“The way we get into these scrapes and get out of them, it's almost as though someone was dreaming up these situations; guiding our destiny.” - Robin (Burt Ward), Batman TV series - 1966
I suppose it may be a sign of the End Times, when those who get so wildly upset when minimum wage cashiers say “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas,” or can succeed in forcing a film company to not produce the sequels to The Golden Compass can also be convinced that when a millionaire is suspended from a TV program for expressing racial views looked down upon even 50 years ago, or wax eloquently upon his preference for the vagina over the anus, it is a sign that “free speech” is somehow under attack.
The fact that the millionaire icon question is still able to go about wherever he likes and talk about whatever he wants to seems to have escaped the notice of the “constitutional scholars” who are baying for blood. A&E - a network which is just a shadow of its former self at the best of times in the 21st Century - made a business decision when it suspended Phil Robertson from its program, Duck Dynasty.
The truth of the matter is that Phil Robertson is gonna be invited to all sorts of places in coming days, and his voice will get stronger and more strident . . . and then maybe folks will actually start to pay attention to just exactly what it is he is saying.
There are many sad aspects to the mess which Phil Robertson, “ patriarch” (I put this in quotes as in my mind there is usually some wisdom attached to the job) of the group of millionaires the world knows as Duck Dynasty, has created with his eagerness to prove that once again, just being on TV doesn’t make you particularly smart..
Despite the mounting evidence over the years, including millionaire Robertson’s own complaints (but he still took the money and ran, duck calling all the way) of the scripted nature of the show that he was so recently a part of, and that his own past was fictionalized for the show, many of us still cling to the belief that what we are seeing is the real, unvarnished truth, and that the audience is a guest looking in on the lives of these folks.
And yet one can still hear folks say of various characters - and that’s just what they are, Lacerated Reader, characters - on various “reality” programs, “You can tell by watching ______ that he wouldn’t put up with that crap!”
I have been working on a theory lately, that reality TV programs are ideal for those who lack the patience to sit through a regular scripted television program, or unwilling to concentrate on a movie or play long enough to stay with the intricacies of the plot. A reality (god, how I loathe using that word) show, while still scripted, with folks working their way through manufactured conflicts for the show, with scenes reshot multiple times (try convincing a true reality TV show fan of that nugget of information - bring a lunch) and emoting for folks at home, it may be as close to Shakespeare in the Park (or bayou) or many of thee folks are liable to get.
And it’s real, damn it! You can tell it’s real, just by watching their faces!
Now the much maligned millionaire, Phil Robertson, the alternate universe version of Ben Cartwright, has gotten himself suspended from a commercial enterprise by thinking, quite frankly, that his shit didn’t stink. That he was untouchable. That the crazy old men you meet at the bus station have all the answers, rather than the questions we seek solutions to.
That just because he is on TV we should take him seriously, even if it views on race would raise eyebrows decades ago. It might be interesting to see what books occupy Comrade Robertson’s bookshelves.
Now millionaire Phil Robertson is a hero, not only to those who literally can’t see the lie behind reality television, but also to the con artists and the snake oil sales people of the right who would manipulate those who don’t think overly much about this kind of stuff.
Folks like Reality Show Governor Sarah Palin, who has helped elevate Robertson to the status of a religious martyr.
Cable television has been playing a dangerous game in the past few years. Where once one thought of the working class as hard-working Americans who keep this country running, now we are presented with the image of slovenly men and women, who though well-paid, can’t even get their teeth fixed.
Television flirts with alligator hunters, backwoods folks who hunt for Bigfoot, do-it-yourself exorcisms and those who force their families to build forts in the middle of nowhere because they are convinced that a “revolution” is coming, and they need to be able to kill as many people as possible.
Don’t get so smug, you would just say with a pretentious sneer, “Well, I don’t even own a TV.” Millions of other folks are watching this nonsense, and they take it seriously. You really think this stuff is helping our national IQ ?
Carol Burnett versus Duck Dynasty
Ironically, Tracy and I happened to be watching an episode of The Carol Burnett Show this past weekend, which featured a well-written sketch featuring Sammy Davis Jr. as a singer performing in his small town, and encountering the casual racism of a woman he had once considered to be friend.
He showed more kindness and respect to her than many of us might have done in a similar situation, and as I was watching it, I thought of the ignorance professed by millionaire Phil Robertson, and his enablers - both in the political realm, and the lost souls who believe that they are sharing the real adventures of real people, when they watch reality television.
As I sat watching the woman Burnett portrayed, so comfortable in her racism, and yet so unaware of her bigotry, all I could think of was Phil Robertson, who seems to have the same lack of awareness in his own mind.
Quote of the Day
Fifty percent of people won't vote, and fifty percent don't read newspapers. I hope it's the same fifty percent. - Gore Vidal