So, looking back now at this 'alleged controversy' over Phil Robertson & Duck Dynasty and gay bashing and civil rights and the crap that went along with it, I've kinda noticed something funny:
If you got butt-hurt on either side of the conversation, congratulations. You got played. The media manipulated the masses for profit. Again.
A&E had a rep with Phil during the GQ interview. They knew what he said long before the magazine was released. GQ held on to the story to release it in their January edition to coincide with Season 5's January 15th launch. GQ leaked the good parts to the media to create that controversy to sell magazines (which every magazine does), and that, in turn, led to the media overload and forced A&E's hand, which then forced the DD fans and non-fans (Sarah Palin was one of many who didn't read the article before jumping into supporting Phil and/or bashing people hatin' on Phil) to show their support. How? By being American. (Meaning mainly buying merchandise.) Right before Christmas. DD sales were flat prior to this controversy. The show, like all good shows do, was starting to plateau. It had reached the the limit of the audience it aimed to attract.
TV Fact: Most shows have a good four- to five-year run. DD just ended Season 4. Good shows get shaken up every so often. Seinfeld only lasted nine years, and that was probably one year too many. Dexter should have ended after Season 7. The Sopranos went six seasons. Every one of those shows built an audience for the first four or five years, then stagnated.
I know, the numbers for DD were growing season by season, but there's only so far a show with a limited audience can go. And lets be honest, there aren't a whole lot of minorities who are going to watch the Robertson family. So what to you do to draw viewers? Since the "let's add a new kid to the mix" last worked in the 1970's, they had to do something different. Something unique. Something to make people who aren't fans become fans.
Something like Chick-Fil-A.
Yep, A&E used the Chik-Fil-A approach: Drop a controversial quote into a magazine, leak it so the liberal media gets the conservatives in a huff feeling their free speech rights are being threatened by the gays and/or the Hollywood elite and/or liberals and watch them line up in droves to support your brand.
A&E knew EXACTLY how fans and conservatives would react ... buying up all the DD stuff they could and saying they'd never watch A&E again until they were back and even death threats. Just like the lines of white people at Chik-Fil-A after their inflated controversy last summer.
And A&E kept playing DD the entire time Phil was 'suspended' by the network. A lot. In fact, there were more than 30 hours of DD aired the week he was 'suspended' including repeats of their holiday special and 25 consecutive hours of DD on Christmas Day. Then, while everyone's paying attention to after-Christmas sales, college bowl games and the NFL playoff picture, A&E silently reinstates Phil after a week-long 'suspension' and less than three weeks before the start of Season 5, all without anyone missing a day of filming.
So who got hurt by all of this?
Well, maybe the two or three gay people who watched DD. And that one black guy who was a fan. Was. Oh, and a bunch of Tea Partiers got internet-butt-hurt over alleged freedom of speech issues without understanding what the First Amendment actually means. That's about it. If anyone is surprised Phil said what he said, what would you expect from a 67-year-old evangelical white guy from Louisiana?
Let's be real: The show is available in 98.4 million homes. Neilsen says 14 million people watched the show. If 14 million people watched that show, and all the gays and blacks and liberals who were offended by what Phil said stopped watching that show, they'd probably have 13,999,900 people return, plus a couple million more who had no idea who the Robertsons were, but will watch them on January 15th because of the alleged controversy.
- GQ sells a bunch more magazines and gets a ton of money from advertisers on their website when everyone flocks to read the story because they gave up buying magazines.
- A&E sells all sorts of merch and gets all sorts of ratings boosting free advertising all over the internet, TV, newspapers (do they still exist?) and gets lots of people who will watch the new season, which will lead to higher rates charged to the show's advertisers.
- Wal-Marts (and other retailers) all over the country saw a run on DD stuff like one of the five books they've written, birthday cards, bobblehead dolls, camo apparel, pink camo for the ladies, Cajun-spice seasoning, car fresheners, iPhone games with beard growing prizes, and shirts and shirts and shirts galore. Hell, two days before Christmas my local Wally World had every men's T-Shirt rack with a DD shirt on display. Wal-Mart's website was out of most DD items on Day 3 of the controversy.
- The Robertsons keep getting paid for the 'reality show' based on their life and when they start filming again after the hunting break (they have a clause that there will be no filming during hunting season) this, like Chik-Fil-A, will have been swept under the rug, probably by the next media-created controversy.
- Disney-ABC owns 80% of A&E. Hearst Pubications owns the other 20%. And no, GQ is not owned by Hearst or Disney-ABC. I checked. They're both going to make money.
And all of them are sleeping soundly.
So, if you got butt-hurt on either side of the conversation, congratulations. You got played. The media manipulated the masses for profit. Again.
And I'm sure it won't be the last time.