“So, I have a friend who is critiquing ‘Duck Dynasty’ for being misogynist toward the women in the show. I don’t get it. What do you all think?”
A totally normal text to receive from my dad on a Monday morning. But seriously, let’s talk about this show.
I don’t want to spend lots of space, time and words defending the show or waxing philosophical about the intricacies at what is, at base, a form of entertainment. And a wildly popular form at that.
First, I am not “Duck Dynasty’s” target audience.
I do not hunt or fish. I do not want to hunt or fish. The idea of hunting and fishing sounds worse than boring.
I have never to my knowledge eaten squirrel or frog meat. Though, to be fair, I have eaten deer and I love catfish.
I do not love the idea of living “off the grid” in a small town in the South with high levels of mosquitoes and humidity.
Second, I generally do not like the idea of spectacle, or putting people into the spotlight only to make them the unknowing butt of a joke.
MTV does this a lot, most recently spotlighting West Virginia “hillbillies.” Slate ran an excellent piece linking “reality television,” exploitation and entertainment, which I highly recommend you read.
But that is not what is going on in “Duck Dynasty.” The Robertson family is not poor or suffering and is certainly not the butt of anyone’s joke. If they are, they are in on the punch line.
One of the comments to which my dad referred in his text dismissed the show after only a few minutes in. Talk about not a fair shake.
Yes, at first the show, if you’re like me, appears utterly ridiculous. But watch an entire episode and you’re hooked. The show is one of the funniest things on television.
The family members – especially the men – are hilarious to watch, as they interact in the Duck Commander office, hidden in the swamp on a hunt or in the family kitchen. But more than that, there is a sense that, even with the edited 20-minute plotlines, these people are real people.
I also get the sense that they don’t do the show because they want to garner attention for attention’s sake (watch any episode where Phil, the family patriarch, is featured and you’ll understand this). What you see is a family committed to one another.
You also watch a family full of really funny people. I believe that an overwhelming majority of the conversations, antics and stunts filmed would happen with or without cameras present.
Back to the text my dad sent. He was curious what my sister and I thought about whether the show is misogynistic. I don’t think it is.
Do the women on the show “work”? You know, I actually don’t know.
Korie, Willie’s wife, helps him run the family business. Miss Kay, Phil’s wife, has made cooking DVDs and works by feeding her family every day.
The show portrays a fairly stereotypical Southern, suburban dynamic between men and women. The men make the money (thanks to the family dynasty), hunt and fish. The women cook and take care of the kids.
Is that misogynistic? No. It’s not really even anti-feminist.
I have never gotten the sense that the men expect the women in their lives to cater to them, and the women are absolutely not submissive, deferential spouses and mothers.
The Robertson family gathers for a family dinner – brothers, wives, kids, extended family and even neighbors on occasion – at the end of each episode. Patriarch Phil offers a prayer.
At first I wasn’t so sure about this – it struck me as run-of-the-mill, white, suburban piety (to offer an honest, albeit elitist, critique).
But the more I watched, the more it became abundantly clear that the family meals and Phil’s prayers were authentic expressions of the deep family bond they share, and a faith rooted in gratitude and relationship.
So here’s the thing: Do I share a theology with the Robertson family? Probably not on everything, but we clearly share faith in the same God.
Will I ever hunt or fish? Probably not, but I do respect and appreciate people who can engage in a reciprocal and grateful relationship with the earth.
Do I love being in the humid south being bitten by mosquitoes? Not too much. That I can’t understand.
That said, for all its humor, ridiculousness and entertainment value – and there is a lot of it – “Duck Dynasty” has encouraged me to be more open to a lifestyle that I am much more inclined to write off with a hefty dose of elitism.
I laugh so hard my sides hurt, but I also recognize, love and respect humor and faith expressed in ways that don’t look like me, and I am challenged to appreciate and honor that.
Meredith Holladay is associate pastor of spiritual formation at First Baptist Church in Lawrence, Kan. A version of this column appeared previously on her blog, Windows Down, and is used by permission.