The proverbial 15 minutes has long since run out on these folks. Even so, the American appetite for corn-pone-moronic behavior appears unabated. Given the principal players, we think it’s time for a diet.
The patriarch of the wildly popular A&E series Duck Dynasty, Phil Robertson, made a splash recently when he espoused a set of ignorant and intolerant views regarding homosexuality. His ramblings raised the ire of folks on both sides of the question. It also earned him a swift backlash from the network.
Apparently, ol’ Phil is back at it. This week a video surfaced in which he advocates marrying girls when they’re “about 15 or 16 (years-old).” He goes on to say that one should “make sure she can cook.”
If this were a hundred years ago, we wouldn’t be having this conversation; but it isn’t 1914. It’s 2014. Furthermore, it’s high time we quit rewarding the Phil Robertsons of this world for being famous idiots.
There was a time when audiences would watch a dolt like Robertson and understand that he provides a cautionary tale —- a “don’t be that guy” moment. Now that lesson seems wholly absent.
It is absent because we live in an age of “reality TV.” Instead of the thoughtful and informative programming that used to predominate networks like A&E, the History Channel and Bravo, we now watch backwoods barbarians, urban hedonists and all manner of self-involved lunatics parade about with no filter or apparent conscience.
Networks air this garbage because it’s cheap to produce; and they know we’ll watch darn near anything if it’s salacious enough.
In a thought that has been widely paraphrased and misattributed, the storied journalist, H. L. Mencken, once observed, “No one in this world, so far as I know — and I have searched the records for years, and employed agents to help me — has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people.”
In short, networks bank on the fact that we won’t demand much beyond a consistent glow emanating from the television. Every time a new Robertson, Kardashian or Honey Boo Boo emerges, they’re proven right.
To be sure, we’re not suggesting that a media diet of Metropolitan Opera and David Frost is somehow morally superior. Rather, we argue that the things we watch shouldn’t concomitantly makes us dumber while rewarding bad behavior.
Critics will surely deride our reasoning as one more instance of “political correctness.” To be clear, we don’t agree with much of what Robertson has to say, but the larger umbrage resides in the fact that he exemplifies the dumbing of America. His fame is a celebration of dullardry. The same could be said of the “Real Housewives” or any of the myriad stage mother pseudo-dramas. They all venerate what is worst within us.
There’s a famous statistic that says the average American child will have seen over 5,000 deaths on television by the time she is 6 years old. This is over-exposure to death is credited with helping to normalize (i.e. psychologically neutralize) violence.
Extending this same logic to the behavioral excesses portrayed in these “reality” shows, what lessons must we be teaching our children? Kids are often compared to sponges —- they absorb whatever surrounds them. When we drop them into a world that advocates child marriage, unbridled hedonism, xenophobia, bigotry, homophobia and celebrated ignorance, what then should we expect them to become?