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The Gosselin Twins Get Some Payback

Friday, January 17th, 2014 - by Bethany Mandel

Wow, this was painful. The oldest of the Gosselin twins, Mady and Cara of Jon & Kate Plus 8 fame, publicly humiliated their mother on national television this morning. While I normally would never cheer such behavior, Kate deserved it for clearly dragging her daughters onto TV, where they spent their entire childhoods, to force them to proclaim that they loved being reality TV stars and would happily become ones again.

The New York Post’s headline for the trainwreck, “Kate Gosselin’s Twins Freeze Up on ‘Today’ Show” doesn’t do the moment justice. They clearly didn’t freeze up in a moment of panic; there was genuine and palpable hostility between the daughters and their mother. Growing up in front of cameras may not have been the healthiest of environments, but it certainly acclimated the girls to the spotlight. The 13 year-old twins were asked to lie on national television about the impact of having their childhoods, and later their parents’ very messy divorce, play out in public. To their credit, they refused to bite. The Post lays out just how tense the moment was:

“This is their chance to talk. This is the most wordless I’ve heard them all morning,” red-faced mom Kate Gosselin said.

“I don’t want to speak for them. But Mady go ahead, sort of the things that you said in the magazine – that years later, they’re fine. Go for it Mady.”

Mady responded: “No, you just said it.”

The Gosselin girls spoke to People magazine earlier this month, explaining that their parents’ decision to put them TV wasn’t a damaging experience.

But given the chance to repeat that line, Cara and Mady went virtually silent.

Savannah Gunthrie asked the girls how their family, bruised and battered by divorce, was doing. It was this question the teenagers refused to answer. Later in the segment Mady did speak up, rather unconvincingly, about the damage (or lack thereof) that being reality TV stars did to their upbringing. Given which questions the girls refused to answer, and which they did, it appears that they may not lay the blame for their childhoods at reality TV’s doorstep. Having family vacations televised probably wasn’t quite as damaging as watching, along with the rest of the country, as their parents divorced and then galavanted across tabloid pages with their new flames.

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Nomenklatura on Free Speech: Duck That!

Thursday, December 26th, 2013 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Unless you’re fortunate enough to prefer reading or still be avoiding the Facebook trend, you’ve been bombarded with arguments over Duck Dynasty‘s Phil Robertson’s statements regarding homosexuality published in the most recent edition of GQ magazine.  For the record, here’s what the guy actually said after being prompted by the GQ reporter with the question, “What, in your mind, is sinful?”

“Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality,  sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men,” he  says. Then he paraphrases Corinthians: “Don’t be deceived. Neither the  adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the  greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won’t inherit the  kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.”

… “We never, ever judge someone on who’s going to heaven, hell.  That’s the Almighty’s job. We just love ’em, give ’em the good news about  Jesus—whether they’re homosexuals, drunks, terrorists. We let God sort ’em out  later, you see what I’m saying?”

Bottom line: The nomenklatura outcry is over a man who quoted a Bible verse and backed it up with the philosophy that anyone is as free to live his life as he is to live his own and we should all love each other. The nomenklatura supports Obama, who prefers to negotiate nuclear war with Iran, a country that openly persecutes homosexuals as “diseased.” Yet, the nomenklatura denies a maker of duck calls the right to free speech. According to openly gay Camille Paglia, the culture war erupting here is a battle between freedom of speech and the return of the Soviet empire on American soil:

“I speak with authority here because I was openly gay before the ‘Stonewall Rebellion,’ when it cost you something to be so,” she said. “And I personally feel as a libertarian that people have the right to free thought and free speech. In a democratic country, people have the right to be homophobic as they have the right to support homosexuality — as I 100 percent do. If people are basing their views against gays on the Bible, again they have a right to religious freedom there … to express yourself in a magazine in an interview -– this is the level of punitive PC, utterly fascist, utterly Stalinist, OK, that my liberal colleagues in the Democratic party and on college campuses have supported and promoted over the last several decades. It’s the whole legacy of the free speech 1960′s that have been lost by my own party.”

In the ultimate example of framing, the American nomeklatura is using one man’s words as a weapon against him in the war over what is constitutionally permitted versus what is nomenklaturally popular. Interestingly, this battle in the culture war is illustrating what history has already proven true: The best weapon to defeat the Stalinist nomenklatura is the free market.

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Free Association for Some: The Hypocrisy Fueling the Duck Dynasty Flap

Tuesday, December 24th, 2013 - by Walter Hudson

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As the drama surrounding cable network A&E’s suspension of Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson enters its second week without losing steam, our analysis of the incident becomes more refined by critical thought. Where emotional reactions at first prevailed, we now see thoughtful consideration of why this episode matters so much to so many people.

Caring about Phil Robertson and his ordeal says something about those who stand with him. It reveals a solidarity informed by shared values, and similar experiences. For Christians in today’s increasingly secularized culture, there exists a persistent subversion of our religious expression. While it often takes the form of private censure, as it has in Robertson’s case, the influence of the state can be sensed bearing down on private decisions.

Perhaps that is why figures like Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck have mistakenly represented the suspension as a violation of Robertson’s free speech rights. As reported in City Pages, the Minnesota chapter of the ACLU sought to set the record straight in a blog post last week:

The Constitution protects you from the government violating your rights. Phil Robertson, of Duck Dynasty, has not been arrested or charged with a crime for his comments about gays (nor should he be), he has been [indefinitely suspended] by a private employer for making these comments.

