Henry Rollins: Of Duck Dynasties and Men
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It's been several days since Duck Dynasty reality show star Phil Robertson made his now-famous statements about homosexuality and American history in an interview with GQ, which still seems to be causing ripples all over our fine land. New year -- same bullshit.
I find the discussion and outrage to be fascinating. Reaction to Mr. Robertson's statements was swift. One of the first out of the gate was one of my favorite wordsmiths, Sarah Palin.
"Free speech is an endangered species. Those 'intolerants' hatin' and taking on the Duck Dynasty patriarch for voicing his personal opinion are taking on all of us."
Nah, but what Ms. Palin said here is representative of the sentiment many are expressing. I am sure they mean it, but I just don't agree. I don't think anyone's First Amendment rights have been trampled upon, and I don't think it is the interesting part of all this.
Mr. Robertson said what he said. He thinks homosexuality is sinful. So do a lot of people. It was his statement about pre-civil rights Louisiana that was curious to me.
"I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once. Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I'm with the blacks, because we're white trash. We're going across the field. ... They're singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, 'I tell you what: These doggone white people' -- not a word! ... Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues."
This has been termed by many to be a racist point of view. I don't necessarily agree. It very well could be what the man remembers of these times. Who cares? Who does Phil Robertson really influence? Did what he said make you think, "Oh, that's good to know because I was under the impression that things were quite awful for African-American people in the Southern states in those days. Well, it's a relief to be able to disabuse myself of that notion. Thanks, o wisdomatic bearded duck stalker." I didn't think so.
What I find interesting about all this is the divide. It seems that those who didn't dig what bearded Phil had to say have never seen the show, and many of those who are defending him are perhaps not concerned with his rights to free speech being abridged -- they agree with him.
A lot of Duck Dynasty fans' outrage centers on A&E's decision to suspend Mr. Robertson from the show. They easily move their anger from A&E to an imagined "liberal agenda," which seems to involve disagreeing with (and being offended by) regressive, dumbass points of view, made possible by the First Amendment. A&E's decision was surely not swayed at all by a bunch of people posting snarky put-downs of Mr. R on Huffington Post.The cable channel was covering its ass, hoping not to lose advertisers. I bet they'll be fine.
After all, DD fans will watch the show no matter what. It's a reality show, contrived as it is. All A&E needs to do is put a disclaimer at the front about not sharing the views of the Robertson family, etc., and get back to work making one of the shittiest shows ever on television, putting it right up there with another A&E abomination, Growing Up Gotti. I think Phil Robertson should say any damn thing he wants. I don't have to like it and I don't have to watch the show. Problem solved.
Yet the fact that the man and DD have so many passionate fans shows that America is still a largely divided country. The Civil War turned into a cold war, put on a suit and went corporate-judicial. Michele Alexander's book The New Jim Crow goes long on all this. Duck Dynasty, for some, represents an attitude, a cultural foothold, a line drawn in the sand. Phil Robertson's statements to GQ are so fiercely defended by the show's massive fan base and the pundit dipshits because they know their perimeter is tightening and their day has passed. It's not so much that the South is rising again as that it's holding its breath and killing off the last few brain cells.
A&E would be well advised to get while the getting's good and quadruple down on the show's popularity with a vast array of merchandise, like a DD limited-edition shotgun, camo covers for Bibles, strap-on beards, and at least one spinoff. You could call it ... Duck Dynasty. A&E should do this before the show's fans die of respiratory/circulatory complications, substance abuse or lung cancer.
On the flip side of things, one of you supremely talented graphic artists should start a comic book series starring the Duck dudes as homosexual bears. Talk about crossover potential. The thing writes itself. At the next major gay pride event, there should be hard-bodied men in camo hot pants, ridiculous beards pasted to their chins, blowing through duck calls. Dick Dynasty is a gay porn series just waiting to happen.
Just remember: When you see the DD men all decked out in their camo gear, they look pretty bitchin' and rugged -- but keep in mind that they wear these garments to help them hide from ducks. It's a comedy show, right?
Duck Dynasty is a ridiculous show and long may it wave. America and democracy will endure. They've seen a lot worse.
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