A week before Christmas last year, my wife, my 2-month-old daughter, and I found ourselves in a hospital room in Murray, Kentucky. My daughter had been hospitalized with pneumonia, and, needless to say, our circumstances had cast a pallor over the holiday season. Since there’s not much else to do in a hospital room, we watched quite a bit of television. With options running thin one night, we decided to see what all the fuss was about this Duck Dynasty show.
I know part of this could be attributed to feeling the need to laugh at anything just to take our minds off the situation, but my wife and I nearly had tears rolling down our cheeks by the end of the episode. I can’t remember all the particulars, but a major component of that night’s show had to do with family patriarch Phil Robertson buying an ice cream truck to sell his wife’s boudain out of. (By the way, I’m still not real sure what boudain is. I’ve seen it at Walmart, though, and it’s sort of scary looking.) I remember posting to Facebook that the show might be “the greatest thing ever on television.”
We don’t have cable television at home, and that particular episode is the only one I’ve ever watched all the way through. I cringe every time I walk by a rack of Duck Dynasty T-shirts or books or plush toys or beef jerky or whatever else someone slapped its name on. It still irks me that people call it a “reality show,” since it’s obviously scripted. Still, I have fond feelings for Duck Dynasty because of that one moment of relief it gave me last December, so I tend to give its secondary annoying aspects a pass.
It’s because of those feelings I feel like I should be writing about the controversy Phil Robertson suddenly found himself embroiled in this week. Just in case you’ve been living in a cave in the Himalayas somewhere, A&E – the network Duck Dynasty is broadcast on – suspended Robertson from the show “indefinitely” for comments he made in an interview with GQ magazine concerning homosexuality. (Quick question: What does it say about our society when a grimy dude like Robertson is being interviewed by GQ?)
To sum up quickly: Robertson is a Christian, and he believes homosexuality is a sin. He expressed this in the interview, even going so far as to paraphrase the apostle Paul’s well-known discourse on the subject from 1 Corinthians, and speculated on how acceptance of this sin could open the floodgates for others considered far worse by society, including bestiality. He also rather bluntly made some anatomical references to explain why men ought to prefer women sexually. The interview can be found in the January issue of GQ.
Of course, anyone who could string a sentence together and had an internet connection began blogging, posting, and tweeting all about the suspension as soon as it was announced. I think Facebook is up to about a billion “Support Phil Robertson” pages now, and it’s amazing how many people have suddenly become experts on the ins and outs of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. I’m not sure who’s benefiting more from all the attention – Robertson, GQ, A&E, news outlets, Duck Dynasty, or the internet in general.
On the one hand, I don’t feel like I need to give a crap about any of this. For one thing, I’m not so sure A&E overstepped its bounds by suspending Robertson. He is basically an employee of the network, and it seems to me they should have the right to terminate employees who they feel reflect poor on the company. Robertson also said back in July he didn’t think he’d do the program much longer, and I’m sure he’s not hurting for money right now. Plus, it’s a freakin’ television show, so it’s not like it’s affecting the world all that much anyway.
Then again, there are aspects of the suspension that trouble me. My main concern has to do with my own beliefs: I think what Robertson said was dead-on. He even cited the scripture he was basing his comments on, so, in essence, A&E told Robertson that not only was he wrong, but Paul was wrong as well. GLAAD released a statement condemning Robertson’s remarks and referenced “what true Christians believe,” attempting to set themselves up as an authority on the Bible. The suspension is also a clear endorsement of the “born this way” belief, which, despite what organizations like GLAAD will try to put forth as fact, has never been clearly scientifically proven.
So while I want to stay out of the fray and write this off as some silly entertainment story, I find it difficult to ignore the implications here. A man has, essentially, been fired for a religious belief I happen to share. None of this affects me right now, but might it affect me in the future? Is the fact that I’m even writing this creating the potential for problems for me down the road? Are there going to be repercussions for me one day if I express my beliefs the way Robertson did? Call me an alarmist, but these are questions I’ve thought of this week.
Duck Dynasty is just a television show. Phil Robertson is just a man. A&E is just a cable network. I’m just some guy with a blog. Take it all for what you will. Just don’t take it too lightly. This ain’t just a man driving around an ice cream truck full of boudain anymore.