Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Why Duck Dynasty Matters

I got obsessed with Duck Dynasty while channel surfing one Friday night. A group of long-haired, scruffily dressed bearded guys was playing golf, sort of. What they were really doing was goofing off.  I watched as they discovered a pond full of frogs. The golf match forgotten, the three of them grew more and more excited. Then one of them—I learned later his name was Jase—spoke up.

The only thing I want from frawgs is to eat more of ‘em, he said.

He had me at hello.

“Duck Dynasty” is the A&E Network’s brainchild, a reality show following the Robertson family from West Monroe, Louisiana in their family business and home life. Two grandparents, four grown sons and their wives and children and assorted oddball friends. In some respects, the show is like so many other reality tv shows, everything from hoarders to aging celebrities to wanna be singers. But the more you watch Duck Dynasty, the more you begin to see a big difference.

For one thing, the show has this genuine country humor thing going on that’s way funnier than ninety-five percent of the so-called comedies you can watch on tv. In fact, it's downright hilarious. I mean laugh out loud stuff. The Robertson men are like the crazy uncles that many of us have in our families but somehow seem at the same time people that you’d like to hang out with. Their main job in life is coming up with dopey things to do.

Like building a water park in the swamp, or a duck pond in the office. Racing loggerhead turtles. Getting sprayed with a skunk. Robbing a bee hive of its honey. Stupid stuff that grown men have no business getting into. Every idea they have is hare-brained and almost never works out. Which really doesn’t matter because the real agenda is to have fun and one-up the other guy. Their wives are the only adults in sight and spend most of their time trying to get the men to act like grown-ups.

Almost every man I know would give anything to be one of those guys.

Phil, the father, invented the Duck Commander, the best-selling duck call of all time. The fortune he and his extended family made from the ensuing business made them all millionaires. Phil dispenses a quirky blend of wit and wisdom to everyone in his clan:

I'm Happay Happay Happay!!

Whether you're talking about bees, dogs, or women, pain can come upon you quickly from either one of em.

Ya'll might want to go to Walmart and pick up a personality.

She may be an ugly woman but she if cooks squirrel and dumplins, that's the woman you go after.

Phil’s brother Si is a Vietnam vet and master of a fractured swamp lingo that sounds sort of like English but sort of not, too:

“Hey” can mean anything. It can mean yes, it can mean maybe, it could mean no, it could mean next week. “Hey”, the bottom line is you have to understand me to understand “Hey."

Any animal can get big, boys. Hey, once I reached down to pet a little dog and when I did..hey..it was a 5 pound squirrel.

First it's pretty tires, then it's pretty guns...next thing you know, you're shavin' your beard and wearin' capri pants.

You can serve BLT's, beaver, lettuce, and tomatoes on whole wheat, the finest sandwich there is.

This snowcone is giving me a brain sneeze. It's when your brain needs to sneeze, but it caint cause its a brain, so it just hurts.

The CEO of the family business is Phil’s son Willie. He’s the one with a degree in Business Administration and the only one who cares much about running the business. But he still has the family knack of redneck-ese:

Nothin makes a dad happier than seeing his daughter with a smile on her face and her boyfriend with fear in his eyes.

Let me tell you about redneck logic..just blow it up..he's gonna be so enamored with the fire, he'll forget about what he's losing.

Parenting is a constant struggle between making your kids life better and ruining your own.

You put five rednecks on a mower, it’s gonna be epic.

Just one more (we could go on and on--all sorts of strange characters wander through this show). Jase is another brother who’s yang to Willie’s ying. He’s lazy, irresponsible and always on the lookout for another hair-raising adventure. His observations are always on the mark:

When you don't know what you're doing it's best to do it quickly.

Is this turning into a near death experience?...possibly. Does this add to the adventure?...absolutely!

Where I'm from, you don't mess with another man's woman... or his hat.

Hey parents, maybe you should skin more animals around the house so your kids won't be so trauma-tized.

A friend pointed out to me that Duck Dynasty is really the new Hew Haw. I kind of see what he’s saying, but I don’t think he’s getting the full picture. Duck Dynasty maybe begins with a Hee Haw approach but there’s much more to it. So much so that even the New York Tiimes called it “One of the quirkiest, most enjoyable reality shows on television.”

For one thing, there’s no profanity in the show. No immorality of any kind. No marriages splitting up. No one having affairs. Nobody gets drunk or stoned or wasted or violent or abusive. No manufactured personal crisis.

Another thing is the value of family. You could make the case, in fact, that the entire series is simply about a family. A rich, odd family, to be sure, but one that so clearly values their relationships with one another that you couldn’t imagine the series without the family priority.

More importantly, Duck Dynasty portrays a family of faith. At the end of every episode, the extended family always gathers for dinner around Phil and his wife Miss Kay’s table. She cooks for everyone. Before the meal, in an entirely natural and unforced way, without even a hint of the cynicism and irony we’re so accustomed to seeing in almost every other television portrayal of religious faith, Phil asks God’s blessing on the meal. The grown children bow their heads, in ways that obviously they’ve done countless times before. The teen aged children do the same. It’s a family that’s prayed together all their lives.

The thing I love most about Duck Dynasty, in the end, is how it shows real people living out real faith in such non-conformist ways. Silly? Sure it is. But also real in some less visible but very important ways. In our homogenized, sanitized, white-bread world, the Robertson clan gives me hope.

Leave it to Jase to say it just right: There’s only three things important in life: God, family and ducks.

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