Labelled the most popular show on television, Duck Dynasty has, at its core, a Christian morality and reflects the “Give Me That Old Time Religion…not,” at least according to the producing network. A&E have decided that, despite their decision to exploit an old fashioned family who not only go to church, but, pray after every meal; they don’t wish to offend non-believers. Prayer, it turns out, has been a problem from the very beginning. The family pray quite often; much to the consternation of the network who do not want to cause discomfort to their Muslim audience. Religion is an issue of contention behind the scenes of the popular show.
The latest tempest in an eggcup was caused by Duck Dynasty patriarchal family head Phil Robertson who spoke of “homosexual offenders” in a GQ magazine interview. A&E were quick to punish Robertson by suspending him from the show and released a statement explaining, needlessly, that the patriarch’s views were not their own. GLAAD got on board to state their obvious disgust at the interview and the homophobic statement by Robertson.
Admittedly, in this day and age of “enlightenment” and tolerance, it is sad to see that one man’s vocal Christian beliefs were enough to generate outrage and immediate punishment from the liberal community. Robertson did have one lone LGBT voice speak out in his defence, Camille Paglia – critic and female lesbian activist – pointed out that in a country that promotes the values of free speech, it smacks of hypocrisy when one man’s statements result in immediate censure.
GLAAD and the LGBT community have worked hard to be an influential presence in film and television. Fighting for acceptance and inclusion of gay representation in mainstream media, the two entities are a powerful ally to liberal television networks who wish to offend no one. Unfortunately, Duck Dynasty, a show which features a family who believe in the Bible and its teachings, was bound to ruffle a few feathers in the liberal community, if you will pardon the pun. Give me that old time religion…not is the clear message from the network who were quick to give Robertson timeout on the naughty step.
All this goes to prove just how powerful both GLAAD and the LGBT community have become. In itself, this is a good thing, as in the past their concerns were not so rapidly acted upon. In society, homophobia has reached the same level of unacceptability as racism and misogyny. Needless to say, this is also a good thing. Sadly, this leaves the “old fashioned” Christian in a bit of a pickle.
This dwindling population of faithful denizens who refuse to move with the times have found themselves on the defensive. A&E, who pride themselves on their liberal stance, were horrified when they realized that the “Christian’ familial head had “spoken out of school” and let his real feelings be known. 67 year-old Robertson was not being confrontational, he was merely speaking his mind based on his understanding of the Bible’s rules.
Regardless of whether one agrees or not, Robertson does have the right to speak his mind. Critics of the patriarch’s non-pc stance and his apparent homophobia made a correlation between his statements, he also appears to question Federal aid programs, and the Paula Deen racial debacle earlier in the year. There are some similarities to be sure. Deen is also a television personality and as such open for criticism for not adhering to the rule of being politically correct at all times.
Of course Deen’s statements came well before her rise and fall on television and her becoming a household name. Robertson, who had a smaller circle of influence before achieving his celebrity status as a result of the A&E reality television show, proved that after one reaches a certain level of public awareness, it is not acceptable to air controversial personal views.
Therein lies the fallacy of reality television. No matter how “real” the networks and the show’s producers maintain these programs are, they do not represent reality. Rather, they show a homogenized and pasteurized, watered down, version of real life. In these shows, some largesse is allowed in the areas of speech, i.e. profanity – that is carefully “bleeped” out – as long as said speech is of a colorful and not too offensive nature. Freedom of speech is frowned upon as it could actually offend some of the more powerful audience lobbies.
However, when the knee-jerk reaction of a network draws the ire of some of the people it sought to pacify, perhaps A&E need to rethink their liberal strategy. It should be remembered that, despite the homophobic nature of Robertson’s referring to members of the LGBT community as homosexual “offenders,” at no time did he denigrate or verbally attack said offenders.
Duck Dynasty is aimed at Middle America. The fact that this demographic target audience is made up of both the gay community and Christian people means that the network must actively strive to keep from offending either group, although, GLAAD and LGBT seem to have the more powerful influence on the industry.
It remains to be seen whether or not 2013 proves to be the year of political correctness tyranny or the year that allowed a Christian, who says privately “give me that old time religion,” to make a liberal faux pas or not. Modern society has reached a stage where a message of tolerance is a shining light of hope for those who, in the past, did not fit into societal paradigms. Hopefully, this tolerance can be stretched to cover those who disagree with the current status quo. This new acceptance should really apply to all and not just those who fought specifically to get it.
By Michael Smith