I’d like to point out that Duck Dynasty is sold in the same vicinity as Mama’s Family, and should probably be taken with the same size grain of salt. (Stache Wagging)
We’re all being duped. More on that in a minute, but first a little preemptive housekeeping:
This is not about human sexuality or rights. Not this blog. That conversation is going on in countless other comments sections, social network pages, and the like. On this blog, just yesterday, I posted the most late-to-the-party joke about Guns N’ Roses that the internet has seen. The issues surrounding human sexuality are a topic for a more worthy forum.
Despite anything that anyone may believe, I’m going to operate from the standpoint that the point of view that Phil Robertson holds is, from my line-of-sight, a point of view that is on the wain in popular culture. You may not agree, and you are welcome to to YOUR point-of-view. In the end it really has little to do with what I want to talk about today.
And now with the heavy stuff out of the way, this is what I’m driving at.
Time Magazine’s website, along with just about every other major news site and opinion blog have announced that, after a recent interview with GQ Magazine, Phil Robertson will be on hiatus from the television show Duck Dynasty. During the interview Robertson apparently made commentary that he believed homosexuality to be a sin in the eyes of God.
In the meantime, I have not watched a single second of Duck Dynasty. This is not to say that I have any personal dislike of the show, I just have never watched it. The concept didn’t catch me as being up my alley, I passed on getting involved. Despite the lack of my support, the show has become a cultural phenomenon, as evidenced by random aisle end-caps covered by Duck Dynasty merch in many discount stores across the country. But I do have a thing or two to say about reality television.
My knowledge of duck hunting begins and ends at learning to hate this stupid cartoon dog. (Nintendo)
Removing the controversy surrounding what was said, let’s break it down to this:
Phil Robertson will be on hiatus from the television show Duck Dynasty.
Duck Dynasty, to my understanding, is part of what popular culture calls “reality television.” But exactly how real can it be, if we’re taking these slice of life vignettes from this eccentric duck-hunting family and removing one of the major players in order to soften the risk to the greater brand of the show?
A&E, the network that airs the show, feels that the comments made by Robertson are controversial enough that I might start to hurt the Duck Dynasty name. From the TV show itself, to the Robertson family bobble heads, to the officially licensed Duck Dynasty clothing, to the Robertson family music albums (I’m not making that up), and the list goes on. A&E had a very successful brand in Duck Dynasty, now they’re doing damage control after one of the show’s stars made a comment that is contrary to: A.) Current popular opinion and B.) A&E’s take on the issue (according to the Time Magazine article, A&E have come out in support of LGBT community.)
Here’s what to take from it: the show is phony. It’s a fraud. It is contrary to the term “reality television,” because it is not real.
If it were real, A&E wouldn’t have any say on who appeared on the show. Suddenly we have a very real example of pulling the curtain back on this, and many other, “reality television” shows, just with the network’s reaction to what has happened.
Suddenly we see that the camera isn’t just a fly on the wall of the Robertson’s daily lives. The production company is, in fact, pulling the strings on what happens on the show.
This isn’t to say that there isn’t some modicum of reality to it. In Florida, there is an eccentric family of duck hunters, and when presented with certain stimuli, I’m sure their reactions are very genuine and real. But make no mistake, this is not just the story of a family made Rich on duck hunting products. What you’re seeing is probably more orchestrated and planned out than most episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm.
It doesn’t end on Duck Dynasty either. Every “reality show” is this way. Some shows probably have a higher percentage of “reality” than others, but at the end of the day, each show is a brand and the production companies and networks are not going to allow anything to harm that brand.
I even have first-hand experience of working on a reality television show. I won’t mention the name, but some quick and easy detective work will reveal which one for anybody that is super-curious. On this show, the main players were trying to take something from myself and a few other characters, and we got into a huge physical confrontation over it. While this particular show doesn’t make any bones that the actors on screen are portraying a “reenactment” and aren’t actually real people in real situations, we weren’t given a hell of a lot of direction on how things went down.
This particular show that I was on says, via white text on a black screen, that the events were based on real life. However, when cameras began to roll, the only direction I was given was this: “When we say ‘action,’ the first gentlemen will walk up to the truck. The rest of you follow about 2 minutes later. Get loud, yell, curse, get physical. But don’t swear so much that we have to bleep too much. We won’t use it.”
And that was it. I was given a rubber tire-iron and told to confront the main characters. So if there is any “reality” to the show being based on a true story, I don’t think I did the guy I was playing any justice. However, I don’t think it was based on anything beyond a very lose concept that is so vague that it’s probably happened many times.
All that being said, the show I was on is a major tent pole for the cable network on which it airs. That is, if the casting people I was talking to about the viewership of said show are to be believed. An interesting side note, the people who were casting for this fake/reality television show did the auditions in a theater that is known for mounting Shakespearean productions in Los Angeles. Casting for the show was, again anecdotally, a way to earn money for the theater’s more artistic productions.
A production of Shakespeare’s King Lear in the early 1600′s ended with a duel between Edgar and Edmund that got the entire Globe Theater chanting “JER-RY! JER-RY! JER-RY!”
So if these shows aren’t “real” then why in the Hell do we watch them?
I’m certainly not above watching the occasional episode of Storage Wars, Bar Rescue, or Swamp People which are probably about as “real” as Duck Dynasty. But at the end of the day, these shows can be damned entertaining, if not wholly accurate.
The characters are fun, the drama is engaging (it’s manipulated to be that way), and we have a good time watching them. So that’s what we need to do understand these shows for what they are. They are entertainment pure and simple.
With that being said, Phil Robertson was, obviously, a major part of an entertainment television program that many people enjoy. Some people were hurt by what he said, some people are hurt that people are hurt. The controversy rages on. And it sucks when people you feel an emotional investment in become embroiled in controversy.
I’ve had the fortune of meeting many wonderful artists in the entertainment field, some of whom I’ve grown to call “friends.” I know that the day is coming when one of these people that I’m very endeared with, will do something I don’t agree with, and it’s going to be rough. We want these people to be just like us, because we relate to them so well.
But these people are just that. People. They have whole lives, well beyond anything that you know about, and they have their own opinions and experiences which will lead them to make their own decisions. And because the life, opinions and experiences are not yours, their decisions may be contrary to what you want them to do. But it’s their call to make.
With that in mind, it’s then your call as how you are going to react. If you’re not going to watch Duck Dynasty after Phil Robertson’s comments, you’ll get no objection from me. I understand that it sucks when somebody you appreciate does something you don’t like. On the other side of the token, I’m not going to judge anyone who decides the entertainment value of Duck Dynasty outweighs any personal grievance you might have with one of its featured players or his critics.
Because really, Phil is in the entertainment industry. And it’s all a matter of if you are entertained.
Now, if you want to talk human sexuality and the ins and outs of this very controversial and complex issue, I’m glad the conversation is taking place. But don’t do it here. Go out somewhere where your voice can be better heard.
If you want to talk about the nature of “reality television” and its cultural impact, that conversation can be had here. But please be civil.