Phil Robertson has the right to make whatever homophobic or racist comments he wants without fear of going to prison for it, however he does not have the right to have his own TV show, or to say what he wants without negative reactions from his employer or people in the community.

While this interpretation proves correct, we need not look far to see how unequally it is applied. What if, instead of Phil Robertson expressing his Christian view of homosexuality, A&E had suspended a gay reality show star for coming out of the closet and advocating for gay marriage? Would the ACLU and City Pages and their allies on the Left be so eagerly reminding us of the cable network’s freedom of association?

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You Might be Sick of Hearing About It. But You’ve Been Hearing About It for a Reason.

Friday, December 20th, 2013 - by Walter Hudson

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Reacting to a phenomenal wave of activity across social media in the wake of cable network A&E’s suspension of Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson for expressing his Christian view of homosexuality, many liberty activists have voiced frustration with the amount of attention a reality show can garner while — in their view — far more pressing issues persist. Some have even suggested that the entire drama has been orchestrated by the media to divert attention from issues like the implosion of Obamacare or the expanding NSA spying scandal.

Here’s a sample which exemplifies the sentiment of many:

I really wish people got half as outraged about things that actually matter as they do about stuff that happens on reality shows. I am so tired of it!

And another:

If you’re more upset that Phil Robertson got kicked off of A&E than you are that a US Drone bombed a wedding in Yemen last week killing 15 civilians, you might be part of the problem.

There’s an irony here which ought to command our attention. The essence of liberty emerges as the principle of individual rights, the recognition that each person retains the prerogative to form their own value judgments. The political left rejects that principle, insisting that individuals surrender their chosen values and adopt those deemed superior by an elite ruling class. Their willingness to wield force and compel others to forsake chosen values metastasizes from an initial conviction that people ought to think a certain way. Getting upset about how upset someone else gets about something you don’t think they should be upset about… it really says more about you than it does about them. It manifests from a latent bit of tyranny which would make others reorient their values.

These are friends of mine making the above comments. And God knows I’ve made similar comments in other contexts. While that doesn’t necessarily mean we’re all a bunch of tyrants, it should trigger a thoughtful consideration of why people value the things they value.

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Who Are You to Judge Duck Dynasty‘s Phil Robertson?

Thursday, December 19th, 2013 - by Paula Bolyard

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In response to the “indefinite hiatus” of Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson for his straightforward (if inelegant) comments to GQ expressing his personal belief that the Bible teaches that homosexuality is a sin, Democrat Party political pollster Bernard Whitman appeared on Megyn Kelly’s show on Wednesday night. Whitman said, in essence, that Christians no longer have the right to publicly express their views on homosexuality unless they only express agreement with the homosexual lifestyle. Whitman made the following statements:

  1. “He is not entitled to be on TV spouting hate.”

  2. “It’s time that we stop agreeing that religion can be used as a weapon to spew hate and cause people to feel bad about themselves and who they are and who they love.”

  3. “If he wants to go out and have hate speech…if he wants to go out and have hate speech all over America — and hate speech conventions — by God, let him do it, but it shouldn’t have to be in the public square where people have to tune in and see that sort of thing.”

  4. “You can have your private beliefs but they don’t have to be aired on public networks.”

  5. “I think that he can’t hide behind the veil of Christianity or any religion and use that as a weapon to indict people, to condemn people or make them feel ‘less than.’”

  6. “I think it’s a matter of first understanding what the true meaning of spirituality is or Christianity is or Judaism is or Islam is and that is, ‘love thy neighbor as thyself.’ As Pope Francis recently said about gay people, ‘Who am I to judge?’ Clearly, the Duck Dynasty guy, Robertson, is judging. There’s just no place for that in religion, I think.”

I have a few questions for Mr. Whitman and others who want to silence Phil Robertson and millions of other Americans who agree with his sincerely held and constitutionally protected religious beliefs:

  1. Why are you entitled to be on TV spouting hate toward the views of Robertson?

  2. When are you going to stop using your lifestyle as a weapon to spew hatred toward Christians, causing them to “feel bad about themselves and who they are” and the God they love?

  3. What gives you the right to determine that Robertson’s comments are “hate speech” while your accusations of bigotry are not? And if you shouldn’t “have to tune in and see” the sort of thing that Phil Robertson expressed (note: Robertson expressed his views on homosexuality in a magazine article, not on TV), why should Americans who disagree with your lifestyle have to tune in to Megyn Kelly’s show to see the “sort of thing” that they find offensive?

  4. Why should your beliefs alone be represented and permitted on the public airwaves and in the public square while the beliefs of Robertson are silenced? What makes your beliefs superior to or more correct than his?

  5. Why are you permitted to hide behind the veil of “no matter who they love” and use that as a weapon to condemn people and make them feel ‘less than’?

  6. Who are you to judge? What gives you the right to judge Phil Robertson or any other Christian — let alone define and decree what their personal religious beliefs should be. As a self-proclaimed Jew, I don’t think you really have a lot of jurisdiction over Mr. Robertson’s statements of faith and doctrine.

Do you not see that you are guilty of the very accusations you level against Roberson?

