ZZ Top has said something offensive, which has led to Darkwing Duck being canceled. Pope Francis weighs in at 11!
It’s time to kick off the Fifth Age of Sam’s Blogging Habit by grabbing the tail end of the latest blog bandwagon: Phil Robertson’s comments in GQ, the aftermath, and the comments upon comments that appeared on the Facebook pages of people I know.
For those who have had better things to do in the last year than follow the career of a guy who looks like the picture above, allow me to fill you in with a brief timeline from my perspective:
- About a year ago: My Facebook friends began talking about “Duck Dynasty”. I assumed it was a reality show, meaning I wouldn’t be interested anyway. When I found out it was somehow related to duck hunting, I knew I wouldn’t be interested.
- Over the next few months: I still wasn’t interested. Some of my more religious acquaintances began talking about what a “great man of God” someone was. I assume it was either the man in the picture (Phil Robertson) or one of his clones. Something about abstinence before marriage was also mentioned, but looking at the pictures of these dudes, are you really surprised?
- About a month ago: My curiosity got the better of me, and I read a synopsis on Wikipedia. I was surprised to discover that A) They’re not actually duck hunters, they’re a rich family that owns a duck call company, and B) Scratch that first one, they are also duck hunters.
- Two weeks ago: an acquaintance of mine heard the phrase “fuck a duck” for the first time, and thought it was hilarious, and wouldn’t stop saying it. That’s not really related to the story at hand, it’s just funny.
- Yesterday or two days ago: An interview with Phil Robertson was published in GQ. I read the article, which makes me about 4 pages more informed than 90% of the people posting opinions about this. “About what?!” you ask. So glad you asked. Robertson said, in his interview that:
- Homosexuality leads to and bestiality[*]. [Nope]
- Black people were happier under Jim Crow, because they weren’t so “entitled” [Somehow this comment got lost in all the hullabaloo over that first point]
- He voted for Romney, because Romney’s from Salt Lake City [Nope] and Obama’s from Chicago [Illinois Senator, so we’ll give him that, at least he didn’t say Kenya], and Salt Lake City is safer at 3am because it is.
- Yesterday, all day: People on Facebook lost their shit, one way or another. Some justified, some not. Late in the afternoon, A&E, the network which broadcasts Duck Dynasty (I learned something!!) announced that they were suspending Phil Robertson from the program. [Cue the false persecution claims in 3… 2… ]
- Today, all day: People continue to lose their shit all over Facebook.
I’ll share a couple of comments I read on the Facebook feeds of people who will more-than-likely unfriend me if they read this, even though I’m not sharing their names.
Completely agree with Phil’s comments and completely agree with you that A&E has right to “suspend” him (whatever the heck that actually means). I just feel that most of my friends championing A&E today were the same ones who complained vehemently in the past about conservative boycotts of Disney or country radio boycotts of Dixie Chicks.
Lot of comments here, so for now I’ll just stick with this for now: I hope he hadn’t actually read the comments before claiming to agree with them.
This will get much worse before it gets better for Phil Robertson. He has decided to go up against the god of this age. If you haven’t been to Walmart yet to get it, go purchase your Duck Dynasty gear today, because it might not be on the shelves much longer. Note the final paragraph in the article…quoting from 1 Cor. 6 is like sounding one’s own cultural death knell.
I thought the “god of this age” was money? Phil Robertson has gone up against money?! Oh, no, wait “go down to your local Walmart and buy some Duck Dynasty swag” is right there. This is probably my favorite comment, because it’s the perfect blend of culture war fear and rushed consumerism.
Have I mentioned how proud I am of the the Robertson Family! Especially Mr. Phil. We live in such a difficult time in our nations history, it’s great to see people like Phil speak the Truth of the Word of God boldly to the media! Keep it up Robertsons! We’re praying for you guys on the frontline!
I like that during times of actual war, when actual soldiers are in actual firefights and actually getting killed (and many of those soldiers are Christians, I might add), a reality show star making an obnoxious statement against multiple minority groups … HE’S the one on the “frontlines”.
A world where everyone else can proclaim their opinions on the highest mountain, but the second a Christian stands up for what the Bible says, even in a loving, non-judgmental way, they are ostracized and hated.
Today I learned the Bible says that homosexuality will morph into bestiality.
And now you’re all, “But freedom of speech!”
Freedom of speech is a limit on government censorship, not on a company suspending an individual for expressing, well, any opinion, but for an individual in the public eye to make boldly ignorant statements like the ones he made? Yes, A&E should suspend him or cancel his program.
So then you’re all “Well, they shouldn’t have asked him the question and then been shocked by the answer!”
Actually, if you read the interview, Robertson made the comment initially, bemoaning how “Sin becomes fine” in modern society. The question (not directly quoted) was what we call a followup question. It’s Journalism 101, people! (I’m kidding, obviously. Interviewing was a 300 level course when I was in school). Robertson volunteered these opinions, and went a step further with the comparisons.
So next you’re going to claim “Oh, but people on the other side do the same!”
