America’s last great pop-culture controversy of 2013 (last as of this writing; I sure hope no toppers are lurking ’round the corner)…swirls about the A&E swampbillies-made-good docu-melodrama, Duck Dynasty. Hopefully you know the score, because it would pain me to rehash it in detail. Briefly, it went a little something like this: Phil Robertson said things that should have surprised exactly no one. Outrage. Suspension. Counter-outrage. Lifted suspension.
A lot of jaws have been grinding trying to gnash out some deeper meaning in this sorry episode. Free-speech was an early contentious contender, until the Internet pointed out with pissy yet irrefutable logic that free speech never entered into the thing. Except perhaps in an exemplary way: Phil freely exercised his rights, just as the howlers on both sides, and the network, exercised theirs.
No, the only memorable demonstration here, and it happened on multiple levels, is that of the power of opinion. Phil had one, apparently a pretty strongly held one. People offended by his had their own. Same for his defenders. A&E bowed first to one, then the other. Lessons learned? In this, the gayest year on record, public opinion is largely tolerant and pro-equality. But that’s hardly unanimous. And entertainment companies that want to please everyone and offend no one are going to find themselves dancing a ridiculous dance.
Look. Homophobia, however you define it, is undesirable and regrettable. A lot of us think it’s puzzlingly anachronistic. But it’s no crime. And may it never be one, as long it’s expressed as an opinion only.
I’m hardly the first to offer up this advice, but here goes. If you don’t like what Phil said, don’t watch his show. If you don’t like A&E’s response(s), don’t watch that network. If you’re team Phil, well then, enjoy your Chick-fil-A, I guess.
Our cultural gaps have turned into chasms, and this brouhaha straddles one of the biguns. There’s a cross-section of Americans, and I think I’m safe in saying they’re a minority, that are incurably homophobic. We’re tilting at windmills if we think we’re going to change their hearts or their minds. That’s just how it is.
If you’re outraged by that, and outraged by Phil, I get it. But I say, save your outrage. It’s not healthy, not particularly productive; and if you think about it, it’s entirely the wrong response.
Try pity. That’s what works for me. I’m sorry that Phil and people like him feel the way they do. I’m sorry for them because it must exhausting working up hate, or loathing, or whatever it is, for people who’ve never done you wrong.
Most of all I feel sorry for anyone, and apparently this includes Phil Robertson, who arrive at homophobia by way of religion. It’s a true crying shame for a person to have a need for spirituality in their life, which is an openness that I think has positive, progressive potential, and then being spoonfed liturgical hate. That’s spiritual malpractice.
And it can’t last forever. It’s on a demographic downward spiral. We’re on a trajectory to becoming better people.
But hey, that’s just my opinion. Feel free to embrace it or hate it, as you will.