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They Fought The Gays and The Gays Won: How The “Duck Dynasty” Stars’ Homophobia Destroyed Their Brand

Before December of 2013, Duck Dynasty was a network’s dream: an inoffensive, semi-scripted reality program that received little attention outside of its core audience but still attracted millions of viewers. By any standard, Duck Dynasty was a smash. The season 4 premiere drew 11.7 million viewers. Even for a buzzed about scripted drama like Scandal, those numbers would be big. For a cable network, they were enormous.

The Duck Dynasty stars and A&E also cashed in on merchandising and branding, with their likenesses being found on anything from sweatshirts to coffee mugs and even a Chia Pet. This is an operation that could’ve chugged on for years, continued to make money for its network and stars, entertain the core audience, and be pretty much ignored by the rest of us. The nice smooth ride then came to a screeching halt in late 2013 in one of the biggest network PR Blunders in recent memory.

Duck Dynasty Season 3

In an interview for GQ magazine, Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson had some extremely incendiary things to say regarding gays and the bible. When asked by reporter Drew Magary about what constitutes “sin” he stated:

“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. 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.”

The reaction to the comments was swift and overwhelmingly negative. A&E then announced Phil Robertson’s “suspension,” a disingenuous move considering the fact that the new season was practically finished shooting before the GQ article surfaced. It was lifted soon after. However, once the mainstream media correctly called Robertson out on his archaic homophobia, the increased attention got the Duck Dynasty crew a whole new group of fans who may have ended up doing them more harm than good.

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Within weeks, the Duck Dynasty cast were the darlings of the far-right conservative fringe who had paid the show and the family behind it little attention before. Former Vice Presidential candidate turned professional conservative victim Sarah Palin defended Robertson’s words (while later admitting she’d never read the interview), and the GOP decided to make son Willie Robertson an “honored guest” at their response to President Obama’s State Of The Union address. These are the types of people that defiantly rail against gay marriage and LGBT rights even as both gain unprecedented public support. Now, they’ve aligned themselves with Duck Dynasty.

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Media types that saw blood in the water pounced, and the following weeks saw more negative stories about Robertson and other cast members come to light. There was the disturbing video of the elder Robertson advising men to marry 15 year old girls and perhaps most damning of all, the remarkably clean-cut photos of son Willie and his family from earlier days that suggest that they may be more comfortable on the beaches of The Hamptons than in the swamps of Louisiana.  Robertson’s words had now exposed the family and the show to be not only backwards and homophobic, but also something something that could be even worse: a fraud.

The unprecedented media attention that the show received as a result of the comments caused more cynical observers to think that perhaps the entire thing was a publicity stunt by A&E to bring more eyeballs to the show. All eyes were on A&E to see how the new season would perform after all the media attention and how it would live up to the record-breaking ratings in the season before it. If the numbers grew, then the controversy could’ve only helped and even attracted more viewers from the right-wing promotion than they had before. If they shrunk, well then maybe letting Phil Robertson take that ATV ride with the GQ interviewer while unchaperoned by an A&E PR rep wasn’t a great idea. Then…the new season of Duck Dynasty underperformed.

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Ordinarily, a cable reality show premiering to 8.5 million viewers would be reason to celebrate, and in a lot of ways for A&E and the Duck Dynasty crew, it still was. However, that 8.5 million viewers was down a full 28 percent from the previous season opener. That is millions of viewers less than before and millions of dollars lost in future advertising revenue for A&E. Then, the bad news just kept on coming and the ratings slipped to a low of 4.7 million viewers in later episodes. Duck Dynasty was then subjected to yet another negative round of press after a CNN interview meant to promote the season finale. Appearing on CNN’s New Day, Willie Robertson was unrepentant about the controversy and the cycle of bad press repeated itself once again. The season ended with six million viewers, down from the aforementioned 10 million the previous year.

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Duck Dynasty is by no means “over.” The show will continue on, the merchandise will sell, and both A&E and the cast members will continue to make millions, but the brand will be forever tainted by Robertson’s words and the tone-deaf alignment with a far right fringe that most moderate Americans take great pains to avoid or ignore completely.

