Let's us here talk about Duck Dynasty, but first, let's ask ourselves why any of us were surprised, much less outraged, that a bunch of sketchoid Christian duck hunters in Louisiana who could pass as ZZ Top stand-ins have homophobic or deeply ignorant racist views. I mean really, it's like you've never seen rednecks before, shirtless on a tractor, drinking a six-pack of Busch and eating potted possum. What's that, you say? It's opossum? Well I'll be dipped in shit and rolled in breadcrumbs.
Sorry to burst your outrage bubble, but there's a place in this country called "The South." It's where I was born and raised. Ever been there? I mean, ever really been there? I don't mean, did you go to New Orleans for a week once, or have you delighted in Charleston's great foodie scene, or don't you just love shopping in Atlanta? I mean, have you ever seen the rednecks go muddin' on four-wheelers in the sticks while pounding wine coolers and wearing hats that say "Yer Damn Straight" in places where teen pregnancy is just what happens to you, where graduating high school is still a huge fuckin' deal and literally nothing is cooked without lard?
These are my people. That place is the South, such as Louisiana, where Duck Dynasty reigns. It is teeming with rednecks. You know, country people? Not much educatin', not much city sense? You know, white, Southern, rural, politically reactionary people you might also call yokels? Totes provincial? You know, if your main course is roadkill and more than one relative is named after a Southern Civil War general yadda yadda? To know them is to love/hate them, and to love/hate them is to move to the nearest city as quickly as possible.
Rednecks may be a dying breed, but trust, they are stubborn one. And all the progress in the rest of the country and even the South doesn't much change the fact that they are part of the geography all the way back to the Scots-Irish ancestors they revere (when they know what an ancestor is/have read books). The region is historically remote thanks to the Appalachians, and that geographical remoteness produced an identity of remoteness, of "independence," of separatism, that still stands. The South also lost the Civil War as you might recall? Some people are still mad about it.
As regions go, it is a pretty homogenous one. It's poorer, and super Christian/religious, has much lower rates of education, and more acute poverty — a trend that has been going strong for two whole centuries! These things have certainly been noted, on occasion, to produce fear-based thinking, the sort that leads to hating/questioning/condemning everything that isn't like you, that is to say, everything that isn't white, Christian, and heteronormative, or what rednecks might call "normal."
And, given the chance, it often leads to saying dumb dumb shit about a man's anus and revisionist-as-fuck blather about black people. The thing about being from a not-diverse culture that outsiders tend to overlook is that, not only do people not care about the lack of homogeneity all up in that piece, they'd LIKE IT TO STAY THAT WAY.
But even when you make a shitload of money and rise well above the appearance of white-trash redneckery as Phil Robertson has, this success in many ways just reinforces your superior-to-you, already not-the-least-bit-shockingly narrow stereotypical views about Others. In other words, yes, you can be a rich redneck who has read some books and still hate the gays and the blacks. Especially when you're on a TV show glorifying everything about your lifestyle.
Robertson, the "Patriarch" of the Duck Dynasty bunch, who gave up football to pursue his love for hunting, even has a master's degree in education from Louisiana Tech. But clearly, those night classes didn't expose him to tolerance or large-mindedness, much less the concept that anal sex could be pleasurable. He seems like a really cool guy, for one of those people who thinks they are literally the only kind of people going to heaven. Speaking back in March of 2012 about being approached by A&E, Robertson said his family could be a game-changer for reality TV:
"Let's face it," said Robertson, "the bar has been set pret-ty low for you to get on American television these days. I think they said, 'Why don't we try a functional family,' and somebody said well, that's a novel idea. Round here, you know, there's no outbursts, belligerence, cursing, gettin' drunk, dope, no, we're all Godly people, so maybe it's a little switch for a change. We're not actually rednecks, but we probably could be called goodoleboys."
Nope, still rednecks. Good ol' boys tend to be the nicer, gentler, less loutish versions of rednecks, the kind that are a product of their environment but ostensibly mannered enough to interact with civilization. Sorry to judge a redneck by his official uniform, but when white, Christian, Southern huntin' dudes in beards and camo say homophobic and racist things — overtly or otherwise — I am not even sorta surprised. What DOES surprise me is when they don't.
And you don't have to be a former Southerner like I am to feel that way. Take this argument from the New York Post, which says:
And what I find ridiculous is the shock that an avatar of the redneck renaissance might actually have politically incorrect or just plain religiously orthodox views on homosexuality. Seriously, who called for the fainting couch when they read his interview in GQ?
"Duck Dynasty" has been a huge ratings success, receiving fawning coverage from the elite media. Much of the coverage has also been incredibly condescending. Everyone says, "Look at the funny rednecks," until Robertson says something that you would absolutely expect to hear from a guy who plays a redneck on TV. Then suddenly everyone is scandalized? Please. Isn't the whole point of these shows to demonstrate that there are lots of different kinds of people out there? Lord knows there's no lack of reality shows about gays.
But what we still don't have is a show about gay rednecks.
I will now answer your imaginary questions.
Are you actually arguing that rednecks should get a free pass on being racist/homophobic because we should be inured to their backwoods views?
Of course not. I think we should totally shame them and that A&E has done the "right thing" by taking a stand. Rednecks, like everyone else who make such thoughts known, must be slowly forced out into the cold light of public scrutiny and be made to state in complete sentences that the world is changing and they are on the losing team.
So why this outrage, and why now?
It's an easy finger point, he did say anus, after all, and we should care on some level (about anuses). That guy should be challenged to defend his views and forced to admit they are antiquated, bigoted, and not actually Christian. And as Jezebel writer Callie Beusman points out, this isn't the first time those duck fucks have said anti-gay remarks, so maybe A&E is only taking a stand now because they have to, seeing as how it's highly likely they've been editing out some pretty choice cuts of filming for a hot minute now.
Fine, it's nothing worth being all that outraged about, but what about the condescension? Aren't you guilty of that too, right here, not to mention stereotyping?
Excellent point! Yes, on some level, that's absolutely true. Calling rednecks anti-intellectual hill people who don't know Vienna from a Vienna sausage is just as stereotypical as Robertson's thoughts on gays. The difference between me and him is that in spite of how I feel about rednecks from having had to smell their chaw and enjoy their potted meats, I can also humanize them.
Watch this: Some rednecks are just good hearted people born into deep poverty in remote rural areas with little or no access to decent education, basic dental care, or anything like diversity or broad-minded thinking. As such, they come by their ignorance honestly. What's more, they are admirably, extremely resourceful, often "wilderness smart" and learn to live entirely off the land, building and fixing things with their own hands, devising more sustainable (and often eco-conscious) methods for living than your most progressive Whole Foods shoppin' liberal toting a BPA-free lunchbox. Rednecks often have a fierce pride in this resourcefulness, are deeply loyal to each other, and ultimately stand as symbols of a long-gone, surely slower, but arguably better way of living in harmony with the land than we will probably ever see again in this country.
SEE WHAT I JUST DID THERE? That was more effort understanding something I am totally opposed to than Phil Robertson, backwoods millionaire entrepreneur, noted redneck, has ever put into thinking about what he hates. But hey, he put his thinkin' into duck calls instead. 'Murica!
IN conclusion, let's all fry somethin' real deep this Christmas holiday. You do celebrate CHRISTMAS dontcha?
Image via A&E.