Bitter Clingers Have Taken Over Your Television, or How America Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Duck
In praise of A&E's runaway hit Duck Dynasty.
April 24, 2013 - 3:00 pm
Did you hear that? The shotgun blast heard ‘round the world? It happened when A&E Network’s hit reality TV show Duck Dynasty reached over 8 million viewers in its season premiere.
Like any gunshot, it got my attention. I tuned in to see what all the fuss is about and am now hopelessly hooked on this revolutionary bit of televised perfection. I quickly discovered that Duck Dynasty has very little to do with ducks or duck hunting, and everything to do with traditional American values and the current American condition.
Like all great television, Duck Dynasty works because it follows a proven formula. In the case of Duck Dynasty, that formula is the roadmap to realizing the quintessential American dream. Have a clever idea. Sacrifice. Work harder than the next guy. Make it happen. Earn your wealth the old-fashioned way. Pass the business and its blessings along to your children and grandchildren. Have fun. Never forget where, or what, you came from. Give thanks to God. Repeat.
Like most rednecks and hillbillies, the starring members of the Robertson clan of West Monroe, Louisiana, are as clever as the proverbial old swamp fox. And so are the development execs at A&E. With Duck Dynasty they’ve struck more than ratings gold. They’ve struck a vital nerve in contemporary American culture. And I think they know exactly what they are doing.
Each week millions think they’re tuning in to watch the crazy and entertaining antics of a bunch of rich rednecks with beautiful wives, powerful trucks, bountiful firearms, a knack for explosives and avoiding the drudgery of work, and an endless supply of homespun one-liners.
If annual sales, endorsement deals, and TV ratings are any indicator, the brand of Americanism these swamp rats are peddling is white lightning in a bottle. Down-on-our-luck, out-of-hope, and sick-and-tired-of-change Americans can’t get enough of Duck Dynasty’s message, or its messengers. They take us back to the ideals that really work in this country.
Another T.V. rule that proves key to Duck Dynasty’s success is “show, don’t tell.”
Duck Dynasty never tells its audience how to live their lives, what to believe, or whom to accept. Instead, Duck Dynasty shows you its core values. And those values translate to both a refresher course in what made America great, and an object lesson in the values it must cling to in order to weather the financial, political, and culture storms that currently batter the nation now.
For example, the Robertsons shamelessly teach their daughters and granddaughters how to handle a shotgun. They let their sons and grandsons experience the value of hard labor. They resourcefully bundle and sell a “mess” of fish they’ve caught in a friendly competition. They repair a worn-out barbecue grill instead of replacing it under a warranty to which they are entitled. They haggle for deals when they could easily pay the list price for anything they want. Most touching of all, grizzled old Uncle Si gladly allows his grand-nieces to paint his fingernails, apply lip gloss, and attire him in a dress for a real tea party.
If I had to guess, I’d say that the crazy old uncle, Silas Robertson, is a Tea Partier, as he reportedly consumes nearly two gallons of this Southern staple every day from an ever-present jug.
If Duck Dynasty staked out a political position on either side of dead center, it wouldn’t enjoy anything like its current ratings success. Evidently West Monroe, Louisiana, is the place where viewers of Fox and CNN can actually meet in the middle.
Another redeeming value of the show is that the Robertsons are truly tolerant. They might not understand you or agree with your fashion, sexual, or political choices, but they’ll make you feel welcome, work to find common ground, and save most of the beard scratching for later.
That’s not to say that the Duck Commanders accept the current state of affairs in this country. While Uncle Si can easily discuss the finer points of Star Wars and the Black Eyed Peas (both the band and the entree), his brother Phil often waxes philosophical on the perceived softness and helplessness of today’s youth, the wastefulness of modern culture, the destructive distraction of electronic devices, the oppressiveness of office work, and the restorative power of getting back to the woods — something most of his viewers have probably never done.
In the end, Duck Dynasty is just televised entertainment made to peddle consumer products at commercial breaks. Sure, the reality it presents is not entirely real. Many of the weekly scenarios feel like they’re lifted straight from an episode of I Love Lucy. But Duck Dynasty reminds us that a huge majority of gun-owning Americans use firearms responsibly and don’t need to be controlled, that the American dream still comes true if you only follow the formula, that you really can “build that” on your own, and that each days ends a little better when we return thanks to the One who provided it, and for the ones who make it worth living.