Monday, December 23, 2013

Don't Really Give a Duck

Couple of final thoughts on the stupid Duck Dynasty thing, and then I'm gonna let it go. This episode is moderately interesting to me, in the way that Paula Deen's and even George Zimmerman's transgressions were interesting -- that the events themselves were absolutely dwarfed by the cultural buttons that were pushed, and the quickness and stubbornness with which the usual barricades became populated.

A lot of these things simply revolve around "Red" America being unable or unwilling to cope with, or even get a handle on, the rapid advances taking place in the nation's culture at large (if there can truly be anything resembling an "overall" culture, in a nation with 320 million people, and countless points of origin). The world is leaving them behind, as those things tend to happen, and they can't stand it. It's not just because Black President, though that's certainly a catalyzing factor. It's the small coincidence that the same fuckers who shipped their jobs overseas and poison their water tables also happen to own the media channels that immerse them in swollen rivers of disinformation.

So you have large swaths of people who have been ripped off and burned for generations, and don't say shit, coming un-fucking-glued over whether Cracker Barrel will continue to sell cheap swag from their favorite teevee show. Hokay then. I don't think there's anything to reason with. It's all just spittle and foam.

If there's one thing about this nonsense that's important to reiterate, it's that this is not a free speech issue. Really? Yeah, really. Go back and read Phil Robertson's comments, comparing gays to people who fuck animals, or criminals, drunkards, adulterers. Check out some of Reverend Phil's previous episodes of this sort of jabber on YouTube; he didn't just start doing this when the GQ writer showed up on his doorstep.

Now replace "gays" with "blacks," or "Mexicans," or whatever you like. Wasn't that all that long ago that those groups were in those sorts of conversations. It becomes easier to consider the basic fact that this guy made some indisputably disrespectful comments about groups of people -- or, in the parlance of A&E or any network, customers. That's really all there is to this; again, if you think you have a First Amendment right to talk shit about your customers while you're on the job, I encourage you to give that a shot, and let us know how that works out for you.

Bottom line is that Phil Robertson has a right to speak his mind, and did so. The people he talked disrespectfully about have a right to say, "Hey, asshole, we resent you comparing us to criminals and goat-fuckers," and they did so. And Robertson's bosses at A&E have a right to discipline their employees, and they did so. The difference here is that the Robertsons clearly don't see themselves as "actors," perhaps because their backyard is the studio.

But that is what they are, actors in a sitcom, and just like Charlie Sheen got his ass taken down a notch when he got too big for his britches, started believing that he was the show and could tell anyone and everyone to go fuck themselves, that is what is happening here. There is a weird cultural sway the family holds over (again, we are talking about a fucking teevee show, and a lousy one at that, right?) their viewers, a very Face in the Crowd kind of vibe at the heart of it all, with Phil as Lonesome Rhodes. Nobody can tell him nuthin'.

Even the Song of the South Uncle Remus reminiscences of happy, godly blacks picking cotton in the Jim Crow South, when you think a half-second, are enormously offensive and ignorant -- and loaded with more conservative cultural assumptions. What Robertson is really invoking there is not directly a time when those people knew their place, but certainly a time before they were on welfare having a zillion kids. That's the underlying sentiment of comments like that, and we all know it.

That's why they call that sort of shit "dog-whistle" speech -- because it goes right past most people, because it wouldn't occur to them to catch something like that. But you can't tell me that someone who grew up in a place and time where blacks couldn't even enter a restaurant or drink from a water fountain doesn't know what he's fucking saying.

Obviously, the show inherently exploits stereotypes, and in so doing creates some cultural friction and even tension. That's at the heart of it -- to show these goofy hillbillies making beef jerky and blowing shit up in the swamp, then easing toward the more universal tropes of family and (for some) faith. See, these crazy good ol' boys really are just nice guys who love their families and Jesus, and not necessarily in that order. Their blood is red, just like ours. [rolling eyes]

Personally, I hate cheap, trite shit like that, and what little of the show I have seen felt like a consummate waste of time even by reality teevee standards. I suppose if I wanted to know how to field-dress a possum or convince people that I had a steel plate in my head, the show would be the place to start.

But sooner or later, especially since this is a nation that increasingly lives and breathes manufactured outrage, someone on one side or the other of these magnified cultural tensions eventually says something stupid, crosses a line most people have learned to recognize. And because the perpetually aggrieved and threatened side, by definition, always have their backs up, conjuring grave offenses if none can be legitimately be found, we play the game.

The media do their dance, and make no mistake, this will be fodder for many a race in the coming midterm season. The multi-billion dollar perpetual campaign industry depends on it. When already mis-/dis-/under-informed people rely on simplistic, shopworn tropes to circumscribe their "values" that they deploy in the voting booth (on the off chance that they get off their asses to do so in the first place), nothing good can come of it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good post, Dr. Floyd.