The politics of personal resentment and reality television fame may not have been a fortuitous mix for the A&E show “Duck Dynasty,” which opened to a significantly smaller audience on Wednesday night. According to Yahoo TV, the show only attracted 8.5 million viewers, 28 percent fewer than tuned in to the program’s season 4 opener in 2012.
The drop is the first season-to-season ratings fall for the hit series, which is based around the exploits of the Robertson family, who became millionaires from their duck hunting business, Duck Commander. In late 2012, the family became embroiled in controversy when patriarch Phil Robertson gave a wildly racist and viciously anti-LGBT interview to GQ magazine.
In the interview, Robertson extolled the happy carefree days of segregation and Jim Crow, when African-Americans happily toiled in the fields at the behest of whites and sang and danced their troubles away.
“I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once,” Robertson said of the pre-Civil Rights era. “The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash. We’re going across the field …They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’ — not a word!”
“They were godly; they were happy,” he insisted. “No one was singing the blues.”
Of LGBT people, Robertson said, ““Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men,” he says. Then he paraphrases Corinthians: “Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers — they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.”
He continued, “It seems like, to me, a vagina — as a man — would be more desirable than a man’s anus. That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.”
As many in the U.S. recoiled in horror from Robertson’s revisionist, retrogressive views, and A&E briefly suspended him, right-leaning pundits of all stripes took up Robertson’s cause — some with less acuity than others.
A&E viewers, however, apparently want their reality TV without a helping of right-wing bigotry. More than 12 million people tuned in to the Season 4 premiere of “Duck Dynasty.” This season, more than a quarter of those people, chose to watch something else Wednesday night.