You know that famous TV family of manly men with scruffy beards and scruffier clothes, one of whom recently got away with some truly offensive comments in an interview because their TV show is just so real? Well, Washington Monthly's Daniel Luzer points out that the Robertson family's genuineness is ... um, not necessarily all that genuine:
On December 29 Political Blind Spot posted an interesting series of older family photographs of the Robertson family, from back in the 90s, long after they'd founded [their highly successful duck-call] company, but before Duck Dynasty and anyone in the entertainment industry had ever heard of them.Really? Where the hell is the dirt and the scruff?
Here are Phil Robertson’s four sons, before network TV:
Luzer has more, and the full Political Blind Spot post has even more -- that post is here. My favorite, from Luzer:
... Willie Robertson [son of family "patriarch" Phil Robertson, who made the offensive remarks in that interview] is the CEO of Duck Commander. This is what he looks like:Now, I'm not going to argue that the Robertsons' invocation of their redneck roots is completely phony -- at least for the older generation, Patriarch Phil and his brother "Uncle Si." The Robertsons' company is a multimillion-dollar enterprise now, and they make millions more every year from TV, books, and other merchandise, but the elder Robertsons weren't born rich. Here's a video, a promo for Si's book, that shows photos of him throughout his early life. He was mostly clean-cut, except for a (neat) beard in the last photo, but he seems fairly down home (although he was in the Army for many years, and there's one shot of him in German hunting clothes):
This is what he used to look like:
Seriously? He’s barefoot on the beach with frosted tips? This is a picture with enough touches of American haute-bourgeois wimpiness to make Pajama Boy look like the Marlboro Man by comparison.
However, the kids clearly had a fairly nice -- and rather yuppified -- life after the business took off. I'm not sure when the big beards came along -- they were there for the Robertsons' show on the Outdoor Channel, the precursor to their current A&E show -- but, for the younger Robertsons especially, they're just an affectation. These guys aren't hillbillies.
It matters because the scruff is part of what they used to ward off criticism during the recent controversy. The implicit message was: "Hey, you citified wussies, you sure you want to mess with folks who look like this?" The look is something that can be used to intimidate.
And it's theater, at least for the younger generation. It's not real.