Well I guess that this whole thing has blown over by now. At the end of last year, in what turned out to be a bafflingly popular story, Duck Dynasty star Phil Robinson came out with his rather graphic views on homosexuality. The media was ablaze and it seemed like suddenly everybody had become a political activist. Fortunately for anybody who likes watching rednecks run around in the woods, Duck Dynasty has continued on for another season and the world is back to normal. I must admit that I didn’t care too much for this story. I have seen only a few episodes of this show (I prefer to watch Vulcans flying around in space to rednecks running around in the woods) but I think that I have picked out some lessons that we learned from the whole fiasco. Any news story can teach us some lessons, so here are the lessons that we all learned from Duck Dynasty and their homophobic problems.
LESSON 1: Americans don’t quite understand what the 1st amendment means.
How many times have we heard that Mr. Robinson’s 1st amendment rights have been violated, specifically the freedom of speech? Look what the liberals have done now. They’ve destroyed our precious constitution even more! But really, nobodies rights were violated. The 1st amendment only protects you from the government cracking down on what you say. Did the government do anything? Nope. All that happened was that Mr. Robinson’s employer, A&E, decided to put him on indefinite leave because they didn’t like what he said. That is a key aspect of capitalism. A company needs to maximize it’s profits and can’t have employees messing up the potential market. At this point in time the government does not have enough power to project the 1st amendment into all aspects of private business. Don’t worry. The 1st amendment is still intact. Mr. Robinson is just a victim to capitalism, which brings me to my next point…
LESSON 2: Your boss can still fire you if you say stupid things while representing your company
As much as people might argue otherwise, Mr. Robinson was representing A&E when he was making his comments about homosexuality. When a star of a television show is doing an interview that is in anyway related to the show that they star in, they are in turn representing the company that is putting on his show. And what do we know about companies? There is a certain line that can be crossed where you say something that doesn’t quite bode well for their image. Once the line is crossed you are fired. Frankly, I don’t blame A&E. I wouldn’t want to look like I was backing Mr. Robinson’s comments. We would be offended if a teacher, or a waiter, or an attorney said something like that in public, so why not a “reality” star? Shouldn’t they also be held responsible for what they say? Why back offensive language? Speaking of which….
LESSON 3: People will support offensive comments if it backs up their ideology
The most baffling thing about this whole fiasco was how many people got behind Mr. Robinson. Last I checked it around 250,000 signed a petition to get him reinstated. That’s a sizable chunk of people to back up some pretty offensive comments. Stepping back from the politically charged context of the statements, we can all just agree they were pretty offensive. Mr. Robinson was talking about anal sex, bestiality and Jim Crow laws. If we flipped things around the same 250,000 who signed that petition would be screaming bloody murder if say.. a gay person said similarly explicit things. So what makes Mr. Robinson’s statements worth defending? Simply put, it fit into those people’s ideologies. The lesson from all of this: We’ll be permissive, but only if we agree with the content.
LESSON 4: Old, white trash, Southern people can be pretty racist.
I guess we all needed to be reminded of this, but let’s face it. People can be pretty racist. Especially old, white trash, Southern men. Now I’m not saying that everybody in that pretty narrow demographic fits into that category, but if I had to pick any group of people who would be most likely to compare homosexuality to bestiality and say that black people were pretty cool with Jim Crow era America, it would be the aforementioned demographic. Oh come on, you know I’m right! But this just brings up another point. People seem absolutely shocked to find out that this old white trash guy is really rather bigoted and racist. You have to know what you are getting into when you talk to this guy! Really we should have seen it coming, because as we all learned…
LESSON 5: Reality shows are not actually reality.
Once again, I don’t know why we needed to be reminded of this, but here it is. Reality shows aren’t actually reality. When this story was big I really wondered why people were making such a big deal out of this. After some thought I decided that it all goes back to that idea that we like life to fit into our expectations. If Kayne West had said something equally stupid we’d all just sit there and go: “Well ok.. It’s just Kayne West. Whatever.” But when a man from the supposedly good-natured family show Duck Dynasty says it, that’s almost as shocking as when the Hindenburg blew up. Let’s face it though. Mr. Robinson has always been like this. I’m sure that his sons think the same way. I don’t know them personally so I don’t know for sure. All this proves though is that what is shown on reality shows is only the edited and watered down version of these peoples lives. Yes they may seem nice, but everybody can seem nice if you know how to edit correctly. Yes they may be Christian, but Christians can be pretty terrible sometimes. My point is that when we start accepting the life style portrayed by TV we really insulate ourselves from the truth about life. Everybody has some unpleasant things in their life that they won’t necessarily show in front of a camera, and these people aren’t any different. Reality shows are not reality.
And that’s about it. I hope we all learned our lessons. Duck Dynasty is still on the air. Lucky us.
On a somewhat unrelated note whenever I hear talk of this show I’m always reminded of that Edward R. Murrow quote:
Unless we… recognize that television in the main is being used to distract, delude, amuse, and insulate us, then television and those who finance it, those who look at it, and those who work at it, may see a totally different picture too late. ”
I still like to believe that this is all some sort of marketing stunt… because that would be terrible, but kind of awesome.