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Duck Dynasty Daughter Shows Off New Line of Daddy-Approved Prom Dresses

Monday, September 16th, 2013 - by Paula Bolyard

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In an episode of A & E’s Duck Dynasty last season, Sadie, the teen daughter of the Robertson clan’s Willie and Kori, needed a dress for the homecoming dance. Like many families, daddy and daughter had different ideas about suitable attire for the dance. Willie ordered Sadie to return the first dress she purchased.

“Is there something wrong with it?” Sadie asked.

“Yeah, there’s not enough material,” Willie complained. “Does Sadie look nice in her dress? Yes. But it’s the kind of nice the boys at school are going to think is really nice. And that’s going to make me really uncomfortable. Because she’s really young and she’s really my daughter. And I’m really accurate with a crossbow.

Willie echoed the feelings of thousands of parents around the country when he said, “It’s just that my daughter’s dressed up like she’s thirteen going on twenty.”

That resulted in a long afternoon at the formalwear boutique, with Willie rejecting one dress after another (while Uncle Si modeled tuxedos). An exasperated Sadie finally used her cell phone to call her mom from the fitting room for an assist.

The Robertsons, a family very open about their Christian faith on Duck Dynasty, eventually settled on a dress, but the show highlighted the very real problem of immodest and age-inappropriate formal attire designed for teens. While part of the problem is that the teens want to wear skimpy, body-clinging gowns, it is also true that dresses that are both modest and fashionable are often in short supply.

Hoping to change that, Sadie Robertson, age 16, made her debut on the runway at New York Fashion Week last week showing off her new line of “daddy approved” prom dresses that will be available next spring. Robertson collaborated with designer Sherri Hill to create the line and modeled two of the gowns at the Evening By Sherri Hill show at Trump Tower on Monday night.

Hill, who asked Sadie to be the celebrity spokesmodel for the line — called Sadie Robertson Live Original — worked with Sadie to create dresses both she and her father would approve of.

“Me and my mother and my grandma went to Sherri Hill’s place and we all picked out ‘daddy approved’ length,” Sadie told Fox News. “She also added a couple inches to some that we loved but weren’t modest.”

Sadie said that her dad had to approve all the gowns before they were accepted into the line. She follows the “finger-tip rule,” making sure all dresses are at list finger-tip length and said that “everything is modest up here,” referring to the bodices.

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Love Wars: When the Loser Strikes Back

Wednesday, August 28th, 2013 - by Becky Graebner
family-centered-shows-jon-and-kate-plus-8-and-17-and-counting-now-19-and-counting-came-front-and-center-in-2008

Happier Times…

 

Check out the previous installments of Becky Graebner’s ongoing series exploring Netflix’s Orange is the New Black:

July 24: Orange Is the New Black: Can a Women-in-Prison Sitcom Succeed?

July 31: 4 Dumb TV Cliches I Hope Orange Is the New BlackAvoids

August 7: Piper Chapman: Dislike-able Protagonist AND Future Heroine?

August 14: Orange is The New Black Creator Doesn’t Seem To Be a Big Fan of Men…

August 21: Prisons Run on Hope (And Cup O’Noodles)

Spoiler Warning….

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Remember Jon & Kate Plus 8?  Despite the adorable sextuplets, angelic twins, and a booming TLC show, the parents of this famous family suffered through a very hostile (and a very public) divorce in 2009.  It was ugly.  Kate got the house, the kids, and Jon ended up with, well, all of his Tom Hardy clothes.  In the months and years that followed, the news periodically reported small scuffles between the TLC stars; Kate was made out to be a crazy woman and Jon a deadbeat dad.

The spats continue to this day.  Just yesterday, the Gosselins reappeared in the news because Jon did something stupid and Kate wants to sue him.  My first thought was, “Wow, really, Jon?”  My second thought was, “Is he acting out against Kate because he needs the income and publicity?  Is he really just a jerk or is he attempting to deal with heartbreak and change in his own way and is just failing?”

I’m starting to think that Jon is doing both: he’s acting out against Kate because he cannot deal with his own demons.  It’s honestly sad and Jon needs help.

Larry Bloom in Netflix’s Orange is the New Black reminds me a little bit of Jon Gosselin.  Like Jon, Larry is also stuck between a rock and a hard place… both men seem to have semi-lost their minds over a woman and family that they love-or used the love.  Similar to Jon’s antics, Larry sometimes acts like a spineless jerk, but it’s probably due to his inability to deal with his own demons and separation from the woman he loves.  I’ve been hard on the Larry character, but, in the end, he might be worthy of some compassion—so might Jon and Kate Gosselin.

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Best Moments from the Season Premier of Duck Dynasty

Thursday, August 15th, 2013 - by Paula Bolyard
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I’m almost embarrassed to admit that I watched Duck Dynasty for the first time on Wednesday. It’s so popular in our area that it’s almost considered unpatriotic if you can’t carry on an intelligent conversation about the Robertson family. In fact, so many people at our church watch the show that I’m beginning to think we belong to a cult. My own son has been seen running around Wayne County wearing a Duck Dynasty t-shirt (causing me the same consternation Captain von Trapp felt in The Sound of Music when his children were seen hanging from trees in Salzburg wearing clothing made from old drapes).

Wednesday night A&E aired the long-awaited season premiere of the hit reality series. The Robertson family, operators of the Duck Commander business in West Monroe, Louisiana, began their fourth season by celebrating the anniversary of Phil and Miss Kay, who were married before a justice of the peace 49 years ago.

