Phil Robertson, Duck Dynasty, and the Historical Legacy of Southern Manhood

Duck Dynasty's Phil Robertson trades in southern identity tropes.

“Duck Dynasty’s” Phil Robertson trades in southern identity tropes.

A few weeks back, Phil Robertson, the hirsute, camo-sporting, duck pelting patriarch of the hit A&E “reality” series “Duck Dynasty” nearly gave the internet a pulmonary aneurism when he expressed, shall we say, less-than-enlightened views about gays and African-Americans.

In a rather revealing interview for GQ, Robertson, a self-identified “bible thumper” who “just happened to end up on television,” claimed that the so-called normalization of homosexuality nurtures a culture in which “sin becomes fine.” Robertson claimed that when you β€œstart with homosexual behavior,” a host of other vile forms of sexual immorality follows suite, including bestiality and rampant poliamory. Robertson even paraphrased Corinthians to assert that “the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers” wouldn’t “inherit the kingdom of God.”

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Obamacare, Pajama Boy, and the Paradox of American Masculinity

The longtime prototypical image of American masculinity: a right-wing, pill-popping draft-dodging chicken hawk.

The longtime prototypical image of American masculinity: a right-wing, draft-dodging chicken hawk whose image was built on colonialism and pseudo machismo.

Quick question: what makes a man? Is it, as the Big Lebowski famously quipped, “the ability to do the right thing?” In that context, manhood is defined through deeds and actions, but is that all there is to being a man? After all, the idea of a blanket definition of “masculinity” in the 21st century is patently absurd, resting as it does on the assumption that human identities can be shaped by a singular cultural experience or molded via the reigning social values that are inevitably dictated by those who hold power in any given society. The former sentence is a highfalutin way of saying that men, just like women, are all individuals who develop in a vast number of ways depending on a vast number of experiences. The idea of complexity in gender identity, however, has historically not meshed well with rather simplistic cultural notions of American masculinity.

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