Fourth Time: Reality TV Is Not Real

Duck DynastyOkay, this is the fourth time. Three times before, I have written about “reality” television. And as regular readers know: I hate it and will not willingly watch it. But before we get to all that, let’s address the elephant in the room.

Phil Robertson said some hateful, but extremely typical, Christian things about our gay friends and family members. Just like I wrote about in The Sad Reality of Duck Dynasty, I don’t believe anything these people do or say. In that article, I was reacting to Phil Robertson’s complaints that the “editors” of the show were making it sound like the family were more foul mouthed than they are. Also, he was unhappy about the “editors” cutting out parts of their prayers. As I pointed out, Phil clearly understood the situation. He couldn’t complain about the producers (who were telling the editors what to do), because he’s surrounded by the producers. So he couldn’t reasonably complain about them without doing something like, you know, ending the show. So I have little doubt that Phil’s anti-gay comments to GQ were known about ahead of time by the producers of the show. Phil will be back on as soon as possible and it will all be great for the ratings.

So who, in the end, gives a quarter of a shit about what Phil Robertson thinks about anything? Unfortunately, many millions of people. It doesn’t matter that when the Writers’ Guild of America went on strike, all (All!) the reality shows had to be put on hold. It doesn’t matter that by this time, even a child can see the cliches that riddle “reality” television. Or any of the many scandals that prove just how unreal the whole genre is. People want to believe. And with Duck Dynasty, the wish to believe is on a whole higher level. Because these are “authentic” people who have good “Christian” beliefs. And they’re rich! American Christians really want to believe all that can go together.

By the time the real scandals start to break, the show will be on the decline anyway. I’m sure there’s some infidelity going on. Let’s face it: what keeps most men faithful is the lack of women who want them. And in this family, I wouldn’t even be surprised to see some Brian Earl Schwanke kind of pedophilia. But mostly, as I’ve noted before: this is just a very rich family that inherited the business and the money from daddy. And that’s why I was so interested to see CultOfDusty’s video, Duck Dynasty Is Fake! In it, he provides photos of all the family members before the show. And what do you know? No long beards! They just look like the rich white assholes they are.

Take a moment to think about that. Really, this is important. The beards? The camouflage clothing? That is make-up and costume design. If the make-up union or the costume designers union went on strike, Duck Dynasty would have to stop production. They are in costume! So look, like I said, I don’t give a quarter of a shit about these rich assholes and their weekly business advertisements. But if any of you out there think that they are any different than the Romney family, you’re totally wrong. Growing the long beards and dressing like hicks was part of their business strategy. And if you are a Christian who believes in this “family as commodity,” then you are lost to God and humanity.

But watch this video because it is fucking brilliant:

15 thoughts on “Fourth Time: Reality TV Is Not Real

  1. Both your column and that guy’s video make some good points; unfortunately they are obscured by expletive-heavy language that draws attention (mine, at least) away from the message. Couldn’t you have just said, "This video is brilliant"? Adding the word "fucking" doesn’t impress me, nor does your comment, "I don’t give a quarter of a shit about these rich assholes"? Quite the opposite, in fact.

    On the other hand, I suppose it’s possible that you are being intentionally ironic; I can only hope that’s the case.

  2. Perfect that the video featured a quote from Palin, a fellow non-entity whose 15 minutes would be long finished without skillful cultivation of the Christian Persecution Complex.

    No doubt you’re right, and the GQ "controversy" was intentional. The NYT non-fiction bestseller list had five books "by" these people on its list a few months ago. What does that tell us? It tells us that the marketing people know a fad when they see one, and know you have to milk interest in the product for what it’s worth before the fad fades.

    But, if it wasn’t this, it’d be something else. Fundamentalists HAVE to feel persecuted. So did Stalinists and Nazis. "They’re out to destroy us" is what gives these ideologies their lifeblood.

  3. @Don – It’s always a choice. That is the style of the blog. It is written about at the level of [i]Rolling Stone[/i]. However, when I’m writing about more serious topics (economics) or more fun stuff (puppets) I don’t use expletives that might offend. Let’s just say that you are probably not my target audience. Not all writing is for all people. And had I used "bloody" rather than "fucking" you would likely have not been offended, although people from some countries would have been far more offended.

    But there should be no fear of expletives. I love expletives and have written an entire musical play about them. They are just words and the language moves on over time. If you read my writing under "language," you will see that I am very much a grammar liberal. I highly recommend reading [i]Expletive Deleted[/i] by Ruth Wajnryb. It provides the larger context and history of "bad" language.

    I do, however, appreciate the input. And I work rather hard to get the tone right. I may have failed here. I don’t think so, but it will take time for me to evaluate it. It is an angry piece. It is not a staid analysis of a cultural phenomenon. Had it been, there would have been no coarse language.

  4. @JMF – I’m no so much interested in that, though. It just bugs me that the American Christian community is so easily led. The biggest problem isn’t [i]Duck Dynasty[/i] though. The biggest problem comes from their churches. This is why I think that Pope Francis really is a potentially transformative person. I am thinking seriously of trying to start an interfaith atheist movement. I find the thinking of both the theists and atheists so lame. Most of both groups really don’t know much about the nature of "God" and why they even believe or don’t believe. Theists just think that belief in God makes them good people. Atheists think that not believing in God makes them smart. Most of them seem not the least bit interested in the paradox of existence. And there really isn’t anything else that religion should be concerned with. Unfortunately, 99% of what religion is concerned with is [i]not[/i] that, and so it is just dogma. Most atheists don’t even know the question exists and think that Darwin explains why the universe exists. Both side wear me out!

