The Entertainment Weekly website is reporting that, to the surprise of absolutely no one, Phil Robertson, the Duck Dynasty patriarch who recently stirred controversy by making racist and homophobic remarks, will remain on the air in episodes to be broadcast in January:
Regardless of the current controversy and behind-the-scenes tension, A&E has every intention of keeping Phil Robertson on the air.
A source close to the situation confirmed that when the network resumes airing new episodes of Duck Dynasty starting Jan. 15, footage featuring the Robertson patriarch will indeed remain intact. The network also hopes the media and fan furor will cool down over the holidays and that tensions over shooting future episodes can then be resolved.
Lotsa luck with that, fellas.
There are two points I want to make about this controversy. One is that there has been a far greater focus on Robertson’s homophobia, as opposed to his racism. I think this is because the A&E powers-that-be are hoping that the homophobia can be excused as “traditional Christian values” or clueless-old-grandpa-syndrome. They realize the racism is actually potentially far more damaging, and they want to distract attention away from it.
Neither racism nor homophobia are in any way acceptable, or course. But Christianity does not provide a “get out of jail free” card for racism, in the way some people, unfortunately, believe it does for homophobia. Also, open racism has been socially unacceptable for many years, but polite society has only recently begun to frown upon open homophobia. Therefore, Robertson’s racism is ultimately more threatening to his career, and to the show, than his homophobia. We all saw how, just this year, Paula Deen’s unrepentant racism took down her cooking empire. No wonder why the A&E folks want to take the focus off the racism. But with powerful writings like Ta-Nehisi Coates’ post from yesterday, it’s going to be increasingly hard for A&E to turn a blind eye to Robertson’s racial ugliness.
The second point I wanted to make is a comparison between Duck Dynasty and the other mega-popular reality TV show about Southern, red America, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. I’m not a big reality TV watcher, and what reality TV shows I do watch tend, most often, to be of the trashy true crime genre. But I have enjoyed, albeit ambivalently, the episodes I’ve watched of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. The family in it is being mocked, of course, but they are also in on the joke. Above all, what viewers see is a family that is fun, loving, enormously likeable, and tolerant. As has been made clear more than once, the Thompson clan is very gay-friendly. You may ask, given the pageant world little Honey Boo Boo has spent so much time in, how could they not be? You’re about as likely to find a straight man working at a child’s beauty pageant as in the audience at a Liza MInnelli concert.
Still, the Honey Boo Boo show dramatized something that should be blindingly obvious to all, but that bears repeating, given the Duck Dynasty fiasco: being born and bred in red America doesn’t have to turn you into a bigot. I’ll leave the (next to) last words to Honey Boo Boo herself:
Out of the mouths of babes . . .