Phil told the judge, “We got our blood tests here that proves we don’t have any venereal diseases.”

The judge answered, “You got good, clean blood. You want her?”

“Yeah.”

To which the judge answered, “Give me $15.”

“That’s the best $15 I ever borrowed,” recalled Phil.

That’s no girl’s idea of a dream wedding, so Phil and Miss Kay’s daughters-in-law decided to throw them a surprise ceremony to renew their vows.

It fell on Uncle Si to keep Phil and Miss Kay busy the day of the wedding while the rest of the family prepared for the surprise ceremony. He invited them out for an anniversary ice cream run, but Phil was skeptical. “Let me get this right. My little brother, Silas Robertson, nekked up until he was 6 years old, offered to take us somewhere on our anniversary? And we’re actually going to do this?”

Miss Kay said, “He said ice cream. Won’t that be fun?”

Phil scoffed, “He ran nekked until he was 6 years old.” Phil spoke to the camera, “Supposedly he’s going to put us on an ice cream run. That’s what you do when you run out of things to do. Is that what he said, ice cream? Boy, I am fired up about that. That’s post-retirement. That’s almost the beginning stages of dementia, probably.”

Miss Kay tried to reassure her husband of 49 years: “It’s our anniversary today, so be happy, happy, happy!”

Phil intoned, “Oh, I’m happy, happy happy. Don’t doubt that. You and I ought to swing by the clinic.”

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Abandoned Children as Game Show Prizes In Pakistan!

Monday, August 12th, 2013 - by Sarah Hoyt

 A Real, Live Baby!

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A good definition of evil is where we forget humans are humans and treat them as things. And if that’s the case, there’s a new Pakistani game show that is as evil as can be: A game show host in Pakistan has defended his decision to give away abandoned babies to childless couples live on TV.

No, I am not joking, nor would I be about something like this. And while I know that CNN – layers and layers of fact checkers – is not a good authority, CNN reported it.

Apparently abandoned children are being picked up by an organization and turned over to this show to give away to childless parents. The talk show host defends his actions this way:

Aamir Liaquat Hussain, who has handed out two baby girls so far, denied the giveaways were a publicity stunt.

He claimed the babies would have been ”eaten by cats or dogs” had they not been discovered by the show.

Is he claiming this is what normally happens when babies are not picked up by this organization? Or when they’re not turned in to his show as a giveaway?  Is he claiming this is the only way for a society to deal with its unwanted babies?

I don’t know. Maybe these children will be loved and cherished as they deserve to be. But starting out by being treated as things and handed out as a prize doesn’t seem the way to start that relationship with their adoptive parents.

Terry Pratchett, notably in I Shall Wear Midnight says evil starts with treating people as things.  I’m not sure as a universal rule, but certainly treating people as things is a bad way of looking at them. Because people – children or not – aren’t things. They have quirks, and ideas of their own, and wants, and there will be difficult times ahead for these families.

We all know about lottery winners and easy comes easy goes when it comes to prizes – but what about when the prize is a baby?

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image  courtesy shutterstock / Lorelyn Medina

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Smearing the South: First Honey Boo-Boo, Now ‘The Angry Ginger’?

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013 - by Chris Queen

Honey Boo Boo/Angry Ginger

I thought having Honey Boo-Boo represent my home state of Georgia was bad enough. Now there’s another show planning to portray Southerners as absolute hicks:

Honey Boo Boo is getting some competition.

Another family from rural Georgia is coming to reality television, with “Hollywood Hillbillies” set to debut in January on ReelzChannel.

The show follows Michael Kittrell and his grandmother Delores Hughes, known as “Mema,” as the family moves from Grayson, Ga., to Hollywood. Along for the ride are Kittrell’s aunt, Dee Dee Peters, her boyfriend Paul Conlon, and Kittrell’s uncle John Cox.

Kittrell is known as “The Angry Ginger” on YouTube, where a video he made to protest a “South Park” episode that claimed redheads have no soul gained attention.

“I made a lot of money on my YouTube channel, and I saved it all from the past four years,” Kittrell said. “I got my family with me to support me and help me while we all look for our place out here.”

Alana “Honey Boo Boo” Thompson, her mother and their rural Georgia family are the subjects of a hit TLC show that focuses on their lives in a small town.

For the record, Grayson is not “rural Georgia.” In fact, it sits right in one of the largest suburban counties near Atlanta. But I digress.

Meet “The Angry Ginger.” Warning: some of the language is NSFW.

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Writer Armando Tinoco muses:

The inevitable similarities between both shows following a Southern family are going to be there, but will the public respond well to the new show?

“Honey Boo Boo” already has captivated the public on television and her show is broadcasted on the TLC channel that has an established audience. On the contrary, the show starring “Angry Ginger” will be aired on Reelz, which doesn’t have the same reach. It will be interesting to see if his subscribers from his YouTube channel migrated to watch his antics on television now.

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History Channel, This Is Why You Can’t Have Nice Things

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013 - by Chris Queen

Hatfields & McCoys

Last May, The History Channel (or, as they like to call themselves these days, History) aired the epic six-hour miniseries Hatfields & McCoys. Boasting such stars as Kevin Costner and Bill Paxton in its cast, the miniseries was bound to attract some attention. What History got was a critical and ratings success.