  5. @Frank: I have no "fear of expletives," nor am I especially "offended" by them. I do, however, find them distractive, and (irrationally or not) often base my impression of people as much on how they say things as what they say. Perhaps that’s a weakness on my part. Perhaps it’s discrimination on my part against what one one my friends calls "the vernacular of the people." So be it. You mention how language changes over time; I agree. The word "discrimination" is a good example of that. (btw: I do enjoy your blog, and generally agree with you–*that* hasn’t changed.)

  6. @Don – Thank you! It’s always a choice and a lot of it depends upon my mood. I would like to point out that there [i]is[/i] (in my mind, anyway) a difference between "brilliant" and "fucking brilliant." It’s a British thing. If I had been writing this in a slightly different style, I could have used the word "delicious" or "delicious fun."

    And I did go back and read the article and I see where the problem is. The first two paragraphs are straight and then I threw in a phrase that was quite deliberately meant to shock. It didn’t necessarily need it, but since I used it once, I used it twice.

    I don’t even remember the video being particularly foul mouthed, but that probably did influence me. I wasn’t even going to write about it. As often happens, I go to write a short introduction to a video or image and a whole article comes out.

    Thanks for the thoughtful discussion.

  7. The video uses lots of foul language, but I understand the guy is expressing lots of anger toward the Duck Dynasty narrow-minded fakes. In such a situation, I can appreciate such use of language. It wouldn’t be so bad that these guys are dubious (trying not to swear) characters if they didn’t have such a big following.

  8. @Morwalk – I should really go back and watch the video, because Don mentioned the say thing. I don’t remember even noticing any profanity. I think that I’m more aware of my own profanity than others. My use is calculated, but that isn’t to say that I always get the tone right. I think of it like the new Cookie Monster: it’s a now and then thing. In this post, it was a now thing. I suspect for the video guy, it is an always thing.

  9. Poking around in the archives …

    I love the meta discussion of cuss words here. I can see both sides. If one’s trying to reach as many people as possible with one’s arguments, there are potentially interested readers who will react negatively to profanity. And yet cuss words can be very “colorful metaphors,” as Spock put it, making a short essay more vivid. “Quarter of a shit” is very good. Would “damn” be a better option? Less offensive, retains the quarter joke, also less direct. It’s a tough choice.

    I remember a kind drama instructor in high school who told me once to watch my mouth, not because cussing is offensive, but because if I used it rarely, when I did cuss, listeners would know I was damned serious.

    Don’t look at that guy’s more recent videos. They will sadden you. That one was funny.

    In our home, after the fundamentalist dad was gone, cussing was a liberation. We’d use swear words in a totally happy, non-insulting way. “Hey, can you pass the mf-ing pizza box over here? This movie is f-ing awesome!” So the words were not hurtful. I can see how, if you’re accustomed to hearing those words spoken in anger, they can be really unnerving to read.

    These days I try to restrain myself in articles and reserve my cussing for the comments. Articles are my “meeting your parents” voice; chatthreads are my “bullshitting over some beers after the game” voice.

    • I fear I chased away poor Don. But in the end, I sided with him. It’s not that I have a problem with expletives, but I think my not using them is more true to who I am. But I’ve written a whole play about cuss words. So I find them fascinating.

      • At least you’ve got some concept of who you are! I have no clue. Am I my mom’s kid, son of a tough-talking intellectual from small-town Wisconsin? Am I my dad’s kid, son of a fearful, inept social-climbing wannabe? What about my life? Look at it one way, it’s funny. Look at it another way, it’s a pathetic waste. I don’t know how to process it or estimate who I is!

        So I don’t know if I’m Enjoy Big Words guy, or Enjoy Fun Cusswords guy. I seem to be too poor for column A, and too wimptastic for column B. Congrats on finding your identity! It’s a harder trick than most think …

        • But why can’t you be both? Don’t misunderstand me: I love naughty words. But I love them in my own nerdy way. In my recent purge of books, I found I couldn’t get rid of Ruth Wajnryb’s Expletive Deleted: A Good Look at Bad Language. But coming out of me, they mostly seem like affectation — unless I’m really angry. Where I have a similar balancing act is my love of art and psychotronic film. I can see that Ran is more thrilling filmmaking than The Hidden. Yet I love them equally. But fundamentally, it comes down to this: we just are. The trick is accepting that. But don’t think I’ve figured out the acceptance thing. What I have gotten rather good at is resignation.

          • Maybe resignation is the first and hardest step. We all are reared to believe we can fix everything wrong with ourselves if we will it so. Yet in many ways this is impossible. Perhaps after resignation comes acceptance. But I haven’t mastered step 1.

            On art, I think it’s a matter of having more experience working on creating material yourself. If you’ve ever gotten better at something through a lot of trial and error, you can appreciate both honest tries and masterworks. Masterworks are easy to spot even as a consumer of creative work, not a creator of any. But you have to know how hard it is to start from scratch to appreciate an honest try. As a youngun, I was appropriately dismissive of uncool folk art, accordion players and butter sculptures and the like. As a grownup whose writing is far from masterful, I can see something like a face made from different-colored seeds and be amazed at the years of effort acquiring that ability must have taken.

            • I don’t see resignation leading anywhere. And I’m not sure I want it to. True acceptance seems like giving up on betterment. I think we’d all like to be less neurotic. But I think if you took away all my neuroses, there won’t be anything left.

              On art, I’ve very much followed a similar path. That’s why I try to focus on what the artist was trying to do. I’m not fond of saw paintings, but I also understand that they are not intended for me. And there is much to admire in what people do.

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