A&E versus the Robertsons

I’m torn over Phil Robertson. I don’t even own a TV, but our family goes out of our way to watch Duck Dynasty. Part of me supports Phil, part of me doesn’t. For what it’s worth, here are my thoughts.

Duck Dynasty
1. What Was A&E Thinking?

I’ll get to what Phil was thinking in a minute, as the media seems fixated on what he said. But to tell you the truth, I’m curious to know what A&E was thinking. I mean, really, they blew up a $400 million cash cow. It doesn’t make sense.

If I were a journalist, I’d be camping out in front of the A&E Executives’ front lawn, trying to get answers to some questions…

  • Who made the call to dump the grandfather of the largest revenue generator in television history?
  • Was there an HR meeting or some sort of discussion?
  • Did anyone run the numbers and consider the impact of this disciplinary suspension?
  • What exactly was the envisioned outcome of letting Phil go?
  • Was there any meeting or discussion or brainstorm session leading up to this?
  • Is there a path to reconciliation? Or is Phil just canned?

My suspicion is this: the A&E execs originally started Duck Dynasty as a show to make fun of hillbilly rednecks. “Ha, ha, look at how stoooopid they are.” Season after season, their plan backfired. People flocked to see the Robertsons. They loved them.

This probably annoyed the higher-ups. I can just hear them in their board meetings. “I can’t believe people are that stoooopid to be watching this stuff.” The editors kept coming up with more and more stoooopid shows, and the stoooopid people kept loving it.

Eventually their inner conflict got the best of them: they reaped the benefits of the success of the show while despising its message. As the ratings went through the roof and their network was put on the competitive map in TV world, they couldn’t help but feel their inner conflict. They were getting rich off other’s stoooopidity.

Note to A&E and anyone who finds themselves in a frustrating, contradictory position in life: Your judgment may just be the linchpin to your frustration.

Like a good debater, consider the premise. Don’t be so hasty to judge. You’ll feel the weight off your back when you consider another’s perspective. A&E should have asked: “Maybe rednecks aren’t so stupid.”

Maybe rednecks understand a bit more about life than they’re given credit.
Maybe something can be gleaned from their simple and frank approach to life.
Their views on family, hard work, love for one another and faith perhaps are something to be admired and appreciated.

I suppose this is a sad reality of humanity: not everyone has it in them to reconsider their prejudices. The A&E execs judged and attempted to control the talent that brought them their fortune. They saw an opportunity in the GQ interview to rectify their internal conflict. Not by learning a thing or two from a family that challenged their stereotype toward middle-American families from Louisiana. No, they instead tried to take out the patriarch.

That plan, too, backfired. Which makes me wonder who is so stoooopid here.

2. What Was Phil Robertson Thinking?

Throughout Duck Dynasty’s rise to fame, I have very much appreciated Phil’s personal testimony. It included a rough-n-tumble alcohol & drug ridden past. He spent time running from the law before coming to a humble surrender to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. (For a great representation of his history, see this video: http://youtu.be/FjqccYmx13w)

Nowhere had I heard in his testimony experience with homosexuality. No encounter, no personal experience, no individual calling to minister or befriend. When asked his opinion about homosexuals, he — like many Christians do — took the opportunity to pontificate on something he knew little about.

What he said was crass and embarrassing, definitely not something I can support. Phil’s contrasting female and male genitalia was an awful answer to GQ. I cringed when I read it. Didn’t you?

Yes, sure, I get our society’s double standard. Firing Phil while tolerating the moral demise of our culture is overreaching. Some are crying freedom of speech, but I’m having a tough time accepting that. We have freedom to act and react, and that freedom isn’t threatened here. A&E can do what they want, Phil can continue to say what he wants, the Robertsons can leave the show, and you have the freedom to turn it off.

But overall, this entire blow up is unfortunate. By speaking on something that he knew little to nothing about, Phil Robertson “The Duck Commander” surrendered a platform that he was very successfully bringing the love of Christ to people who otherwise would have never considered Him. Everyone needs Jesus, just like Phil needed him back when he was drinking and womanizing decades ago, ruining his family and his life.

To Phil’s defense, he clarified his GQ interview: “I would never treat anyone with disrespect just because they are different from me. We are all created by the Almighty, and like Him, I love all of humanity. We would all be better off if we loved God and loved each other.”

We would all be better off if we loved God and loved each other. That was an excellent message, the most excellent message, that Phil seemed to veer from in his GQ interview. This hurt his powerful testimony that he spoke with clarity, authority and love. I hope this message doesn’t fall of deaf ears.

3. What Are We Thinking?

I suppose I’ll be upsetting both camps: those who side with A&E’s decision, those who side with Phil. I can’t help myself, though. I’m torn.

