A white man from rural Louisiana is deeply religious, believes being homosexual is a sin and thinks black people were much happier pre-Civil Rights era.
Also, the sun rises in the east. The only reason this incredibly not shocking viewpoint is in the news is because it belongs to Phil Robertson, a cast member on A&E’s Duck Dynasty, the most popular reality series of all time. The Robertson family became wealthy by selling duck calls and the show follows the bearded, bandana-wearing clan as they indulge in their down-home, country way of life.
Robertson’s comments during an interview with GQ magazine sparked this new “controversy.” He said a lot of things, but here are a couple gems:
“It seems like, to me, a vagina—as a man—would be more desirable than a man’s anus. That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.”
“I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once. Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash. We’re going across the field…. They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’—not a word!… Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.”
Robertson is just a bucket of sunshine and enlightenment, isn’t he? As one might expect, criticism came swiftly from many sources including GLAAD and the Human Rights Campaign. Much of the criticism has been focused on the anti-gay remarks, but let’s not forget his ridiculous views on black people. This man is conjuring up images of “good Negroes” hoeing cotton and singing songs with nary a worry about white folks.
Apparently, all those government handouts to blacks over the years have made blacks unhappy, blues-singing whiners.
A&E has suspended Robertson from the show indefinitely, but their statement only addresses the anti-gay remarks. “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,” said A&E in a statement.
Things are not all bad for Robertson. He has been getting a lot of support via social media and even from well-known people. Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal and former Alaska governor Sarah Palin have both expressed their support of Robertson and they both conflate Robertson’s suspension with a First Amendment violation. The First Amendment is the right of free speech, not to be confused with being suspended from a reality show. Robertson can say whatever he wants, but A&E as his employer, is under no obligation to pay him to say things that they feel will damage their brand.
Of course, as we’ve seen many times over at this point, Robertson will likely be back on the air. Pretty much every media personality who has made any type of race-related faux pas has returned in some capacity. Paula Deen, Dog the Bounty Hunter, Don Imus and many others all eventually got some version of their media-related lives back on track.
A&E and all of the other networks that have reality television shows try to toe a very thin line between outrageousness that garners ad dollars and outrageousness that costs ad dollars. These outsized personalities are part of the formula for making a successful reality show. We, the reality show viewing audience, are the ones who keep these types of shows on the air, because we keep tuning in to them.
All of these shows require some measure of drama or conflict in order to keep the interest of the audience. The problem is that the drama is often created via the perpetuation of negative stereotypes, violence or extreme (and disturbing) viewpoints. In this case, it was Robertson’s off-camera comments that caused waves, but surely A&E is not surprised at his words. They hired him because of his personality.
The shows that make black men look like hyper-sexual brutes and black women like ball-busting, glass-throwing shrews are no better. So maybe if we stop giving these “guilty pleasure” shows the luxury of our attention, they would stop getting made.