Patriarch of the Duck Commander empire and father of the Duck Dynasty family Phil Robertson has been suspended from the A&E "reality" show after an interview with GQ magazine, in which Robertson made disparaging remarks about homosexuality.
In the January issue of the magazine, Robertson is quoted as saying (in excerpts released yesterday) that;
“Everything is blurred on what’s right and what’s wrong... Sin becomes fine.”
“Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men,” he says. Then he paraphrases Corinthians: “Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers — they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.”
Television network A&E, which hosts the reality show chronicling the Robertson family and their multi-million dollar hunting products company, was quick to respond, suspending Robertson indefinitely, and issuing the following statement;
"We are extremely disappointed to have read Phil Robertson's comments in GQ, which are based on his own personal beliefs and are not reflected in the series Duck Dynasty. His personal views in no way reflect those of A&E Networks, who have always been strong supporters and champions of the LGBT community. The network has placed Phil under hiatus from filming indefinitely."
There has been a media storm since the excerpts were released and again following the suspension. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has stepped forward to defend the Robertsons and their right to free speech. The Roberstons live in West Monroe, Louisiana and the state surely hasn't been hurt by the publicity the show has generated. It is estimated that 14 million people watch the show each week.
But the underlying issue here is the balance between "Reality TV" (some call it "unscripted" to avoid the reality moniker) and reality. Apparently you can indeed be too real, or go too far from the "unscripted" script.
Phil Robertson has made no attempt to hide his faith, his beliefs or his lifestyle. While he is the founder of Duck Commander and holds the patent on the duck call that launched the company, he takes no real active role in the operation, and is an ordained minister. The show has captured him conducting church services.
As a fundamentalist Christian, it should come as absolutely no shock that Robertson views homosexuality as an abomination, an affront to God, and a sin. This is not a new position on the issue, and it has been shared by countless fundamentalists and ministers across the country. In fact, when you hear a fundamental minister indicate he doesn't abhor homosexuality it is shocking.
So A&E knew what they were getting when they signed up this group. Nobody who watches the show or has watched the show (the show kind of jumped the shark after the second season) that is shocked by this statement. And while A&E doesn't diminish the logic to the level of TLC, it is still the network that also hosts American Hoggers, a gluttony of Storage Wars versions and Bad Ink.
Phil Robertson is guilty of believing in an outdated, narrow minded ideology, one that thankfully is diminishing in our nation. But you don't hear people outraged that A&E shows someone praying to a fictitious deity at the end of every episode, and there are plenty of people who find that as offensive as Robertson's stance on homosexuality.
Some will simply write this off as an ignorant redneck showing his intolerance. Phil Robertson may well be a redneck, but he is anything but ignorant. He has a masters degree in education from Louisiana Tech University. The show plays up the hillbilly persona of the characters, but the bulk of the cast are also well educated individuals. Ignorance is not applicable here.
In the end, the old adage that says "There's no such thing as bad press" will prove true. The ratings for the show will surge, as fundamentalists rally around their chastised brethren. Sales of the ever growing list of Duck Dynasty products will soar, and the family will be hailed as "victimized by the mainstream media", while A&E benefits from all of this.
For those who think they will see an apology from Phil Robertson over his comments had better think again. If an apology is put forth under pressure by network executives responding to advertisers, you can be certain it will be "scripted" and won't be coming from anyone named Robertson.