Thursday, December 19, 2013

On the Duck Dynasty "Controversy"

Duck Dynasty: Here is a group of savvy entrepreneurs who can very conveniently and profitably appear to be a cozy, "salt of the earth" family of back country hicks.  Just plain folks all over the country have swallowed this act hook, line and sinker, and have put these reality stars on some kind of an "idolized everyman" pedestal.

The family patriarch made some statements on the record that reflect his personal morals.  Fine.  Who cares, really?  If his version of heaven is populated by people like him, I certainly wouldn't be caught dead there. 

But don't forget, this guy is an employee of the network, the network has sponsors, and sponsors react to this kind of thing.  I remember the days when the stars of TV shows actually DID the commercials for the sponsors.  They had to appear to use and love that sponsor's product, and they always had to comport themselves, on screen and off, in such a manner that the sponsors would be satisfied that the actors represented the image the sponsor wanted to convey.  That was part of the job.  The hard part, arguably;  perhaps even the part that made what they did WORTH the silly sums of money they got paid.  In return for keeping up the required appearances, stars got paid very handsomely and were the beneficiaries of a lifestyle few non-celebrities could enjoy.   TV personalities who did not toe that line were not TV personalities for very long.   

All you out there hollering about Mr. Duck Dynasty's "free speech" should think very hard about what kind of behavior a star--who is, in the end, merely an employee--should be required to display in exchange for the ridiculous amounts of money he rakes in purely for being "a star."  You say that an employer is not allowed to dictate what a person does outside of work?  How many teachers have been fired due to moral outrage over some behavior they have displayed either in their past (nude photos?) or private lives (gay teachers are routinely fired.)  For that matter, how many sports icons have lost lucrative sponsorship contracts due to the exposure of some kind of less-than-desirable off-the-field conduct?

The silliest part of this entire mish-mash is, Robertson hasn't been fired.  A & E can safely "suspend" the guy because they already have most of next season's episodes in the can.  Do you think the network would actually cease production on a (mystifyingly) wildly popular cultural phenomenon (!!?!?!) over this?  Not gonna happen.  Remember, for the networks, it's ALL about money.  A & E is simply trying to mollify sponsors while doing nothing to jeopardize their golden goose.

The real calamity in all this is not that A & E has violated Robertson's right to free speech.  It's the network's meaningless pretense of moral outrage over the situation.  The network is trying to pacify everyone, yet come out on the other side of the controversy with its money-maker still intact; and it looks ridiculous doing so.  Sigh!  A & E--once the network of "Pride and Prejudice" and "The Hornblower Saga,"  now an endless parade of outrageous "reality" shows designed to buy 100% into the dumbing down of the national dialogue.  How the mighty have fallen...   

Update:  Can I call them, or can I call them:  Phil Robertson Will Return to Duck Dynasty in January

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