The Comedy Stylings of Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson
By By Rachel Lu (The federalist) On December 22, 2013
If Phil Robertson were a liberal, he would know exactly how to smooth things over with A&E after the uproar he raised with his politically incorrect GQ interview. He would take a page from the Jon Stewart playbook, and call himself a comedian. Everyone knows that comedians are allowed to be crude and politically incorrect without suffering any consequences. No one is permitted to question the precise line at which their humor bleeds into serious advocacy. Comedians are practically the only people in the world nowadays who get a pass when they say true (but unpleasant) things about sex.
Unfortunately, this strategy probably won't work for the patriarch of A&E's hit reality series, Duck Dynasty. But it's worth taking a moment to savor the delicious ironies of A&E's predicament, because the truth is, Phil Robertson is a comedian, and a good one at that. The problem is that Phil Robertson wasn't supposed to be a comedian. He was supposed to be a punch-line. In the eyes of the liberal entertainment industry, redneck humor is only permissible when rednecks are the joke, not when they're making them, and that's why Robertson has to go.
In the aftermath of the kerfuffle, plenty of conservative writers have made the point that society should have room for a genuinely diverse array of viewpoints, and that politically correct liberals are totalitarian bullies who only "tolerate" those who agree with them. That's all true and worth repeating, but it's fairly old news to anyone who follows conservative media, or just happens to know any PC liberals. And it misses the point a little, because this defense gives tacit support to the notion that Phil Robertson is a crazed fringe figure when the network's real problem is that he wasn't nearly fringe enough. The truly remarkable story behind Duck Dynasty is about a family of backwoods duck hunters who capitalized on liberal stereotypes about rural America by playing A&E like a fiddle.
If you watch television or movies at all, you probably understand what backwoods red-staters are supposed to be. They fall a notch above skinheads as among the world's most repulsive human specimens. Examples from popular media are legion, but my personal favorite comes from "Million Dollar Baby," Hollywood's revenge for the 2004 elections. The protagonist's white-trash relations are greasy, overweight, and so callous that they take an extended tour of Disney World before dropping by the hospital to try to hoodwink their newly paralyzed daughter out of her boxing earnings. That's what rednecks are supposed to be. The much-maligned Honey Boo-Boo series gave hillbillies a somewhat more human face, but still largely portrayed the featured family as disgusting and dysfunctional. We're meant to laugh at them and their backwards, ridiculous lifestyle.
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