Surrealist Doodle

Surrealist Doodle
This was used as the cover of Karawane in 2006 and I have included it in on a number of bags and postcards over the years. Someone on the subway asked me if it was a Miro. I was very flattered!

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Duck Dynasty: Joke's On Us

I have heard recently it said on Facebook that the members of the “Duck Dynasty” were, in fact, not these rustic types living in the backwoods of Louisiana, but in fact, are clean shaven professional men, yuppies, who saw an opportunity to be on television and took it. Whether or not these yuppies are racist and homophobic is not known, but it would seem that the Duck Dynasty would be bigoted, and so these professionals, actors, decided to play to public perception.

Now, I have not heard anything that makes me think that I can confirm or deny these rumors with any certainty. But it did make me think of Andy Kaufman and the many characters he played, including his baffling performances on Saturday Night Live as well as his wrestling career in which he wrestled women, culminating in a very public feud with wrestler Jerry Lawler in which Andy Kaufman was (supposedly) injured and had threatened to sue Lawler. Now, 30 years later, there is a suspicion that Lawler was in on the joke and that it was a hoax – a very well-acted piece of performance art that neither party ever completely admitted to, but carried it into their public personas, never letting their guard down.

So all of this makes me wonder, what if the joke is on us? What if this is a hoax, a brilliant piece of performance art that doesn’t take sides, rather is to pull the wool over all of our eyes? Perhaps the portrayal of a racist, backwater family with pre-Civil War attitudes is supposed to show the polarization of our society, exploit it, and hold a mirror up to all of us. What if it is a parody of life in the United States, showing the disparity in lifestyles between the two societies we have become, one that holds stubbornly onto the old way of life, resisting social and technological progress and the other presenting itself as moving forward into the 21st century (or as Buzz Lightyear says, to infinity and beyond!)

If this is the intention of the Duck Dynasty, you might argue that it is about 10 years too late to the party. This is well-covered terrain. But there’s another layer involved as well—our willingness to watch and comment upon this type of reality program, to look at “those hillbillies” as a way to feel better about ourselves, whether it’s to watch them as circus freaks or to admire their willingness to endure a harsh way of life for their “values.” In other words, we are so used to viewing people in these kinds of terms, is our outrage perfunctory? Are we outraged because we are used to being outraged, and not out of a genuine kind of surprise any more? And if it is a hoax, then those “values” seem to amount to nothing more than money. If there is no real conviction behind it, is a legitimate hoax in the Kaufman-esque sense of the word, or is it just making a buck?

A&E is one of several channels that have come to specialize in this kind of programming and making a fortune on it. The actors on Seinfeld, when renegotiating their huge salary increases, justified them on the grounds that the network was making an enormous amount of money off of their talents, and so why shouldn’t they. Having been sensitized to stories of actors in the 1950s and 60s who did not receive residuals for their television shows, we bought into it. So why should we now expect that the so-called reality stars are not just in it for a share of the pie, rather than that they truly believe in every word they say. We are at once cynical about reality television, but we are also willing to believe the worst about some characters because it reinforces what we believe and provides us with an outlet and a scapegoat for our rage at the injustices we feel in our society, which are many at the moment.

I don’t know if Duck Dynasty is a hoax or not, but I am becoming more and more taken with the idea that we have all been fooled. Again.

No comments: