December 24, 2013
There is often no difference between entertainment and politics. Consider recent statements by Phil Robertson, television star of the program Duck Dynasty, which airs on the A&E (formerly Arts & Entertainment) Network. During an interview with GQ (formerly Gentlemen’s Quarterly), Robertson made what some regard as offensive comments concerning homosexuality and racial history.
Heads of programming at A&E were supposedly shocked and soon distanced themselves from the commentary, assuring the indignant half of the country that Robertson was under suspension.
The usual American three-penny opera is currently playing out with the right/traditionalist/fundamentalist coalition claiming that freedom of speech is under attack. Its ringleaders at the moment are former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. Opposing them are the left/progressive/enlightened elements who detect a patina of hatred if not an outright onslaught. They are led by GLAAD and the NY-LA elite alliance.
This news-channel brouhaha is as much a show as anything appearing on entertainment television. There are several reasons for skepticism.
Why was this interview allowed in the first place? Interaction between conservative talent and liberal publications is routinely avoided. Very few urbanites or metrosexuals would incline to the Robertson clan no matter what was said.
The standard in Hollywood is that stars own the video on which they are interviewed. Whenever you see a big name sit down for an interview, they are filmed by their own camera people and retain copyright of the tape. If anything offensive or merely inept is uttered, it is edited out of what is turned over to the interviewer.
Granted this was audio, but the same general strictures apply. One would expect an A&E rep to be sitting with his or her own tape recorder to ensure nothing was taken out of context later. A detailed list of “off the record” and “disallowed” questions would be enumerated well beforehand.
There was an A&E media employee present during Robertson’s interview whose sole responsibility should have been to deflect inflammatory queries or to immediately stop Robertson from answering any which were asked. This is de rigueur and because it didn’t happen it’s suspicious.
Duck Dynasty‘s program concept is based on the principals’ personalities. That is a highly volatile situation because if the stars become disliked then the money machine is in jeopardy.
This suggests that what is happening is precisely what was intended to happen. People who view this as an assault on “traditional values” will support the program more than ever. Those who previously had no interest will watch out of a perceived solidarity. Those who have never watched Duck Dynasty (including the newly enraged) will tune in at least once to see a program they had likely been unaware of earlier. Letters will be written, ratings will increase, and ad revenues will flow.