Was Duck Dynasty Doomed to Fail?
Dammit and I was a Duck Dynasty fan. I have been watching this show since season 1 and my kids love it in an age where so few shows encourage a family watching together. Sure, there was always a strong evangelical element to the show. After all, each episode ends with a bunch of burly bearded dudes holding hands with their wives and children while the patriarch of the family said a prayer that started with Lord and ended with Amen. Sometimes I believe I even heard Jesus's name thrown in there. But that was easy to ignore for me because of the incredible television personae I was being given to laugh with and sometimes laugh at. And the Robertson family took that sublimation to the bank. Their pictures and logos are on everything from New York Times Best Sellers, to their own brand of wine (an actual plot from season 1), to their image on children's underwear.
But all the time, there was this loaded gun that was slowly getting cocked throughout each season. Phil Robertson's luddite, get-back-to-the-old-world ethic was charming at first, annoying by the third season, and fast-forward worthy by this past season. And just this past weekend, an interview was posted in GQ magazine where Pappaw Phil started railing against homosexuals in one of the most bizarre "anus versus vagina" diatribes that has ever been put in print. And to add spice, he also threw in a denial of racism story about Civil Rights-era black farmers in Louisiana being happy with their place in life because he heard them singing as young man.
My question is was this inevitable--that putting a redneck family, no matter how charming, in the national spotlight, giving them a platform from which to put forth their Bible-rooted values, was not going to inevitably end in a racist or homophobic meltdown? Looks like we got both.
How could a television network honestly expect those who have never worked inside the public relations walls of Hollywood, weaned on things you say in private and things you never, never say in public, to censor themselves or deflect these questions to more sensible common family values rooted in live and let live undertones? But Pappaw Phil isn't one to equivocate or mince words.
And while A&E has suspended Phil Roberts indefinitely from the show, I predict this is the beginning of the end for the Robertson's television and media empire, cut down in their prime. Every show ends with Phil saying the family prayer and he and Kay generally have a supporting story in most of the shows. In other words, they are a vital part of the formula that made the show work. Without them, the whole will be less than the sum of its parts. And unfortunately, the Robertson's can't really backtrack. They can't deflect or minimize because Phil Robertson doesn't mince words. Oh, they will have a future targeting the demographic of Christian Republicans. Look for Phil's appearance at the next RNC convention. But the potential to reach across those razor sharp demographics to appeal to a universal television audience that goes from kids age 10 to the elderly and criss crosses all the political swamps in between has been blown up in less than two paragraphs of a non-filtered bout of mental diarrhea.
It's sad because there was something magical in those early seasons but like all ducks that take to wing, eventually there is someone with a big gun to take them down. Sorry Robertsons; it's been fun but I can no longer support or watch your show. I wish you all the best and somewhere out there, someone is praying for your souls.
By Joshua Minton
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