As one who firmly believes in the rights of all to espouse their views, the rights of others to ignore crazies, and the obligation of everyone to be funny, I am slightly bemused about the public backlash over Phil Robertson’s comments in GQ.
For those who have not yet embraced A&E’s Duck Dynasty, Mr. Robertson and his family were plucked from media obscurity a couple of years ago and plunged into the heady life of reality stardom. Obviously, generic types are not usually the objects of a reality TV show, and the ZZ-Top styled patriarch of a Louisiana Beverly Hillbilly family is no exception. They have become fabulously wealthy arising out of their duck-hunting products, live according to the cycles of when they can kill ducks, and have deeply held beliefs.
Remembering that the reality TV phenomenon is simply the modern-day curiosity attraction that would have been found in the carnivals of old, producers seek out the unconventional who often become caricatures of themselves. Robertson is no exception.
But here, rather like a bull being blamed for goring another (thought a biblicalish allusion might work), a man who turned down a professional football contract because it interfered with duck hunting season is being blamed for not having an evolved belief structure and telling all who might not want to hear about it. Rights groups should not be demanding an apology from Robertson but rather calling GQ to task for printing such unoriginal and unsurprising drivel.
Moreover, A&E’s apology and response is nonsensical. If the producers have spent a significant amount of time with their ‘talent’ it would have been entirely foreseeable that something like this would happen. A&E have been quite happy making a person with arguably bigoted, sexist, racist, homophobic, and Neanderthal views a household name, while profiting from his likeness, voice, and appearance all along. The hypocrisy abounds.
For the proponents of free speech and lovers of the First Amendment, it must be Robertson’s right to say what he likes without fear of being suspended from a contract, just as it is a viewer’s right not to watch him. It cannot be right that a reality TV star can be sanctioned for just being the warts and all version of himself.
If anyone in the public or the media ever thought that Robertson was a proponent of reformed Christianity they will be sorely disappointed if Santa fails to come in a couple of days.