I don't watch reality television shows and frankly don't understand their appeal. That's probably because I encountered enough "reality" as a state child protection worker to last me a lifetime-and-a-half. But even though I'm not a reality television viewer, much less an addict, I have heard of Duck Dynasty and have friends and relatives who do watch it. However, I won't name names.
One of my co-workers explained the premise to me saying that Duck Dynasty involved a family of backwoods rednecks, the Robertsons, who got rich making duck calls. They got rich, but they never gave up their backwoods ways and hillbilly culture - especially after the cameras started rolling. Today the show apparently forms the backbone of the A&E network, and it is the most popular reality show in America. The family also controls a vast merchandising empire with annual sales of $400 million - and they sell a helluva lot more than just duck calls.
The members of the family are an assortment of bearded men wearing camouflage gear who closely resemble the band members of AC/DC. This summer while visiting the Ozarks, I just missed getting to see Willie Robertson, one of the family members, at a county fair - missed him by one day, dang it!
The patriarch is a fellow named Phil Robertson, and it is Phil who has been in the news all week since it was revealed that he gave an interview to GQ magazine in which he made disparaging and idiotic remarks about gays and blacks. Here is a sampler:
"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. Don't be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolators, 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."
Papa Duck also added some comments about pre-Civil Rights blacks being contented and happy farmers.
After all of that hit the fan, an old video was discovered and released in which Phil referred to gay people as being "ruthless and full of murder . . . . arrogant . . . liable to invent ways of doing evil."
A&E suspended Phil Robertson from his hit show, and then the usual cast of right-wing crazies lined up in support of the outspoken, bearded millionaire. Sarah Palin, Bobby Jindal, Ted Cruz, and a good portion of the Fox News (sic) team tried to cast the whole affair as being an infringement on poor Phil's 1st Amendment rights. (That argument is a stretch because no one is denying him his right to speak. His employer just yanked away his podium - but he can still yammer all her wants, and Fox would probably be delighted to broadcast his every syllable.)
One Republican Congressional candidate today, trying to get a seat on the hillbilly bandwagon, compared Phil Robertson to Rosa Parks, noting that both challenged the status quo and suffered for it. Surely comparisons to Gandhi will follow.
Some argue that A&E got what it paid for. Comedian Seth Rogen tweeted today: "It's strange that A&E hired a guy for being a backwoods redneck and then were surprised when he started talking like a backwoods redneck."
Wal-Mart has reportedly sold out of Duck Dynasty merchandise as shoppers rush to the mega-chainstores to support the Robertson family with their wallets.
Only in America - where there continues to be at least one born every minute!