The lull in the news cycle during the Christmas holiday season often brings about some odd stories. This year it involves comments made by a reality television star in a magazine interview that stirred up some controversy. What sounds like a story on the entertainment page has caused governors and congressmen to offer their opinions.
I will admit to being a bit late to the “Duck Dynasty” fan base. My conversion came about last year when I caught a marathon of the show running over Thanksgiving weekend. Halfway through the second episode, I was laughing so hard I could barely breathe.
If you are unfamiliar with the show, it offers somewhat unscripted episodes revolving around the Robertson family in the duck call manufacturing business in northern Louisiana.
The show strikes a particular tone with those of us in the heartland of America, perhaps because many of the events could have involved members of our family or our neighbors or ourselves. But the everyday events of the Robinson’s evolve into over-the-top situations mixed with hilarious reactions and comments.
“Happy! Happy! Happy!” is the repeated refrain from the patriarch of the Robertson clan, Phil Robertson. Each show usually involves Phil intervening in the lives of his grown children with some wise words of wisdom or fatherly fix-it knowledge. Each episode ends with the extended family seated around the dinner table saying a prayer of thanks that sums up how the Lord has blessed their lives.
This is the real attraction of the show. The imperfect but blessed life of the Robertson family.
The show has become a hit for the little-known Arts and Entertainment cable station. This season’s premier was the most-watched non-fiction series telecast in cable TV history, according to Entertainment Weekly, with nearly 12 million viewers.
But with big success comes increased attention, which brings us to Robertson’s interview with Gentleman’s Quarterly magazine. For the article the GQ reporter, Drew Magary, went into what appears to him to be a foreign land, rural Louisiana.
“How in the world did a family of squirrel-eating, Bible-thumping, catchphrase-spouting duck hunters become the biggest TV stars in America,” asks Magary.
To find out, the reporter travels to their home in Monroe, La. After getting cozy in their home, the conversation segues into Phil’s views on sin. Robertson answers in terms perhaps not uncommon for guys sitting around on the sofa at deer camp. Part of his answer refers to homosexuality as a primary sin, something he currently sees wrong in our country.
As we have come to see lately, such a definitive statement is met with protests from liberal groups. Gay rights groups such as GLAAD reportedly made calls to the executives of A&E and subsequently, the network suspended Robertson indefinitely.
Outrage from the right followed the move. Our own U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Dardanelle, said on local talk radio that A&E is “catering to the Hollywood left and D.C. liberals.” Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal commented in an official release from his office saying, “It is a messed up situation when Miley Cyrus gets a laugh and Phil Robertson gets suspended.”
What amazes me is that anyone is amazed by any of this. The views expressed by Robertson should have been expected from anyone who has seen the show. At the same time, the over-reaction from the left and caving in from A&E executives is equally predictable.
Honestly, I have never really understood how “Duck Dynasty” fit in the line up for the shows on A&E. It seems like the show would work better on either an outdoor oriented or family friendly channel. I know after this past week, I would rather watch them on a different station anyway.
As for free speech, the First Amendment protects Robertson’s right to say whatever he wishes, A&E’s right to broadcast whatever show they choose and our right to change the channel.
• • •
Jason Tolbert is an accountant and conservative political blogger. His blog — The Tolbert Report — is linked at ArkansasNews.com. His e-mail is jason@TolbertReport.com.