My personal experience with the television show called “Duck Dynasty” is minimal.
But my boyfriend does have a shirt that says “SI IS MY ROLE MODEL,” and, after auditing an episode, I can see the humor in that.
There is no humor for me, however, in the imbroglio over cast member Phil Robertson’s comments in a GQ magazine article, which has resulted in the quasi-reality show star’s suspension by the A&E network.
While exposure to “Duck Dynasty” is, as stated, quite limited, my exposure to bigotry is not. I have scars – literal, physical scars – from being on the wrong end of a boot and a bat years ago, because of who I am (or more appropriately in that case, who some people presumed me to be.)
I cringed when Gov. Bobby Jindal, with the stroke of a pen, eliminated public employment protection for gay people in the state I call home.
And I live with the knowledge that, despite the number of states marching toward the goal of marriage equality, the one that adopted me and that I proudly call my home is not likely to do so any time soon. Louisiana, like several of its neighbors, will only conform to what justice demands at the point of a gun, or at least a U.S. Supreme Court decision. Or maybe threatened denial of federal highway dollars.
So now we have Phil, spouting off a rather weak paraphrase of Corinthians, the application of which is suspect, if one digs deep into theology and the confusing nuances of Biblical translation and interpretation. I do not consider Phil a scholar on Paul’s epistles. Neither is he anywhere close to comprehending ideas of love and caring between two men or two women, which is the reality of so many same-sex relationships. He can’t get past the physical issues because that is likely his only half-baked knowledge of all this. His statements in the article are syllogistic and primitive, if not at least heartfelt, and underscore his ignorance of the subject matter. But he won’t be the first well-meaning rube to pass judgment on something he knows nothing about, and sure won’t be the last.
And we should be surprised at his comments because … ?
Phil and the other “Duck Dynasty” folks are on television because of a fluke having to do with their success selling duck calls, and a shared persona that people in the rest of the country find entertaining and unique. And whatever the formula is, it works, because people keep tuning in.
That people keep tuning in is, of course, a good thing for the A&E Network, and the threat of people not tuning in, or boycotting sponsors, or any other potential unpleasantness, motivated them to take action. And so they suspended Phil from the show.
This is unfortunate. Yes, I said it and shall repeat it. This is unfortunate.
The sources of the very comments Phil made – ignorance, lack of knowledge, strict black-and-white interpretation of the world around him – are elements the network has repeatedly profited from. Phil is not a hater, just a fool. The A&E action has raised him from fool to martyr.
It has allowed the rapacious carrion-feeders of talk radio and other communications outlets, the true haters, to recharge and renew their batteries, and to draw conclusions about what myself or other people believe or choose to say, whether we really do or have or not.
It is the suspension of Phil that places me square in the middle of an argument concerning scripture, an argument that I desire no part of. And it elevates remarks he made born of an ignorance that can almost be described as state-of-nature innocence to valid debate.
So thanks for sticking up for me, A&E, but no thanks.
I for one hope the suspension of Phil Robertson lasts for as short a time as possible. Phil, of course, has no real rights when it comes to all of this. The “Duck Dynasty” show has become a brand, and A&E now sees its brand as threatened, so it has done what it has done because of what it is, a profit-making machine, just as Phil has done what he has done because of who he is.
That doesn’t make his comments fair. But it doesn’t make A&E’s decision to suspend him fair either. Not fair to him, not fair to society and, in the long run, not fair to me.