Probably. I honestly couldn’t tell you. The examples provided above were the Disney boycott and the Dixie Chicks boycott. The Dixie Chicks boycott is likely comparable, but I remember very little of it, because people were still pretty pissed at the Dixie Chicks for their awful cover of Landslide.
The Disney comparison, though, is likely not valid. A lot of “charges” (in the moral court, of course) were thrown at Disney in the 90’s, including providing domestic partnership benefits to same-sex partners of employees. But the big one that was used on all the literature was “GAY DAY” (omg!) Someone mistakenly believed Gay Day to be a Disney-sponsored event (it wasn’t), and wrote out letters to organizations who passed the misinformation on to members, who could have then verified the information for themselves (they didn’t) and a boycott ensued. It wasn’t a case of “Boycott vs. Claims of Free Speech”, it was “Boycott vs. THE FACTS”.
“Well, remember when we were boycotting The Golden Compass movie based on a chain e-mail we received, and someone said that we couldn’t because of free speech? This is the same!” [hypothetical example, identical principle]
If that’s true? Then yes, it is the same, in principle. It’s also irrelevant. Whatever pet boycott you still remember from the past is not this situation, and there’s no need to bring it up now. The issue right now is Phil Robertson’s comments, and A&E’s reactions.
If you want to discuss your pet boycott, discuss it in its own arena.
If you want to claim that liberals don’t care about freedom of speech unless it’s for their own causes, need I remind you that the ACLU defended Westboro Baptist Church in an actual First Amendment case?
“What’s the big deal with Phil’s comments anyway?”
Here’s where I tone the snark down a bit, and turn on my serious face.
Phil Robertson’s comments were more than just a statement of what he believes. They were more, even, than an apologetic statement of his belief, or even the echoing of a sentiment shared by many of his fans (which it certainly was, troubling as that may be). His statements were offensive because sexuality is more than just who you have sex with. Sexuality is more, even, than who you’re attracted to. Sexuality is an identity. It is part of who you are, not a thing you turn on from time to time. Even as a cis-het person, I understand my sexuality is a major defining part of who I am. For LGBTQI* individuals, it is not only an identity, but a part of their identity that sets them apart from many others. It is a part of their identity that some have taken years to accept, and some still may not have fully dealt with. Many have been ostracized from family and friends, they cannot obtain legal marriage licenses in many states, and in some countries, they can be put to death. Not for who they’re attracted to, but for who they are. Their identity.
So when a reality television star who has never had to deal with identity issues, second-class citizenship, etc. compares their identity to nonconsensual sexual acts with children or non-humans, it is harmful and destructive. A&E made the right call in suspending him from the program, and the Robertson family’s Notpology does not begin to make up for it.
I read somewhere recently that arguments of equality and rights do not occur in a vacuum, and this is true. [if someone wants to find me that source, I’d love you for three seconds!]
It’s tempting to say “Both sides need to respect each other” but that assumes both sides are on an even playing field. In reality, one side is trapped in a well, and the other side refuses to let them climb out, so the party trapped in the well is justifiably angry. That is not a remotely comparable form of “intolerance” as the person standing at the edge saying “shut up and stay there!”
It’s time for those of us in the privileged classes to examine that our “freedom”, while legally protected, does not justify speaking cruelly of groups that are already marginalized.
Phil Robertson is a symptom of the problem. But the crowds of people jumping to his defense are the true cause.
In the original version of this post, I mistakenly listed pedophilia here along with bestiality. This was incorrect, and I have removed the reference.
First the good news: Hasbro is responding to McKenna Pope’s online petition to market the Easy-Bake Oven in a more gender-neutral way, including adding pictures of boys to the marketing.
McKenna was prompted by her 4-year-old brother’s interest in cooking, and wondered why, in a field publicly dominated by men such as Emeril, toy companies still chose to make cooking a “girls” thing.
When I was four, five, six, I was a lot like McKenna’s brother. I was a little boy who loved to cook, or to pretend to cook. I even owned a chef’s hat. But in 1990, when I turned 6, the idea of marketing cooking toys to boys was pretty unheard of. So when I opened one of the presents at my party — a cooking set called “Now You’re Cooking”, which I cannot find any reference to on the internet — my first reaction was to declare “That’s a girl toy!”
I pretty much spent the next 20 years in constant guilt over insulting a present upon opening it. But why would I think to declare that? Well, because the dishes were turquoise and pink, and the packaging showed three girls using the set.
In the following months, that was the present I used the most. It was a set of microwave-safe dishes and a stack of recipe cards, so that children could make food. Not unlike the Easy Bake oven at all, really.
I was reminded of that story last night when browsing the toy department at Target looking for Christmas gifts for my nieces. The toys marketed to boys were awesome: wearable action video cameras, walkie talkie watches, building sets. And “for girls”? Princess dolls. My first thought was that no one could see this dichotomy that is forced on our children from young ages and come away with the belief that gender roles are “natural”.
