I’ve refrained from comment on the ongoing flap over “Duck Dynasty” partriarch Phil Robertson’s comments about homosexuality in part because it seemed that more than enough had been said, and in part because the whole thing just seemed too ridiculous.
Now that the Arts & Entertainment network has caved to the demands of the “I Stand with Phil” crowd and reinstated the crusty tribe leader after briefly putting him on hiatus (while simultaneously running “Duck Dynasty” marathons featuring the supposedly banned bearded one), perhaps a few comments are in order.
1. Robertson almost certainly knew that his comments linking homosexuality to bestiality and adultery would create a ruckus, but he didn’t care, because that’s his schtick. Millions of Americans love the Robertson clan precisely because of their claim to be America’s true “roots” people who reject all things politically correct and say what they think without fear of reprisal.
2. A&E should have known the same thing. Surely their market data has told them the demographic makeup of Duck fans. They knew all along that the folks who raised an outcry over Robertson’s comments are not the people who watch the show, which is not so much offensive as it is patently staged and largely vapid. (I watched two episodes some months back in hopes of discovering why so many people I know love the show. One episode centered on raiding a natural beehive in a swamp. The “boys” tried various methods of robbing the honey, including a night attempt based on belief that bees don’t sting in the dark, and an ill-fated attempt to suck the bees out with a shop vacuum plugged into a generator. Wise old Phil supposedly saved the day by using the well-known bee-keeper’s trick of smoking the hive (though I would bet the short “smoker” scene was a sham, and that the small jar of honey he showed up with came from a store). NOBODY is stupid enough to think bees won’t sting in the dark or that they can be tamed with a shopvac. The show may have its adlibs, but is clearly scripted for the clown-factor).
3. Both Robertson and A&E managed to turn the unfortunate comments into a coup, increasing the show’s popularity, allowing Robertson to play the role of martyr, and making gobs of money for all concerned.
4. Fundamentalist Christians were able to jump on the bandwagon and use the flap to further their unconvincing claims that Christians in America are being “persecuted” by liberal elites, so they got something out of it, too.
5. Here’s the thing: Phil Robertson has the right to believe that homosexuality is sinful, as a literalistic reading of certain Bible verses allows him and others to do. Obviously, he is not alone in that belief. Just as progressive folk seek tolerance for their views, they should acknowledge that others have a right to differing beliefs, even if they’re based on what some see as a naive interpretation of scripture.
6. Robertson’s views, while common, are biblically inconsistent. Like virtually everyone else who claims the Bible as their authority, he uses a system of picking-and-choosing. The same law codes in Leviticus that condemn same-sex acts also command that anyone who commits adultery — as well as any children who curse their parents — should be put to death. I don’t hear even the most avid literalists calling for those statutes to be enforced.
7. Many of those who have been strident in supporting Robertson’s views found themselves in a tight place of self-contradiction, because just weeks earlier they had been critical of the Robertson family for getting into the wine business, marketing Duck Commander label wines (Red Blend, Pink Moscato, and Chardonnay, if you’re interested). At least one Christian-based organization, Family Ministries, cancelled an event that was to have featured Willie Robertson because of it. The Bible clearly condones the use of wine while condemning drunkenness, but using Phil Robertson’s own logic (that homosexuality morphs into bestiality), one could argue that wine morphs into crack cocaine, and thus question his Christian values on gaining profits while opening the gate to habits that hit much harder than a Chardonnay buzz.
So where does that leave us? On the one hand, I think we should give the guy a break: he has the right to his superannuated perspective, as well as to the pursuit of greater fame and fortune — and people who share his views have the right to praise the Ducks and enrich their coffers. On the other hand, I won’t be wasting any time watching Robertson’s non-reality show, supporting his right-wing agenda, or purchasing any “Duck Commander” merchandise, whether it’s duck calls, camouflage recliners, bobbleheads, nor even one of their Grateful Dead knockoff beard-wigs — though it might come in handy in playing the role of Isaiah.