Hallelujah!
And, you know, chances are, Phil Robertson isn’t Moses. The danger is rather that he might be an authentic old-fashioned Christian, neither fire and brimstone preacher nor publicity hound. If he turns his back on the mass media and goes home to his family life, he will become the stuff of legend.
P.S. Getting sick and tired of hearing conservatives (we’re all too sophisticated even to know what Reality TV is… Harrumph) insist they don’t personally agree with Robertson, BUT…
No BUTs (or is it butts?) about it. When did homosexuality become a fine cultural phenomenon? We’re less than a generation away from the absolute proof that male homosexuality in particular is more life threatening than, say, one of the true bête noirs of PC religion, smoking. HIV/AIDS was not visited on homosexuals by heterosexuals. Gay men brought it on themselves by a gluttonously promiscuous surrender to lust that at one point threatened to kill one in three. NOW they think of marriage. Really? And how long will that last? Yet today gay is good, smoking is a worse sin than late-term abortion, and old men with beards should shut the fuck up.
My two cents. You did good, Mr. Robertson. Now, like all civilians drafted into a war you didn’t start, you should count your lucky stars and go home to private life and your barcalounger. That would be a picture worth a billion words.