The critics had largely positive things to say about Hatfields & McCoys. Mary McNamara of the Los Angeles Times wrote, “Hatfields & McCoys transcends the confines of its age by revealing the feud’s posturing, resentments and callous violence that mirror the dynamics of modern urban gangs…” Entertainment Weekly‘s Ken Tucker said, “…overall, Hatfields & McCoys is engrossing, and enlightening about a feud that proves to be a lot more than the bumpkin brawl of pop legend.”

The first night three part movie scored the second-largest ratings for any non-sports program on cable (second only to High School Musical 2 – no joke). The second episode garnered comparable ratings, while the final part did even better, with 14.29 million viewers. The show drew 16 Emmy nominations – a record for The History Channel – winning six, including awards for Costner and costar Tom Berenger.

The miniseries even led to a boom in tourism among the feud’s actual locations in Kentucky, and the film’s success led History to double down on lush reenactments of historical events like this year’s big hit The Bible and the series Vikings.

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Bitter Clingers Have Taken Over Your Television, or How America Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Duck

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013 - by David Vickers

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. 

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Who’s to Blame for Fueling Pop Culture’s 5 Worst Female Stereotypes?

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

 

Poor Seth MacFarlane. The guy sings one song about boobs and suddenly he’s #1 on the Hates Women List with a Steinem next to his name.  (That means if they capture him, she gets to rag on him incessantly. Who wouldn’t want a bullet after that?)

It’d be too easy to join the chorus singing, “MacFarlane hates women.” As a woman, I despise the cop-outs women often take, chiding every man as being both the desired master of her universe and the despised crafter of her fate. If we really believe in Girl Power, what’s our responsibility in all of this? Are we allowing the fate scripted by guys like MacFarlane to come true?

It took about 10 minutes to pull video for the following five most common stereotypes about women portrayed in Family Guy. The sad news is that it took about 15 to pull five examples of the same behavior from the most popular Girl Power reality television show out there: The Kardashians. Praised by some feminists as career women comfortable in their own skin, it has been observed that “50 years ago, the Kardashians could never live the way they do. It’s all thanks to the Feminist movement that they are who they are – and they embrace every benefit from it fully.”

So, culture judges that you are, tell me: Is the evidence compelling? Is MacFarlane a He-Man Woman Hater, or do the Kardashians prove that girls finally busted through the glass ceiling in the tree house and joined the club?

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Doomsday Preppers Week 16: Shooters Vs. Runners

Saturday, March 23rd, 2013 - by Bob Owens

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: “_____  and  _____ are worried about an economic collapse.” National Geographic should simply change the name of their hit show from Doomsday Preppers to Surviving Obama and be done with it.

Where was I? Oh, I remember.

Brad and Krystal are the parents of three near Tulsa, Oklahoma, and worried about an economic collapse. They’ve been preppers for several years, and have amassed enough food stores that they are beginning to overwhelm their 2,000 sq. ft. home. Their closets and rooms are overflowing to the point that just to get into bed Krystal has to climb over Brad; her side of the bed is packed with canned food.

Moments after we are introduced to the family and shown around their warehouse/home, we shuffle off to the shooting range, where the family is intent on introducing their youngest son, six-year-old Carson, to shooting.

Putting a six year old in charge of a firearm sends up a big red flag to many people, whether they are shooters or not. In the end, it is a call that the parents and instructors have to make: is this specific child mature enough to follow instructions to the letter? Is the environment controlled, with limited distractions? Are all the basic safety rules being followed, and is that child’s exposure to the firearm tightly supervised, and restricted to the firing line? Is there a need/way to restrict the muzzle of the firearm so that it can only point downrange?

As a rifle-shooting instructor, these are some of the concerns that ran through my mind when I heard they were going to put Carson on the firing line, and it turns out those concerns were well-grounded.

The family can’t even get out of the house without serious safety violations, such as when their kids walk out the front door holding uncased firearms by the stocks, and young Carson is pointing the muzzle of his .22LR singe-shot at his sister’s ankles and their concrete driveway. Oy vey!

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Doomsday Preppers Weeks 14 & 15: Oops, My Bad

Saturday, March 16th, 2013 - by Bob Owens

It’s nearly impossible to review a show on the fly, so I’ve relied on DVRing each new episode of Doomsday Preppers, and reviewing it the next day. This worked great until last week, when for whatever reason episode 14, “A Fortress at Sea,” didn’t record. I chalked it up to there being a mid-season re-run (they happen), and didn’t know otherwise until a reader asked my why I didn’t review it. Oops.

So, this week we’re going to do the best we can and condense two episodes “A Fortress at Sea” and “Let Her Rip” into one post. Call it “Ripped at Sea,” which is what I’m going to wish I was after doing a twofer.

Ready? Here we go!

Kevin and Annissa Coy live in Washington atate and were impacted by the explosion of Mount St. Helens in 1980. Along with their children and grandchildren, they are preparing against the threat of another eruption from one of five active volcanoes within striking distance of their home, including the country-killer, Yellowstone.

They have multiple vehicles to bug-out in, including a truck towing a 5th-wheel RV, a converted Greyhound bus, a 27-foot sailboat on a trailer, and a rollback wrecker to tote a micro-house in case the worst happens. They’ve got livestock (chickens, pigs, rabbits, etc), a year’s supply of food for the entire family… and problems.

