TV’s reality shows, particularly the cable variety, are like 19th Century freak shows. They are guilty pleasures where Americans can go to stare, gawk, snicker, be horrified and repulsed, and often feel superior to the weird mutations of the human species that they see exhibited. The phenomenon doesn’t speak well for the purveyors, the audience or the culture, but the it is popular and profitable. Yesteryears’s dog-faced boy is today’s Honey Boo-Boo. Viewers aren’t offended by the awful things the stars say and do..they are entertained by them. Sometimes, sadly, they are inspired by them.
The current hot property in the genre is A&E’s “Duck Dynasty,” the saga of Louisiana’s willfully odd Robertson clan, who have become millionaires through their invention of effective duck calls, wear long beards as trademarks and are proud, God-fearing Christian conservatives of the most primitive variety. Their “Deliverance” lifestyle and profoundly counter-Obama Era attitudes are part of the Robertsons’ “entertainment” package, just as the late Anna Nicole Smith getting carried through her fat, drunk and stupid days by her greedy sycophants and enablers was part of hers. This is reality TV, Americans! Be proud.
“Duck Dynasty’s” patriarch Phil, however, made the mistake of stepping out of the bayou for an interview with Gentleman’s Quarterly, in which he held forth on, among other topics, his views on homosexuality. Lacking Rick Santorum’s subtle touch, Phil declared:
“It seems like, to me, a vagina—as a man—would be more desirable than a man’s anus. That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.”
and on sin…
“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 idolaters, 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.”
Horrified that an unsophisticated, ignorant Bible-obeying Christian conservative heterosexual would dare to express the typical views of an unsophisticated, ignorant Bible-obeying Christian conservative heterosexual, GLAAD and other groups attacked Robertson and pressured A&E to punish him for being exactly what A&E hires him to be. Setting some kind or record for absurd dudgeon, Chad Griffin, the president of the Human Rights Group proclaimed,
“Phil Robertson’s remarks are not consistent with the values of our faith communities or the scientific findings of leading medical organizations. We know that being gay is not a choice someone makes, and that to suggest otherwise can be incredibly harmful. We also know that Americans of faith follow the Golden Rule — treating others with the respect and dignity you’d wish to be treated with. As a role model on a show that attracts millions of viewers, Phil Robertson has a responsibility to set a positive example for young Americans — not shame and ridicule them because of who they are. The A+E Network should take immediate action to condemn Phil Robertson’s remarks and make clear they don’t support his views.”
I know this disrupts the thrust of this post, but I can’t led it pass. Allow me to deconstruct Griffin’s absurd statement, which is—I’m sorry, but sometimes only one word will do—crap:
- “Phil Robertson’s remarks are not consistent with the values of our faith communities…” That’s right, they are consistent with the values of Robertson’s faith communities, which have a right to their religious views too.
- “…or the scientific findings of leading medical organizations.” So what? The guy is a duck hunter, not a college professor and not a researcher, and doesn’t pose as one. If you want to complain, complain to GQ for its choice of interviewees.
- “We know that being gay is not a choice someone makes, and that to suggest otherwise can be incredibly harmful.” To suggest otherwise is called having a different opinion, which the news media and the traditions of this nation are supposed to encourage. Yeah, I agree that he’s wrong. The way to address that particular misconception is to talk about it, not censor it.
- “We also know that Americans of faith follow the Golden Rule — treating others with the respect and dignity you’d wish to be treated with.” The Golden Rule suggests that Griffin should allow Phil Robertson to express his opinions just as he allows Griffin to express his. Griffin has no idea, based on Robertson’s remarks, how he treats gays at all. Robertson gave his opinion regarding homosexuality, and millions believe as he does. He can have any belief he chooses and still be in compliance with the Golden Rule, which says nothing about not regarding others as sinners. I think Robertson, for all his faults, probably understands the Golden Rule better than Griffin does.
- “As a role model on a show that attracts millions of viewers, Phil Robertson has a responsibility to set a positive example for young Americans…” The Robertsons are role models now? Reality show stars are role models? Was the carnival geek a role model? The horrible Kardashians, the eight child exploiting Jon and Kate, pathetic and doomed Anna Nicole, Hulk Hogan, Dog the Bounty Hunter, Flavor Fav, Dennis Rodman, the horrible mothers, coaches and promoters on “Toddlers and Tiaras,” the certified low-life creeps on “Jersey Shore,” the Bridezillas, the desperate hustlers from “Blind Date,” the various disturbing “Real Wives,” TEEN MOM…are role models? Griffin hasn’t watched Robertson’s show—has he even looked at Robertson’s photo?—and has no idea what he’s talking about. Most reality show stars are the opposite of role models—that’s why they are stars.
- “…not shame and ridicule them because of who they are.” What? Robertson’s family are the ones who are shamed and ridiculed because of who they are, and are PAID to be ridiculed because of who they are—and the interview only provides more ammunition.
Naturally, A&E, being cowardly weasels when confronted with the threat of a gay advocacy onslaught, immediately complied, suspending Robertson indefinitely and saying in a statement,
“We are extremely disappointed to have read Phil Robertson’s comments in GQ, which are based on his own personal beliefs and are not reflected in the series Duck Dynasty.” His personal views in no way reflect those of A&E Networks, who have always been strong supporters and champions of the LGBT community. The network has placed Phil under hiatus from filming indefinitely.”
Again, a crock. Since when does any reality show on any network “represent the views” of that network? Donald Trump is a birther: did anyone assume that this meant that NBC, which broadcasts it (and owns MSNBC! ) is the birther network? TLC broadcast “American Muslim”—did that mean it was an Islamic company? Of course his comments in GQ are his own personal beliefs, and “Duck Dynasty,’ being about Phil and his family, has always been about that family’s beliefs.