In a world where a Disney channel sitcom introduces lesbian moms and one of the most popular comedies on network television features a gay male couple raising a child, it is clear that the boundaries of what is considered “family friendly” are rapidly expanding to be more inclusive of LGBT people. By embracing homophobia and doubling down on it with the embrace of the conservative right, the father/son duo and most prominent faces of Duck Dynasty destroyed the core of their brand, which was that of a family-friendly reality show.

The millions of viewers who’ve abandoned Duck Dynasty sent a clear and firm message: hate is not a family value.  Brands, television networks, and all others who wish to maintain a successful business in 2014, take note: what happened to Duck Dynasty can happen to you. When it comes to the gays: if you can’t say anything nice…well, you know the rest.

By:           Rob Smith
On:           Mar 31, 2014
Tagged: , , , ,

  • 22 Comments
    • Dakotahgeo
      Dakotahgeo

      These paybacks jus’ tickle m’ gizzard! Times are indeed changing for the good. I’m beginning to believe in karma. Spell FRAUD = Robertson family christians!

      Mar 31, 2014 at 10:25 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Cam
      Cam

      It’s amazing how must faster hollywood comes around when supporting the closet or being anti-gay ends up being bad for business.

      Remember, when people FIRST started asking why the couple on Modern Family hadn’t kissed, the Actor Eric Stonestreet responded by saying gays were lucky there was even a gay couple on the show.

      Mar 31, 2014 at 10:46 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • BJ McFrisky
      BJ McFrisky

      All reality TV is aimed toward the less-than-intelligent, empty souls in our society who desire to live vicariously through others, be it “Duck Dynasty” or the Kardashian train wreck or “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”

      Mar 31, 2014 at 10:56 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Zekester
      Zekester

      Isn’t it funny how anti-gay people crowed about their “VICTORY” after the Chick-fil-A bruhaha only to have Dan Cathy admit that he was wrong and completely surrender last week and how they were so proud of their next glorious victory over the “homa-sek-shul agenda” with the Duck Dynasty crusade only to have the show’s ratings plummet every week since about two weeks after the event.

      Mar 31, 2014 at 11:01 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • hephaestion
      hephaestion

      Duck Dynasty is fake. Check out the YouTube video by Dusty Smith. It’s just a matter of time before the whole Duck Dynasty enterprise evaporates. Nothing that phony can continue for too long.

      Mar 31, 2014 at 11:03 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • tricky ricky
      tricky ricky

      thank goodness for porn parody. they only had to change one letter to get the title

      Mar 31, 2014 at 11:07 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Rad
      Rad

      @BJ McFrisky: I wholly agree; I make a concerted effort to avoid “Reality TV” because all I have ever seen is the promotion of the very worst of humanity with faux, self-important drama.

      Mar 31, 2014 at 11:23 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Rad
      Rad

      So long as you have networks that are willing to give the likes of Sarah Palin new show season after season, there will always be a market for the likes of Duck Dynasty.

      In our household, we have voted all this mess off the island (pun intended); we disconnected our cable television. This train wreck-in-the-name-of-entertainment and their like are just not worth supporting for $60 a month.

      Mar 31, 2014 at 11:28 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • hyhybt
      hyhybt

      One aggravating thing is there’s no way to know for certain that the declining ratings are actually a result of any of this. The show’s popularity was going to start sinking at some point anyway; it could well be that the attention has got them more viewers (either new ones or those who stayed who otherwise wouldn’t) than it’s cost them, and the rest who left were tired of the show anyway.

      Mar 31, 2014 at 11:37 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • samwise343
      samwise343

      @hyhybt: Oh please. People realized that between watching hicks, bigoted hicks and nothing, it’s best to choose nothing.

      Mar 31, 2014 at 12:18 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Ben Dover
      Ben Dover

      You’re right about how under-the-radar this show was, BEFORE the gay controversy. Despite its being the highest-rated show on all of cable TV, I had literally never even heard of it. Now everybody’s heard of it but they’re not watching it.

      Mar 31, 2014 at 12:42 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Cam
      Cam

      @Zekester:

      Cathy from Chik Fil Et never said he was wrong. he regretted that the controversy had gotten so much attention. That was all.

      Mar 31, 2014 at 12:52 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • DistingueTraces
      DistingueTraces

      I wish that were the case too – but their brand is doing just fine.

      Mar 31, 2014 at 3:57 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • DarkZephyr
      DarkZephyr

      @DistingueTraces: I wouldn’t say “just fine”. They may still be somewhat successful, but their brand is now tainted. A day WILL come when people look back on the show as villainous for its homophobia. They will never be able to fix that now. Especially with Willie’s recent reiteration of their homophobia. They have stepped in it and they won’t be able to get clean.

      Mar 31, 2014 at 5:34 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • bobbyjoe
      bobbyjoe

      Has A&E gotten around to those “diversity” ads they promised? ’cause I’ve heard that so far, all they’ve produced is a “gay panic” scene for Norman on “Bate’s Motel.” I thought they wanted to distance themselves from Robertson’s comments, but so far it just looks like they’ve doubled down. Why should GLBTs support anything coming from A&E?

      Mar 31, 2014 at 6:27 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • gjg64
      gjg64

      My guess is that most of those who stopped watching were originally watching to laugh AT as opposed to laugh WITH the family. Let’s face it, “hillbillies” or “rednecks” are still a group we’re allowed to laugh at. Probably those who’ve stopped watching were from that demographic, more Northern, urban, and liberal.

      Mar 31, 2014 at 6:37 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Derek Williams
      Derek Williams

      Gloating is a serious misjudgment. It wasn’t just “the gays” who won, it was our heterosexual allies. They won’t stick around if we behave like this with vainglorious conceit. Humility, justice and rational argument are always better then gloating and finger pointing.

      Mar 31, 2014 at 7:34 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Rob
      Rob

      More accurate headline: Gaystapo Celebrates Attempted Suppression of Thought Crimes.

      BTW, the beards pre-date the show as anyone with rudimentary search skills can easily discover. Plus, if memory serves, the beach photo was taken at Gulf Shores, AL. far from the Hamptons.

      Mar 31, 2014 at 8:50 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Rob
      Rob

      Ooops!

      Wednesday Cable Ratings: ‘Duck Dynasty’ Finale Tops Night + NBA Basketball, ‘Psych’, ‘Workaholics’ & More

      http://tvbythenumbers.zap2it.com/2014/03/27/wednesday-cable-ratings-duck-dynasty-finale-tops-night-nba-basketball-psych-workaholics-more/248441/

      Duck Dynasty pulls a 2.5. Looks like Good Luck Charlie ranks 0.5 in the 18-49 group. GLC seems to have less appeal than WWE Smackdown and reruns of Family Guy.

      Mar 31, 2014 at 9:02 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Faggot
      Faggot

      @Derek Williams: Indeed. What a misleading caption. “They Fought The Gays and The Gays Won: How The “Duck Dynasty” Stars’ Homophobia Destroyed Their Brand”

      Apr 1, 2014 at 2:20 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Cam
      Cam

      @Rob:

      Rob, it’s so funny when crazy right wingers like you come in here and try to divert from the topic. The article SAID that Dynasty was still doing well on it’s night.

      However, what your post leaves out is that they’ve lost MILLIONS of viewers.

      As for “Thought Crimes” YOU seem to want to force people to watch a show they no longer want to watch. I hate to tell you this sunshine, but if somebody turns off a TV show it’s because they want to turn it off.

      You’re just upset because you keep getting reminded that apparently there are far fewer bigots than you hoped for.

      By the way, if you’re going to be an open bigot you might not want your screename to link directly to your facebook page and list where you work.

      Apr 1, 2014 at 11:13 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Paulie
      Paulie

      Hi
      I was never a fan of this idiotic show (or reality TV in general), I found the cast to be ignorant rednecks, and I was more right than I thought, evidently…
      The show should be cancelled, and taken off the air…
      Thanks

      Apr 14, 2014 at 7:46 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·

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