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Now that the fourth season premiere of A&E’s Duck Dynasty has shattered the record for the highest-rated show of its kind in history, even bicoastal liberals are starting to check it out. Good for them, because the story of the Louisiana boys made good is a rousing parable about what it means to be sons and daughters of this country. As Phil Robertson, the inventor of the family duck call that made a fortune, once put it, “It’s America, let it rip.” Here are five reasons Duck Dynasty is the great All-American show of the moment.
1. The Robertsons are good ol’ boys.
Nothing turns up the nose of the elites and the Eurosnobs as much as the notion of a good ol’ boy, a redneck, a country bumpkin. Sensitive San Franciscans and multicultural Brooklynites alike revel in jokes about white trash, the only ethnic group it’s acceptable to look down on.
Television shows and movies generally avoid mention of places like Louisiana unless it’s to make fun of the inhabitants or to portray the Deep South as a hotbed of racism, extremism and hatred in general. But the family behind the Duck Commander fortune is an easygoing clan of honest, simple, unpretentious folk who love one another, play practical jokes, and stick to country values. The good ol’ boy is an almost uniquely American personality type. You’d be hard pressed to find a good ol’ boy in China or Germany.
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2. They’re Christians.
The Robertsons are unapologetic Christians who use the Ten Commandments as a business rulebook, say Grace before meals, speak out about the sanctity of life, and practice abstinence before marriage. This puts them under a cloud of suspicion: can Christianity really be the foundation for loving relationships instead of the way secular liberals think of it (but never Islam) — as an excuse for intolerance, backwardness and even violence?
Though many of the founders were not religious, they still respected Judeo-Christian values as an excellent basis for citizenship. They also recognized that some truths were so basic that even the state could not intrude. In the nation-shaping words of the Declaration of Independence, Americans are “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Europeans for whom God is dead can’t understand this bedrock principle of natural rights.
3. They live and breathe the Second Amendment.
When the depressive gay British singer Morrissey bailed out of an appearance alongside the robustly carnivorous Robertson clan on Jimmy Kimmel Live, denouncing the duck dudes as “animal serial killers,” he reminded us all of why it was necessary to shoot our way out of British rule.
Morrissey is a confused vegan who, as Kimmel pointed out, seems not to have noticed that late-night shows are supported by steak house advertisements. So it’s okay to appear on a show that is paid for by selling dead animals, but standing near duck hunters is morally outrageous? How far does Morrissey want to take this?
Not very far, it turns out: at a recent show at L.A.’s Staples Center, he demanded that the venue go meat-free. It didn’t, though the on-site McDonald’s closed for the evening and backstage went meatless. Kimmel was joking when he said on the show, “There’s a very good reason why I didn’t dump Duck Dynasty. It’s because they have guns and Morrissey doesn’t.”
But the Second Amendment has a serious purpose, and it’s to provide the last line of defense, should it be needed, to guarantee individual liberties against humorless scolds like Morrissey who are forever trying to impose their values on others.
4. They built a business from the ground up.
Decadent Europeans look down on trade, casting self-made men as “nouveau riche,” because they prefer to laze about in country estates paid for by some dead, harder-working forebear. That isn’t the American way.
Americans believe in the sanctity of honest labor, even if they’re already successful, and we not only don’t hold entrepreneurship against our self-made men, we actually respect them more than those who inherit wealth. Family patriarch Phil Robertson, aka the Duck Commander, identified a market niche, developed a quality duck call product over 30 years of perfectionism, and launched a business.
His son Willie used his business-school savvy to grow market share and widen the reach of the product to the point where sales are in the hundreds of thousands each year and Duck Commander calls are sold coast-to-coast. Now the family is leveraging its personality to create a second, even more lucrative business of products tied-in to the TV show: they have already produced bestselling books, and a Duck Dynasty t-shirt is the best-selling graphic tee in Walmart’s men’s, women’s, and boy’s departments.
5. They are who they are.
Huge beards? Camouflage? Bayou accents? Millionaires living in a double-wide built 30 years ago? In the Robertsons’ eyes, being true to your roots, unlike the grandchildren of Phil and Miss Kay they suspect of turning into “yuppies,” is the source of true satisfaction.
The Robertsons are so comfortable with who they are that even the Daily Beast was forced to notice that “their decidedly non-millionaire dress code is a sort of visual cue for the humble, conservative values they embody: The Robertsons are portrayed as a tight-knit, devout family who put loyalty, love, and their church above all else.”
That’s the land of opportunity: a country founded by mistrusted members of subcultures who didn’t feel free to do as they pleased. At last, in an untamed land, they struck out onto their own little patch of territory to do their thing without having to march to anyone else’s drum. What could be more American than doing your thing exactly as you please?