Why I believe the Duck Dynasty “suspension” is a huge publicity stunt
For both of you who have not yet heard, A&E ‘reality’ series star and Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson has ostensibly been suspended from the show for comments he made during an interview with GQ Magazine. I don’t buy it. Not for a second. And I believe the evidence that points to this being a massive publicity stunt undertaken by A&E is overwhelming.
Let’s start with the obvious. GQ? THE GQ? GQ interviewing a guy with a ZZ-Top beard who lives in a swamp and kills things for a living. Sure. But aside from that they would seem to be the perfect venue in which to pull this off. Isn’t this the same GQ that published racially insensitive jokes told by a young Tiger Woods a few years back? Seems like that little firestorm didn’t hurt his career any.
Now how about the offense. Phil Robertson, in essence, paraphrased the Bible. He’s a born-again Christian from the Bible Belt. Exactly what would you imagine his position on homosexuality would be? And it’s not like he went all Westboro Baptist and started shouting “God Hates F*gs” all over the place. That’s not to defend (or necessarily to decry) the comment itself, simply to point out that it’s not exactly out-of-character nor is it surprising. And if it’s not surprising to you and me, it’s not surprising to any Duck Dynasty viewer or to the network itself. Remember, Robertson also expressed frustration in the GQ piece because A&E has edited some of his other controversial comments out of the show, so there’s no question they knew this sort of thing was likely to come from him. Now, however, they’re acting surprised and disappointed? Not credible.
So how about what happens on the air now? OK, a suspension. Well, season four is set to kick off in a month. Those episodes are already shot, edited and in the can with Phil’s parts still in them. Presumably they’re not going to go back and edit an entire season to excise the main character. So he’ll serve this ‘suspension’ while his face is all over TV? What, exactly, is the point of that? It makes no sense at all.
And what of the timing? The show is a month away from beginning its new season. What better time to drum up a little tempest in a teapot? If not for the suspension, they’d have gotten little or no pop at all out of the GQ piece since I’m going to guess there’s not a lot of crossover audience there. But suspend him over it? BOOM! Every radio talk show, every cable network, every magazine and pop culture blogger is and will be talking about this for weeks leading up to the season premiere. Maybe there’ll even be a backlash and hundreds of guys in cammo will show up at the A&E offices to protest…along with more TV news cameras. Gold! And this all goes down a week before Christmas. The merchandise will double its sales in a month. They took a nothing piece in a relatively yawn-worthy publication and turned it into the biggest event since Miley’s twerk. Nobody loses.
And it leaves the network the two things worth more than anything in a situation like this: time and options. Every time someone mentions Duck Dynasty the cash register rings louder. And when the network relents and bows to the pressure they themselves created (on purpose) right before the new season begins, it’ll bring more headlines, more ratings, and ever more and bigger piles of cash.
Publicity stunt writ large. And best of all for them it’s working like a charm, and they will all have a Merry Little Christmas.
Honestly, I’m impressed.