Prior to the show, their efforts, while generally well thought-out, had been hypothetical. When it came time to put the theory into practice, that hit several serious snags. The truck that they had to pull the livestock trailer was jacked up too high to connect to the trailer, so they were forced to leave most large livestock behind to die in the hypothetical ash cloud (sorry, Porky). The chickens and rabbits ended up shoved into the luggage compartments of the bus, and I frankly think they stand a decent chance of dying of carbon monoxide poisoning since those aren’t very well-ventilated.

The micro-house Kevin built for Annissa, sadly, wouldn’t load up on the flatbed. Presumably, they need a better skid system under it.

The show’s experts at Practical Preppers dinged the Coys pretty hard for not having adequate water filtration figured out (if someone knows of a volcanic ash-/sludge-rated water filter, please let me know) and for security preps. I was a little uncertain about that, but since the only firearms showed on their segment were a bolt action .22LR and a scoped-deer rifle, it might mean they didn’t have sufficient firepower and/or numbers, since it is rather difficult to drive and shoot. They give them 11 months of survival time.

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Doomsday Preppers Week 13: Pain Is Good

Thursday, February 21st, 2013 - by Bob Owens

Ah, lucky 13. We’ve hit the 13th episode of Doomsday Preppers, Season Two, and what have we learned so far?

We’ve developed an understanding that the single most common reason for prepping is the imminent collapse of the economy and the ensuing chaos that follows such an event. We’ve learned that the producers of this show — and to be fair, the producers of almost every “reality” show — have an eye for the eccentric and the absurd. The more outlandish and unhinged the prepper, it seems, the better chance they stand of getting on the show. That allowed, there have been some very ingenious preppers who have made the cut this season as well and impressed even the most grizzled critics with their ingenuity.

Craig Compeau lives in southeastern Alaska, the “last frontier,” with his wife and teenage daughters. The owner of a boat sales company, Craig fears an economic collapse and popular revolt that leads to martial law.

Should that eventuality come to pass, Craig intends to get his family out of Fairbanks fast and into Alaska’s rugged interior where limited government forces aren’t likely to try and chase down individual families in the bush.

For the time being, Craig’s family is split up. His wife and older daughter are in a different part of Alaska pursuing medical degrees, while he keeps the home-fires burning and the preps, er, prepping. This isn’t easy on his younger daughter, Emily, who, like most teens, thinks her parents are nuts.

True to form for the show, Craig wakes Emily before dawn and takes her on on a forced retreat to their bug-out location.

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Doomsday Preppers Week 12: Rocks and Holes for Valentine’s Day

Thursday, February 14th, 2013 - by Bob Owens

In southeastern Tennessee, Doug is known as the “Rockman.” No, it has nothing to do with his passing resemblance to retired WWE wrestler Shawn Michaels, who was part of a tag-team called “The Rockers” in the 1980s, when Doug last cut his hair. Instead, Doug is called the Rockman for a far more direct reason: he finds, excavates, and sells rocks. Boulders, to be specific, of the visually appealing kind that find their way into carefully designed landscaping projects for commercials and residential clients. It takes a discerning eye, and not a small amount of brute force.

Like tens of thousands (if not millions) of Americans, Doug is worried about an economy he sees faltering and on the cusp of failing. This has become the most common recurring theme pushing people into prepping nationwide, both on and off the show.

In order to have something as a trade good after the expected collapse of paper dollars, Doug has come up with an interesting way to “prospect” for silver, at his local bank. Doug exchanges his paper money for roll after roll of half-dollar coins, and takes them home to crack them open. Once opened, he looks only at the edges of the coins, quickly discarding those that show copper, to single out older coins that might be made of silver. In the 2,000 half dollars he picked up during this bank run, 12 of them were older coins made with varying amounts of silver. The $6 of coins are actually worth more than $100 in silver. Doug will keep these for barter, while rolling the rest and shipping them back to the bank for their face value. One day soon, he’ll repeat the process again.

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Doomsday Preppers Week 11: Farmers and Flyboys

Thursday, February 7th, 2013 - by Bob Owens

John and Kelly Taylor are retired firefighters from Florida who have moved to the mountains of Virginia to live on a 41-acre homestead.

What led them to leave the Sunshine State?

Former emergency responders, they’ve been on duty during hurricanes and other natural disasters, and they’ve seen how thin the veneer of civilization can be when the infrastructure holding our society breaks down for even a little while. They’ve seen mankind go primal, and they want to insulate themselves from the social unrest that will follow what they feel is a coming economic collapse. Where have I heard that before? Oh yeah.

From everyone.

They invested all of John’s retirement into prepping. The little income they do have of $4,000-$6,000 a year comes from their solar panel array, which not only provides all the power they can use, but generates enough energy that they sell the remainder to the power company.

Between their crops, animals, and honey bees, the Taylors have managed to “check out” of the normal monetary economy, rendering them largely immune to the direct impact of the financial collapse they fear must come.

Of course, what they can’t do is isolate themselves 100% from the sort of social unrest that would presumably follow such a collapse, and so they’re taking steps to defend what they’ve built.

In the event that they are forced from their homestead due to invaders, they have supply caches in the hills nearby, and have a desire to protect them. Their solution? Conibear traps. I don’t claim to be an expert on trapping, but I’ve heard the stories of body traps such as these designed for possums and beavers killing family pets, and I find it both unethical and possibly illegal to set such traps and leave them unattended as they seem intent on doing. It’s also incredibly stupid. Do they really think a trap designed for a small animal is going to stop even the blind man that doesn’t see the shiny metal traps, or it is just going to tip invaders off that something nearby is worth taking?

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Doomsday Preppers Week 10: Survivors and Ghosts

Thursday, January 24th, 2013 - by Bob Owens

Lindsey and Ray are part of the urban agriculture movement, a movement that I personally support and encourage. Instead of getting all their food from the grocery stores (or worse, fast food restaurants) as too many Americans do today, they’ve taken to growing what they can, and seem to have embraced the relatively new concept of edible landscaping. They’re concerned about a collapse of the world agricultural system.

If you’re one of those people who wholeheartedly believes in global warming, stop sneering at Doomsday Preppers now; if global climate change really is upon us as some claim, then shifts in climate will lead to poor yields and even crops failures. Such shifts and the famines they caused are the most likely causes of the end of the Mayan and Egyptian empires, and affected us here in the United States to a lesser extent in the 1930s. Considering the massive shift from rural to urban lifestyles that has happened in the past 80 years, the overwhelming majority of us are reliant on a relative handful of American farmers.

Scared sober yet? Good.

In response to this threat, Lindsey has become an advocate for sustainable living, promoting her message through a call-in radio show to encourage her Idaho community to follow her lead.

While Lindsey focuses on promoting a sustainable lifestyle, her husband Ray is a former Marine intent on protecting Lindsey and their family from the rampaging hordes of starving people he expects to see if food supply collapses. He’s secured  for the family a bug-out location with simple cabins and a deep well, far away from other people and stockpiled with four years of supplies, communications gear, their own agricultural supplies to continue growing their own food, and, of course, weapons. Why?

Due in part to Lindsey’s radio show, she and Ray are well-known as being the most-prepared among their friends and family. Some — who of course don’t believe in prepping themselves — have told Ray, “If the sh*t hits the fan, we’re coming over to your place.” Ray, AK-pattern rifle in hand with a 30-round clip in place, says rather convincingly that no, they will not. Therein, chillingly stated by Ray with his takes-no-nonsense eyes, lies the harsh reality of prepping told through the fable of the grasshopper and the ant.

If you prep, you might live. If you live improvidently, and do not prepare for bad times, do not expect others to save you.

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Doomsday Preppers Week 9: In the Hurt Locker

Thursday, January 17th, 2013 - by Bob Owens


Lucas Cameron is a farmer like his father, and has been working the same plot of land his entire life. He’s also a devout Christian who volunteers in his church’s outreach ministries. His study of the Bible has convinced him that like the original prepper, Noah, he should prepare his family both in faith and in substance to endure the wrath of God. In particular, he is preparing for the great earthquake predicted in Revelations.

I watched as the Lamb broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake. The sun became as dark as black cloth, and the moon became as red as blood. Revelation 6:12

Then the thunder crashed and rolled, and lightning flashed. And a great earthquake struck–the worst since people were placed on the earth. Revelation 16:18

Lucas intends for his family to be among the delivered… and who can blame him? Towards that end, he works all day, every day, thinking about prepping his family for the End of Days, which he believes will occur on the New Madrid fault zone under his feet. To protect themselves against the anticipated lawlessness, they’ve spent roughly $50,000 fortifying the family farm, which they’ve dubbed “the Alamo.” Lucas is the second prepper this season (after Tom Perez) to dub his compound the Alamo. I wonder if either one is actually aware what happened to the defenders there.

Everybody died. If that is how you imagine you’ll end up, why bother prepping?

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Dear Sister Wives Star Kody Brown: Love Should Be Exclusive, not Divided

Monday, January 14th, 2013 - by Paula Bolyard

“Love should be multiplied, not divided.” — Sister Wives star Kody Brown

Polygamist Kody Brown and his four wives, featured on TLC’s reality show Sister Wives, challenges the show’s audience with that “prove me wrong” statement at the beginning of every episode. Now in its third season, Sister Wives follows the lives of Brown and his wives, Meri, Janelle, and Christine, all of whom he married in the early 1990s. The most recent addition, Robyn — younger, thinner, prettier — married into the family last season. The household also includes a total of 17 children (three of them Robyn’s from a previous marriage). The only legal marriage is between Kody and Meri.

Like most reality shows, there’s an element of train-wreck entertainment as we watch the daily lives of the “cast,” and like most reality shows, we can be certain that the editors and producers play a strong role in shaping the show’s narrative. In much of the first season, they portray the family as happy and loving — your average family next door — until they introduce the fourth wife, Robyn, and she and Kody begin courting. Jealousy between the wives begins to surface and escalates as Robyn and Kody eventually marry. There are serious cracks,  especially in the relationship between Christine and Kody now that she has been replaced as the the newest wife:

I have a lot of expectations and not a lot of appreciation, to be honest. And so, he’s walking into a hostile environment sometimes now. And we’re just at a point where we’re struggling to find ourselves. I don’t know if I care if it’s perfect anymore or if it’s what he wants anymore. It’s just so much work. And I know there’s a big payoff and I know for years and years we had a great marriage and a great thing. I just don’t know what I want anymore.

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Doomsday Preppers Week 8: Of Castles and Kings

Friday, January 11th, 2013 - by Bob Owens

This season of Doomsday Preppers has seen a real focus on preppers gearing up for a national or global economic collapse. Silly preppers! Didn’t you know all it takes to avoid that is a trillion-dollar coin?

Brent is a little different in that he is preparing for survival after an electromagnetic pulse (EMP), which can come from any number of sources, some natural and some man-made. The Carrington event is the best known natural EMP, and the bad news is that we are in a period in time where our sun is pumping out solar flares and coronal mass ejections with disturbing frequency. To date, the large “X” class flares like those Mr. Carrington saw in 1859 have missed Earth, but if one fires in our direction, our advance warning may be measured only in days before the side of the planet facing the flare goes back to the Dark Ages when our entire electrical grid and every bit of un-shielded electrical barbeques itself. Think this is a fear of fiction or old news? Think again: a minor solar storm put six million in the dark in Canada as recently as 1989.

Our hero, however, is fearful of the manmade kind of EMP, which occurs when a nuclear device detonates high in the atmosphere, frying everything in its bird’s eye view. It’s not something to scoff at: the U.S. government has military experts that view a nuclear-triggered EMP as our greatest threat.

A former engineer and military officer, Brent is building a castle in western North Carolina to protect his ten children, ranging in age from 8-41. His medieval dream house has 6,000 square feet of living space above the dirt, and a 2,000 square-foot bunker below. He’s spent a million dollars on it so far, and it won’t even keep you dry.

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Doomsday Preppers Week 7: Let’s Drown the Family

Thursday, January 3rd, 2013 - by Bob Owens

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: “I’m preparing for an economic collapse that will lead to violent social unrest.”

Airing as the federal government technically went bankrupt and over the “fiscal cliff” it cannot possibly avoid or recover from, this episode, which featured preppers who are gearing up for an economic collapse of the U.S. government and the violent social unrest that will follow, now seems prescient. Our fiscal insolvency is finally starting to hit home with many Americans.

Dangerously, this comes at a time just weeks after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, CT, which Democratic politicians are using as a cudgel to push for extremely wide-ranging gun control and confiscation. The single most powerful newspaper in the United States—which is deeply in bed with the Obama regime—has published an editorial calling for the destruction of the Constitution. Another newspaper published an editorial calling for the brutal murders of Republican leaders by dragging them to death behind vehicles.

Americans have responded to this threat from the federal government by purchasing firearms at unprecedented levels. Local gun stores have sold out of even World War-era rifles, and the nation teeters on the edge of rebellion.

Prepping for “violent social unrest” is now incredibly real to many Americans for the first time.

All the preppers this season who have prepared for this eventuality — which are roughly half of the show’s participants this season — are no doubt on high alert. And who can blame them?

Reality television is on the cusp of becoming a horrible reality.

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Amish Mafia: When Reality TV Finally Jumped the Shark

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013 - by Dave Swindle

Move over Honey Boo Boo. Now somebody calling himself Lebanon Levi, a kind of Amish Tony Soprano, has arrived for his 15 minutes of fame. From the show’s official description:

Untrusting of outside law enforcement, some Amish in Lancaster County, PA have for many years regularly turned to a small organized group of men for protection and justice. A sneak peek of Discovery’s new series Amish Mafia, which provides a first-ever look at the men who protect and maintain peace and order within the Amish community in Lancaster, will air Tuesday, December 11 at 10:30 PM ET/PT. The series will premiere Wednesday, December 12 at 9:00PM ET/PT.

The 2006 School shootings in Lancaster County during which five young Amish girls were killed and five more seriously injured by a non-Amish milk truck driver brought to the nation’s attention the vulnerabilities of the Amish community, and their need for continued protection.

When you think of the Amish, buggies, bonnets, peace and simplicity come to mind. In the historic Amish settlement of Lancaster, protection and “peace” can come at a price.

Lebanon Levi is the Amish insider who holds the power and serves as protector of the community for a price. He exists above the law and occupies the role of police, judge and jury. Levi’s team engages in a life outside of Amish and non-Amish community codes as he quietly exerts his influence and control. Levi’s brand of order is precise as he seeks to keep outside forces from infiltrating the Amish community, while keeping the principles and morality within the community in check.

Levi’s team is lean and fearless. Alvin is Levi’s right hand man and nobody gets to Levi without going through Alvin first. A lifelong friend, Alvin is at first glance an average passive Amish community member. However, he has a dark side, a past, and most importantly, Levi’s complete trust. Alvin will protect Levi at any cost.

At the beginning of every episode of Amish Mafia the producers admit that they utilize “select reenactments” in order to protect the innocent Amish. One need not watch much of the show to realize that everything is a reenactment and the documentary approach is just an aesthetic style. (Otherwise everyone involved in the show would be in jail as accessories to crimes. Stores depicted as “under Lebanon Levi’s protection” on the show make a big joke of it in real life.)

When “Reality TV” first began to rise in popularity more than a decade ago shows offered the thrill of supposedly “real people” overcoming real challenges out in the real world — not predictable, fictional characters in familiar scenarios with laugh tracks. But Amish Mafia amounts to little more than a sitcom shot in documentary style.

The show’s success speaks to culturally secular America’s continued need to wallow in criminality, the fantasy of vigilante justice, and the subversive thrill of blurring the sacred and the profane. If even a pious people like the Amish can’t get by without a corrupt thug-in-chief like Lebanon Levi to dispense his own brand of “justice,” then what hope is there for the rest of us?

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More on reality TV at PJ Lifestyle:

An Iranian-American In Defense of The Shahs of Sunset

Doomsday Preppers Week 6: Escape From New York

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