Thursday, December 19, 2013

Duck Dynasty and Hiding Homophobia

This is one of those times when I wonder if this is going to come out right...

You've probably heard about the recent controversy surrounding the show Duck Dynasty. In case you're new to this, Duck Dynasty is a show about a self-described "white-trash" family from Louisiana who got rich from making duck-calls. One of the characters, the patriarch Phil, recently got himself into hot water with some comments he made about homosexuality. You can probably guess them--it's ungodly. It's just like bestiality. And so on.

Let me be perfectly clear: these views, and these comments, are disgusting. Irredeemably so. Anyone who knows me knows (I hope) that I'm a strong, vocal supporter of LGBT equality, and I find these kinds of views repellant. So, I'm not about to say anything which undermines that--no, "It really wasn't that bad, was it?" Yes; It is that bad. No, "Everyone's entitled to their own religious views, right?" Sure--you're entitled to them, and I'm entitled to find them repulsive.

At the same time, I want to express some discomfort with the fact that A&E, creators of the show, suspended Phil. I'm not saying that it was the wrong decision (it was probably exactly the right decision), but that there's an aspect of it which doesn't sit well with me.

This has become a fairly regular, and depressing, pattern. Some star says something awful about gays, or African-Americans, or some other group, and there is (appropriate) outrage and disgust in reaction, and then the show, or team, or some other authority suspends them. Again--on one level (the most important level, I'd think), that's good. That's what I want. I'm fine with them being punished for airing these toxic views.

But, at the same time, I can't get away from the feeling that we're, intentionally or not, hiding these kinds of hatreds and bigotries away. We're not eradicating them, we're just pushing them off camera.

Stereotypes of this kind of person (rural, hillbilly, etc) being what they are, fair or not, was anyone surprised by what he said? Even if it hadn't come from someone who looks like he does, would anyone be surprised that someone thinks this way, and is willing to say it? It's not exactly an obscure, minority position, if you know what I mean. By suspending him, by removing him and his views from the show, nothing in reality has changed; we're now just seeing a falsely sanitized version of that world.

And, if we keep doing this, aren't we just doing the same on a larger scale.

Again, I'm not suggesting that A&E should have done something differently. I know that punishing these views, that labeling them as unacceptable and refusing to honor (or reward) someone who spews them is the right thing to do, and is (maybe more importantly) part of how we define, as a society, what is unacceptable. That's one step towards eventually eradicating those views. But, at the same time, pretending that those views aren't out there, wiping our hands of any connection with them and getting back to our entertainment feels--what? Too easy?

A&E did the right thing. But, somehow I'm left feeling like there's more to the story than just that.

1 comment:

Jerry said...

You know, it seems we all believe in freedom of speech. I also believe that freedom does not indemnify you against disagreement or even condemnation for your views. I ALSO believe that all convictions are not created equal, and one must stand up to those that are hateful and bigoted. I put Mr. Robinson's views in that category. The fact that he believes his bible supports him or he believes Jesus is on his side does not alter that in the least. History is full of stupidity in the name of some god or another.

Jason, I don't think you have anything to fear about these views being hidden. Mr. Robinson's defenders are amplifying them, while at the same time declaring themselves persecuted. I would quote Emerson to them: "Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted."