Hello TVRagers, welcome to another edition of my very own special feature “Rachel’s Ray of Sunshine”! Here on staff I am commonly known as not only a raging Canuck but I am often referred to as “adorable” and “too nice” and “polite”. I try and always look on the bright side of things in life and strive to find some good in anything. What started out as a little running joke, that I could find good in even the most terrible of things, has turned into this feature. Can I bring out the good in the world’s worst television shows? I think so. Here comes the sun (do-do-do-do).
This installment of 'Ray of Sunshine' comes from an experience I had while shopping earlier this week. I was in a Giant Tiger (a retail/grocery store in Canada that is not unlike Walmart, but smaller in scale) and found myself confronted with racks upon racks of T-shirts, coats, hats and other various clothing featuring the faces of heavily bearded men. "What is with the sudden rise in popularity of ZZ Top merchandise?" I thought to myself. Upon closer inspection, I found something that was quite shocking. Why are there weird sayings all over these shirts? What is with all the camouflage? Why so many pictures of ducks? These were not vintage looking rock band T-shirts, oh no my friends, these were T-shirts featuring the cast of the A&E reality series 'Duck Dynasty.' The slogan's on the shirts should have given them away immediately. Why are they "bustin up beaver dams"? Am I supposed to take that literally or is this some sort of poorly shrouded innuendo? This is where my research foray into the redneck-fuelled, gun-slinging, duck calling world of 'Duck Dynasty' began.
'Duck Dynasty' is a reality television show on A&E centering around the Robertson family, a tight-knit group of rednecks who made their fortune off of making products for duck hunters from their family business, Duck Commander, located in West Monroe, Louisiana. Season 4 of 'Duck Dynasty' premiered to a record setting 11.8 million viewers, making it the most-watched non-fiction show in cable television history. I don't really know what this says about us television-watchers as a whole, but as long as 'Toddlers & Tiaras' isnt no. 1 on the list, I guess it could be worse.
Brother's Phil and Si, along with Phil's sons Jase, Willie and Jep, are the main-men behind this operation. The men of this family are known for their long, scraggly beards, lack of fashion sense and affinity for shooting birds. I should note that I am not necessarily a fan of hunting. I am by all means not a vegetarian, but I do not endorse hunting as a sport. I have trouble seeing eye-to-eye with someone who will kill a defenseless animal just for the fun of it, and so going into this 'Sunshine' venture I did not have high hopes. However, while myself and the Robertson family may differ greatly on this one topic, I was (somewhat disturbingly) surprised to find out that I had a lot more in common with this down to earth, down south family than I expected.
One of the very first things I noticed about this family is the great respect, love and admiration they have for one another. Even more than this, the men of this family treat the women with nothing less than adoration. It is refreshing to see the old fashioned family values that are displayed amidst the reality television age of 'Jersey Shore' and 'Honey Boo Boo' that we live in. Besides the frequent, and light-hearted, jokes to "get back into the kitchen" the women of this family are as much a part of the business and the series as the men. What impressed me the most was the way in which the young women, like Sadie Robertson, are being raised. This 16-year-old just launched her very own line of prom-dresses during the "Evening By Sherri Hill" fashion show. Not a single dress among them would make a dad uncomfortable. “It’s got to be long enough … the finger-tip rule,” she told Us Weekly, adding of the necklines, “Everything modest up here.” After watching Miley Cyrus grind herself into the crotch of a man twice her age, while wearing a skin tight jumpsuit and air-humping a foam finger, it is more than refreshing to see a young woman who is actually worthy of being a role model. Kudos to her parents for bringing her up right.
The Robertson family really don't seem to be affected at all by their success. The men have not shaved their beards or traded in their camo-wear for expensive suits and designer shoes. Each time they appear on talk shows or late night spots, they are wearing exactly what they would be if they were sitting at home in their living rooms. Like all "reality" television shows in this age, not everything is unscripted. I know, shocking right?! Producers will try and recreate events or manufacture story-lines to make the series more interesting -- but they have their hands full when it comes to the Robertsons. "A lot of the ideas that they have, they always take a turn somewhere because that's just not what we would do," says Jase Robertson. "I think it's difficult for them to trust us enough to know that they're going to get something they can use, and that's been the biggest battle. They want to control it, but we're uncontrollable. So, finding that balance is the genius part of the show."
I think I believe this family when they say that they are uncontrolled and almost entirely unscripted. Some of the sentences and one-liners that come from this family, particularily from Si, could not be made up if you tried. I am not really sure what to make of most of what Si spouts-out (literally, it is hard to understand him), but at least you can't say that this man isn't happy, happy, happy. This man is a veteran of the Vietnam War, and if he wants to lay around in his camouflage, grow a huge beard and make inappropriate jokes, then I say who is to stop him? "America, everybody is in too big a rush. Lay back, take a sip of tea, mow a little grass. Then if you get tired, take a nap." Now that is something I can get behind.
Above all else, the Robertson family is an example of the kind of success that can be brought from passion and hard work. A home-grown business, Phil Robertson started Duck Commander after going through some difficult times financially and personally in the 1970s. In high school, and while attending Louisiana Tech, Phil was a star quarterback who was drafted into the NFL. He turned down the opportunity because it interfered with duck season, so it only makes sense that when he started his own business it would deal with ducks. Unhappy with the quality of duck calls at the time, Phil began fabricating his own duck calls and decoys made from salvaged swamp wood. Now, Duck Commander is a multi-million dollar company that employees half of the individuals from their down-south neighbourhood.
Looking into this show has not turned me into a hunter, changed my view on camouflage or made me grow a fondness for long beards. That being said, out of all the reality television show's throwing themselves depserately at us for attention, 'Duck Dynasty' is perhaps the least offensive of them all to me. The young women are not half-naked, pregnant or parading on stage in tiara's at 4 years old, and the men work hard for a living and the family is tight-knit. This right here is a little 'Ray of Sunshine' in the murky swamps of Louisiana.
Still, please do not buy me a 'Duck Dynasty' T-shirt.
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