Duck Dynasty is a new reality T.V show that is also currently the #1 reality T.V show. It has been praised by fans for its down to earthness, upholding family values and providing genuine entertainment without the usage of the traditional recipe of materialism, opulence, fame and sex. However, through the intersectional analysis of gender and race I hope to bring to light how ‘hixploitation’ is utilized to reinforce the traditional gender roles and ‘American-dream’ families.
It is extremely prominent on the show, the blatant, stereotyped representation of hillbillies or ‘red-neck’ white individuals. The main cast, the Robertson Brothers are represented as stereotypical rednecks, always shown wearing hunting gear, even around the house in front of the dinner table. The show emphasizes the stereotypes to communicate their down-to-earthness as a backwardness/retardation to highlight the progress more upstanding Americans in the cities or the suburbs have made. To make matters worse, the show reinforces the idea that redneck individual’s poverty lifestyle is a choice, which enables upscale societal members to feel comfortable while laughing at the antics with the hillbillies in the center. Additionally, it pushes some people to embrace the stereotype as a badge of honor.
What is not evident at all on the show is people of minority. By deliberately shying away from the representation of minority individuals, the show communicates a message that the stereotyping of redneck individuals is not being racist. As stated by Michelle Dean, “ hillbilly stereotypes have always made it easier for middle-class whites to presume that racism is the exclusive province of “that kind” of person. As Ta-Nehisi Coates has written, “It is comforting to think of racism as species of misanthropy, or akin to child molestation, thus exonerating all those who bear no real hatred in their heart. It’s much more troubling to think of it as it’s always been—a means of political organization and power distribution.”
Members of the Robertson Family could be used as a picture definition for the gender roles male and female. The show hyper masculinizes the Robertson brothers to reinforce traditional male roles. You kill things. You eat them. You take care of your family. And you grow a beard. Big beards, reserved for the men. Furthermore, through the representation of females on the show, it destroys generations’ worth of work towards female equality. There is a clear distinction between a man and a woman. The show has only managed to show the wives in their “traditional” habitat, in the kitchen cooking away, in a pedicure salon getting pretty, or the mall shopping. The show utilizes the portrayal of females to communicate a message that females are dependent on male to bring home the food and that the females ‘serve’ their husbands. Additionally, the men spend time with the boys teaching them how to be men. They give them warnings of the dangers that await them in the world, but also encourage them to be distinct in their manhood. Likewise, the women teach the girls how to grow up and be women. This is utilized to reinforce the show’s portrayal of American Families; a picture of marriage that is between one male and one female. To further reinforce that message the show always ends with the Robertson Family sitting together with the dad sitting at the head of the table, leading the prayer and the family enjoying diner together.
What is completely void in the show is the representation of transgendered/multigendered individuals. By not representing this group the show delivers a message that these individuals are somehow unable to live the ‘rough, outdoor’ lifestyle. This communicates that transgendered individuals are somehow less-able, or too weak to ‘rough-it’ and hunt for their own food; basically unable to sustain themselves without help from others.
In Conclusion, Duck Dynasty may offer some light-hearted entertainment, however individuals without the tools to critically view the show, will fall pretty to the producers intentional and unintentional attempt to reinforce the traditional gender roles and ‘American-dream’ families.
What are your guys’ opinions about ‘hixploitation’? Do you think this might cause stereotypes about Americans or white people in general for people viewing it outside of North America?