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174http://www.beth-israel.org/blog/2013/12/RabbiLyonsBlog-12_27_2013
Rabbi Lyon's Blog - 12_27_2013
12/26/2013 12:00 AM Posted by:

From the Desk of Rabbi David Lyon

December 27, 2013

Duck Dynasty. Honestly, I had no idea what these two words meant written together until they made the news recently. A reality TV show, “Duck Dynasty” raised the visibility of some long beard-wearing men and their families. An otherwise private family with its unique customs and traditions, the genre of reality TV transformed them and others like the Kardashians and Honey Boo-boo into modern day circus side-shows, and turned us into lurid voyeurs who pay admission fees via cable TV. The Duck family, like the Kardashians and Honey Boo-boo, do not, by themselves, warrant our voyeuristic interests; but, once TV producers package their unique habits and regional customs into episodes for entertainment fodder, they do.

In recent weeks, the Duck family drew more unwarranted attention to themselves when they shared their real feelings against homosexuality. They drew a quick and focused reaction from diverse groups. There were those who defended the Ducks and their constitutionally protected speech. There were others who were deeply offended by the Ducks who used their TV celebrity to disparage homosexuals.

Where do I stand on this issue? It’s only because I’m on vacation and promised myself not to delve into weighty matters for a few days that I would even choose to take up this matter. But, because I can find humor in absurd situations, I must tell you that I think the constitutionalists and the defenders of diversity have it all wrong. How many of you recall the day when Rosanne Barr was selected to sing the National Anthem at a televised ballgame? At the height of her celebrity, presumably her agent convinced someone that she would draw a lot of attention to the game. Well, her agent was right, because when they asked Rosanne Barr to match her celebrity to the stature of the National Anthem, the result drew a lot of attention for what became a national embarrassment. However, the only person who should have been embarrassed and also fired was the man or woman who agreed to let her sing. At the time, Barr was one of the raunchiest self-described trailer-trash comediennes around; but, had she done anything but desecrate the National Anthem, she would have blown her cover.

Now, Duck Dynasty has been turned into a sensation because of their trademark beards and their commentary on homosexuality. But, when you pay the ticket price for a side-show at the circus, you don’t get to complain about the attraction and demand your money back. You get what you paid for, which is exactly what every TV reality show, from America’s Got Talent and Wipeout, to Big Brother and Cupcake Wars, is serving up to voyeurs like us. So, we can’t complain when the singer mangles the National Anthem or the backwater boys speak their minds.

My complaint is that TV producers create shows with people who think they really matter to us at all. For money and a bit of fame, ordinary people with relatively good lives often become targets of ridicule for doing nothing but being themselves. In America, there’s really nothing wrong with being Honey Boo-boo, the Kardashians or the Ducks; but, when your life is put on a stage, your conversations scripted with cameramen in your bedroom, and America paying the price of admission, your celebrity star rises and then burns out when our taste for sensationalism is no longer piqued and the next backwater is finally discovered. My advice? In a world of so much junk on TV and the internet, either pick something of greater value and substance or don’t complain about the price of admission to the 21st century version of the circus side-show. I don’t watch reality TV, but not because I only watch PBS. I just find that reality, itself, is all the entertainment and bemusement I need. I hope the same might be true for you.

Shabbat Shalom.


 

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