I managed to watch 10 torturous minutes of "Duck Dynasty" so as to catch up on the controversy.
In the tradition of American pop-theology—light on doctrine; heavy on hellfire and damnation—the ostensibly devout and "educated" Dynastic patriarch, Phil Robertson, phrased his abhorrence of homosexuality thus:
'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?
How profound. How refined.
The rest of this reality show's stars are unsharpened pencils too–dull, not particularly witty and plenty vulgar. Yet 12 million Americans draw spiritual sustenance from watching hours packed with dumb, Duck-Dynasty vignettes.
Easily the phoniest, most contrived of characters is Si Robertson.
During the brief penance I served in front of the teli, Uncle Si voiced a Vietnam-era fondness for booster injections—Vitamin B he called this military mainlining. Si then proceeded to fondle and fall atop a mannequin in a clothing store. The lewd old man is, of course, a preacher too. Lovely.
Then again, this column was assailed when, in 2008, it judged Miley Cyrus to be a precocious, brassy, none-too-bright exhibitionist, singularly propelled by fame. Miley was "wholesome," I was told—even as she nestled in the arms of father Billy Ray Cyrus in various states of undress.
Ditto the Duck detritus: they are the new wholesome in America. Give them a few months, and the Ducksters' downmarket flourishes will include "Dancing With the Stars" and a teen pregnancy. The dynasty has already been conferred with the Barbara-Walters Mark of Cain. That dumbo added "Duck Dynasty" to her annual lineup of cretin,
otherwise known as America's most fascinating personalities.
"Duck Dynasty" represents "the best of America," came the angry retort from readers on Facebook. Oy vey!
Somehow, I think H.L. Mencken would disagree. Southerners, to paraphrase that great American, had been drained of their best blood by the War of Northern Aggression. Although vestiges of good breeding, charm and civility remain in many a Southern man, the uncouth Duck hunters from down South are not it.
What would the Duck-Dynasty debate be without "lite-libertarian reductionism"
? The Ducksters are capitalists, they scolded. As a capitalist yourself, a critique of this cultural product ought to be beyond the pale. Indeed, there is nothing wrong with making a good living catering to the base, voyeuristic demand created by many millions of Americans, as do the Ducksters. But are capitalists compelled to like their product because it makes money? No. It is perfectly productive, if far from lucrative, for me to criticize all aspects of the puerile Duck production.
The Ducksters are part of a debased culture—the right-wing answer to Kim Kardashian, whose deformed figure and ass elephantiasis you can ogle online
and on late-night Leno
(1.21 minutes in).
Then there is the matter of Duck-Dynasty religiosity.
"I think you're missing an important point, Ilana," said one perceptive Facebook Friend. "The [Ducksters] were selected for the show because they are how you describe them. Duck Dynasty was meant to be a redneck minstrel show. They were supposed to be objects of ridicule for cosmopolitan America. They are what blue-state America imagines religiosity to be."
Arguably, this is precisely what being devout looks like in the USA.
Delve more deeply, and you'll discover that Christianity in our country is a lot like what the Ducksters profess. No longer doctrinaire or demanding, the mishmash of pop-religion practiced in churches across America is an extension of the therapeutic culture: festooned with feelings, mostly misdirected. Untempered by intelligent interpretation of scripture.
Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast, but the mercy of the wicked is cruel.