Saturday, December 21, 2013

Benign Wild Man

Phil Robertson is not the ignorant redneck some take him to be. A man of great common sense, he has a master’s degree in education from Louisiana Tech. He was a teacher who invented a duck call that precisely replicates the sound of a duck. Ingeniously energetic, he and his family gradually turned that invention and its spin-off elements into a multi-million dollar business and an enormously successful television show.

He went through a period of great debauchery and almost lost his family because of his wild behavior. But, he repented, apologized, was baptized and became a believer, faithful churchman and evangelist. He has kept his persona as a more or less wild outdoorsman, but, as his wife says, he is much nicer now. Thus, one of his subtly attractive qualities is the contrast between wild appearance and benign character.

A number of contemporary media and entertainment folks do not like the way the television show depicts that subtlety, largely because doing so repudiates the trite and narrow formula that has been a staple for so long, where originality has mainly consisted of bland variations on vulgarity. They simply cannot fathom the reasons for Duck Dynasty’s appeal and great success. To them, “Modern Family” should be way up there in the ratings and the Robertson’s show should have only sparse viewership of backwater clientele. The phenomenon is similar to the traditional network moguls’ puzzlement over the success of Fox news and the low ratings of their own opinionated venues.

Who would have thought that a humorous article in GQ magazine wherein Phil Robertson paraphrased a passage of scripture would bring two disparate worldviews, into such public contrast? The conflict is only marginally about human sexuality. In the good-natured interview, Robertson says that he loves all people and does not judge. He says he leaves judgment up to the Almighty. But there is a whole lot of judging going on from opposing voices. One condescending commentator pontificated that someone should sit down with Phil and explain to him how his remarks (his paraphrase of scripture) were offensive to some. This person obviously considered himself superior and thought Robertson could be “educated” to fit the mold of his own unexamined view.

Phil Robertson proved you call a duck by imitating the sound a duck makes. Perhaps he has also proved that you build a television viewership by imitating the sensibilities of your audience. The Robertson family seems familiar to many of us, tonsorial habits notwithstanding. It seems familiar to the many of us who read and prayerfully study the Bible as God’s word. It seems familiar to those of us who go to church, pray at meals, love our families and love to laugh.

“Duck Dynasty” seems especially familiar to many of us Southerners, because, hey, we all have an uncle, brother, cousin, or at least an acquaintance like the incorrigible Uncle Si.

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