This has led some to believe that this is an orchestrated marketing scam to get people all riled up. I’d be extremely upset if this is the case. To some, this is a line-in-the-sand moment that pits one another from each other. I don’t like how this conflict has stirred the pot in our culture.

I don’t believe this is a conspiracy. Phil is getting hammered by A&E types who do not appreciate his message, and A&E is going to either lose face or lose a ton of money. Why anyone would bring this upon themselves is beyond comprehension.

What about you? Are you with A&E or Phil? Or are you like me, torn?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Doug Tjaden

    Chris. For the most part, I am with you on this, in that I too am torn. Christians are upset about freedom of speech, but are conveniently forgetting freedom of association. Phil was not censored in what he said in the GQ article. A&E doesn’t like it. They can and did suspend Phil. I agree it was done is haste and was a very stoooopid decision (to use your word). 🙂 Actions (and words) have consequences – by both Phil and A&E. This is a lesson that should not get lost in all of this.

    I, however, am pleased with how this has stirred the pot in this country. The variety of topics that have been brought into America’s discussion stream is healthy. Yes, Phil’s comments were crass. I too cringed when I read his anatomy lesson. However, that comment aside, there was a simple truth in the rest of what he spoke. He paraphrased Scripture, yet it was in context. God is not pleased with any of the behaviors listed. Sin is too easily glossed over in our culture and we are dying spiritually as a result.

    Now a national discussion can occur on how the decadence of our culture should be dealt with. By the strong arm of biblical and secular law, or by speaking truth in love? We need this.

    We also need to deal with the double standards that are silencing the Christian community. For example, A&E suspended Phil. He and the rest of the family can now walk from A&E. That’s freedom of association. Contrast that with a Christian baker who by the force of law, MUST serve customers he does not want to serve (forced association).

    This blow up is good for the country. There is growing suppression of Christian thought and ideas in the culture. We need to push back against that. At the same time, Christians must present the truth in a way that demonstrates the love of the one they follow – Jesus Christ. I see tremendous opportunity, if we are willing to engage…

  • Coming from an HR background, I looked at it from a leadership standpoint and also wrote a blog about my views. http://greglgilbert.com/ae-leadership-phil-roberson/

  • steeg of their own

    Just as a point of information, A&E released a statement on the matter that they could not in good conscience ask the (apparently numerous) LGBT members of the show’s crew to continue to work long hours to make the show a success while supporting someone who declared himself a bigot in a national magazine. This was the rationale for suspending Phil, and that does make sense to me. Further reading on the matter supplies the information that the brand ‘Duck Dynasty’ is owned by the network (so the family actually could not just up and move the show), and that each family member in the cast is under separate contract to A&E for the show. So even if Phil never returns because the network chose to suspend him, the other family members could be held in breach of contract if they violate their agreements. So while A&E no doubt did damage to their ‘Duck Dynasty’ brand by suspending Phil, it might not be as much damage as one might at first imagine. I frankly admire them for putting their money where their mouth is when it comes to their principles.

  • kitchenmaid

    I’m not a Duck watcher but I’m wondering why this family would renew a contract after this debacle.

    • I think the Robertsons are businesspeople. More businesslike than A&E, that’s for sure. They listen to their customers, not their critics. (That’s stolen from Greg L. Gilbert…I’m lovin’ that quote.)

  • I’m joining the conversation late, but I want to chime in and say I’m with Phil on this. I have two reasons–1) I think that Phil set the Gospel above everything else and 2) Man, we (society) are hypocrites! I have to admit that I didn’t read the GQ article. So I lose some authority on those grounds. But as I sit back and try to see the big picture, my gut feeling is that Phil’s primary purpose was to share the Gospel on an individual level with the reporter, and he put that first above his own reputation. What an example he has set! Oh that I would share the Gospel and not worry about what others are going to say about me!! As to the crassness of his remarks (which I did not read), I did read a great article that perhaps gives some insight to those of us sitting in the Christian camp: http://www.reformation21.org/blog/2013/12/in-which-i-clear-up-everything.php. I cringe to think how my own mouth gets me in trouble when my intentions are NOT so noble. Hmmmm…something to chew on for a while…do I love others enough to share the Gospel, or am I thinking about my own self-image? Secondly, I don’t go trying to read the gossip celebrity news, but sometimes it is placed in front of me regardless. I hear stories of this actor drunk driving for the third time, that one sent back to rehab for drugs, this one beating his wife, etc…yet we still go and watch the movies and support these celebrities? It just *seems* to me like the discipline for Phil was a bit heavy-handed. So I stand with him and support him. I just read on Fox News that A&E has announced that the season will continue with Phil now. I think their decision is fair.