My big brother used to mess with me a lot when I was younger. Sometimes my mom didn’t have the bandwidth to spend the time telling him that he should quit being a dick and to just LET ME BE GREAT. Instead, she would tell me to “ignore him, and eventually he’ll stop.”
And so I did. At the start, it was rough, because the more I ignored him—the more I denied him relevance—the worse it got. He would go to great lengths to mess with me, so that he could fall asleep at night knowing that his message (which was, I guess, that I was a douche and should be punished for it) was still resonating.
But at a certain point, if you make a person and what they do irrelevant, then they’ll eventually stop doing what they’re doing. Or, if nobody acknowledges or knows what they’re doing, it means nothing. (Like when a tree falls in the woods and nobody hears it or when I Dutch Oven myself but I’m the only person in my bedroom.)
This is how we should treat the cast of Duck Dynasty. And by “we,” I mean people who believe in equality and don’t appreciate being ministered to by high and mighty folks who decided they should start believing in God after leading half their lives doing things that would land them in hell (like beating women), if the hell they believe in exists.
I have never seen an episode of Duck Dynasty. I haven’t even seen slight footage. The closest I’ve come are photos and news I read on the Internet, and at one time there was a huge billboard promoting the show that I would see most mornings when I came out of my subway stop onto Houston Street. It didn’t do much to draw me in—it was just a row of guys with long, scraggly beards who looked vaguely like one or two of the redneck dads who used to come cheer their sons on at our rural Pennsylvania basketball games, drunkenly yelling things like “PAY ‘EM BACK THE MONEY REF!” or “PUT MY SON IN COACH. HE PLAYS DEFENSE, UNLIKE THAT MUSKA ASSHOLE!” I assumed this particular billboard was meant to remind an already gigantic existing audience that the show would be coming back soon for a new season, because it did nothing to make me want to begin watching the show. So I didn’t.
But I understand it is popular, and that people think it’s entertaining.
Before reading Drew Magary’s profile on Phil Robertson, the only information I had about Duck Dynasty came from my mom and brother, who are occasional viewers. They told me that show was about backwoods rednecks who made a fortune from the duck calls they’d invented; they are extremely passionate about shooting ducks.* They also relayed that Robertson is also a born-again religious zealot. And that one of them habitually drinks iced tea out of the same plastic cup because his mother sent it to him when he was serving in Vietnam.
I’d gotten my hands on a copy of GQ before I had been exposed to all of the online chatter about the profile. And I read it beforehand, too—not because I was excited to learn more about the day-to-day lives of some weirdos with beards who have a TV show on a network that constantly makes reality TV shows about things I don’t inherently and will never care about—but because Drew Magary is one of my favorite writers in the world and I read everything he writes the moment I can.
I was nonplussed by the story. Nothing about it was particularly unexpected (which Magary points out in the story, along with the assertion that he didn’t ask questions that led Robertson into spouting off, super bigot-style). I’m from a place where there are a lot of stupid people who live in the woods and like to hunt, and it isn’t uncommon for these people to react with unfounded hatred toward people who are different from them, and whom they don’t understand. (And they don’t understand A LOT.) It’s also not uncommon for them to decide that a religion they were either raised on and never questioned, or that they adopted one day when they realized they should stop doing stupid things while drinking, is the correct one and that people should listen to them talk about its perverted principles.
Did Roberts’ homophobic and racist comments piss me off? Of course they did, on some level. But not in a way more severe than I’m pissed off every time somebody who worked their way into the public limelight despite themselves makes a terrible comment. (Kanye.) These days, I shake my head and I move on. (Kanye.) Because I know these people are insane. (Kanye.) But, more importantly, I know that they are wrong. Wrong in a way they are so convinced is right that they will never be convinced otherwise.
We need to stop making people like this relevant and then out-crying when their whack opinions and worldviews garner such mainstream attention. We have to turn the other cheek, as it were, and just accept that some people are terrible. People like me need to quit Tweeting and writing stories about them. Because every time somebody does, it fuels a fire for ignorance that, make no mistake, has plenty of backers. (My Facebook feed has been filled with comments supporting Roberts and his family. Many of these comments claim that Roberts’ First Amendment rights are being infringed.**)
Life is too short to give much consideration to the people who are preaching against your totally legitimate lifestyle, a lifestyle that is in-arguably better than theirs.
Better to devote your energy to saying and doing things that make perfect sense, or do some good. Even if nobody seems to care.
*So passionate that the story is Phil Robertson quit college football because it interfered with duck season. He was replaced by Terry Bradshaw.
***It is, quite frankly, shocking to realize that so many people do not understand Freedom of Speech.
Not so shocking A+E chose to reinstate the suspended member with the following statement:
As a global media content company, A+E Networks’ core values are centered around creativity, inclusion and mutual respect. We believe it is a privilege for our brands to be invited into people’s home and we operate with a strong sense of integrity and deep commitment to these principals.
That is why we reacted so quickly and strongly to a recent interview with Phil Robertson. While Phil’s comments made in the interview reflect his personal views based on his own beliefs, and his own personal journey, he and his family have publicly stated they regret the “coarse language” he used and the mis-interpretation of his core beliefs based only on the article. He also made it clear he would “never incite or encourage hate.” We at A+E Networks expressed our disappointment with his statements in the article, and reiterate that they are not views we hold.
But Duck Dynasty is not a show about one man’s views. It resonates with a large audience because it is a show about family… a family that America has come to love. As you might have seen in many episodes, they come together to reflect and pray for unity, tolerance and forgiveness. These are three values that we at A+E Networks also feel strongly about.
So after discussions with the Robertson family, as well as consulting with numerous advocacy groups, A&E has decided to resume filming Duck Dynasty later this spring with the entire Robertson family.
We will also use this moment to launch a national public service campaign (PSA) promoting unity, tolerance and acceptance among all people, a message that supports our core values as a company, and the values found in Duck Dynasty. These PSAs will air across our entire portfolio.