Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty was suspended from filming after his remarks in a GQ interview. JJ Vincent wonders if this is fair.
(In the interest of full disclosure, I have never watched Duck Dynasty, so I’m not writing this as a fan or foe. I follow the phenomenon in popular media and trade publications, but that (and seeing licensed merchandise everywhere) is the extent of my exposure.)
Duck Dynasty is an unexpected, unbelievable phenomenon, no question.
Or maybe not.
It trades on the stereotype of the ignorant, backwards, stupid redneck southern guy obsessed with guns and hunting and camo overalls and religion and food. It trades on the expectation that people will tune in and laugh and feel superior. Or seem themselves in this family. Or identify with them. Or hope that they can have the rags-to-riches dream.
Because, after all, these “ignorant, backwoods rednecks” are millionaires.
And Phil Robertson is the patriarch. The Dad. The man-in-charge. One of the beards. The man with the plan, the idea. A business man and hunter, a sportsman and marketer, a shrewd trader and expert marksman.
So why were people so surprised when, in a GQ interview, Phil Robertson made a string of remarks that were, to be polite, unkind about homosexuals (interview here – contains adult language). He would not be the first preacher to do so. Let’s be honest, some Christians are fine with gay people, some are not.
Maybe because they weren’t expecting it from someone they had come to see as a good guy, or a cartoon character…or a character, period. Or maybe because he had, in one way, lived up to the stereotype.
A&E, which airs Duck Dynasty, took swift and decisive action. Phil Robertson has been indefinitely suspended from production. The network has distanced itself from him and his comments.
His comments. Which, vile though they may be, were his comments, made in an interview with an entertainment magazine. His beliefs. Phil Robertson’s.
Phil Robertson, the man, or Phil Robertson, the face of a brand, or Phil Robertson,
a character on a hit TV show a lead in a reality TV show?
Should he be punished for airing his personal beliefs in an interview about himself and the show?
Should he be cut off from the show, where anything potentially offensive that he says can be edited out?
Maybe these are the real questions: When do the person and professional become so intertwined that what one says or does can immediately and catastrophically affect the other? Should they? We see this happen to public figures and celebrities all the time. Can a man be a good man in one way while being awful in another?
See more on this in James Poniewozik’s outstanding article, Why Phil Robertson Got Suspended from Duck Dynasty.
Also on NPR’s monkey see blog: ‘Duck’ and Cover: What Exactly is the Point? by Linda Holmes.