I was also reminded of this Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal cartoon:
All the “girl toys”… what do they do? Ever since my nieces were young, I’ve tried to buy them presents that promote creativity or reasoning skills. Blocks, games of skill, books. (Unless they are still infants, in which case stuffed animals are the way to go).
My first choice, actually, was Goldie Blox. But I went to the website, and those won’t be released for several months.
Ultimately, while it’s encouraging that Hasbro has made this choice with the Easy Bake oven, there is still quite an uphill battle with toys and gender roles. With Pink Ouija Boards and Legos for Girls, it’s easy to think it’s a losing battle. But, like McKenna Pope, we can’t be silent.
Eighteen children are dead in Connecticut. Details are still unraveling, and of course social media and blogs are completely clogged with ideas.
Is it gun availability? A culture of violence? A stigmatization of mental health?
My personal opinion is, it’s a combination of many different factors. And there is only one way to find a solution: to talk about them.
Three years ago, there was a shooting at a university in my hometown. My first thought was “let’s not talk about gun control right after a shooting”. My views on that have changed… it is time to talk about issues, and for all sides to work together on preventing these things from happening.
Personally, I want to focus on increasing availability of mental healthcare. But we have to discuss, not just defend opinions.
The story: Papa John’s Pizza founder and C.E.O. John Schnatter will be required to provide health insurance for his full-time employees, due to the Affordable Care Act — which he did not support.
How to spin this in your favor: Pass the cost increase on to your customers, at a few cents per pizza without making a big deal about it.
Another way to spin this in your favor: Give your employees even more insurance than the Affordable Care Act requires, and announce that you are raising your prices to care for your employees more than just the bare minimum.
What Papa John Schlatter chose to do instead: Publicly complain about “Obamacare” to your shareholders, and announce that either prices are going up, or employees’ hours are getting cut. Blame “Obamacare” and blame people who voted for the President.
The message this sends to your employees and customers: “I don’t care about my employees enough to provide them healthcare. But since I’m grudgingly being forced to provide it, I’m going to raise prices or cut hours.”
I only have an advertising degree that included one P.R. class and one Marketing class, but I could have avoided this public cluster fuck better than his team did.
This is the time of year when Americans start hearing complaints about how “it’s not even Thanksgiving yet, why are stores already playing Christmas music?!” Not that I don’t agree with the sentiment, but I think if we’re going to call out one phenomenon, we should call out a bunch of others that are similar in principle. So I propose the following:
When previewing “Next week’s episode”, television networks should no longer add “And then in two weeks and preview two episodes ahead. What if this contains spoilers for next week?
If you set your Facebook profile picture to your Halloween costume, and you still have that as your picture after New Years, your account will be deleted.
No more summer trailers for movies that don’t come out until next summer.
No more summer previews for television shows that don’t start until the spring.
No more pilot episodes for a show that won’t begin airing regularly until a month after the pilot.
No more political party debates, media coverage of primaries, or polls about primary candidates until January 1 of the election year.
No more servers bringing you the check before asking whether you want dessert. (Seriously, what’s up with that?)
The most important message here is that we need to stop jumping the gun and living in the distant future (or past). The second most important message is that Sam watches a lot of television.
You think we’re losing the spirit of Christmas? Trust me, the spirit of Halloween is completely getting its ass kicked. I know Halloween doesn’t have the same “feel” since we don’t get off work. But can’t we just TRY to be festive? A little bit? The following people I can do without:
The Anti-Costume Crowd
This includes “non-costumes” such as “Oh, I’m an office worker” or “Oh! I’m a student”, but it also includes half-assed costumes that are preoccupied with not looking like costumes. I understand a desire for comfort (though I tend to sacrifice that in my own life) but the preoccupation with not looking like a dork? With being “too cool” to let yourself go just a little bit? Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about. A good fictitious example of this is Jim Halpert from The Office. His costumes have been a “three hole punch” version of himself, him wearing a nametag that says “Dave”, or writing the word “book” on his face, and claiming he’s Facebook. If there were a Halloween version of “A Christmas Carol”, Jim would be Scrooge.
Annoyance Level: 7.5 / 10
The Weekend Partiers
For the “weekend partiers” the holiday is more about getting drunk than having fun, so they just have one of their standard Saturday Night Shindigs, and add a half-assed costume. Even if Halloween doesn’t happen to fall on a Saturday. Every Halloween, I ask people what they’re going to be, and they say “I already dressed up on Saturday night”.
This is less annoying, though, because I’ve been in the same position before. But if it is at all possible, I prefer to observe Halloween on Halloween night. And you should too, because I say so.
Annoyance Level: 2 / 10
The Poison Patrol
Despite there bring no recorded incidents of poisoned candy being handed out to trick-or-treaters , overprotective parents insist that it’s happening everywhere in the nation, especially in their neighborhoods! The same family next door who holds Fourth of July cookouts for everyone on the block, who walks through the neighborhood Christmas caroling every year – that same family are secretly Satanic Halloween terrorists, lacing candy with cyanide to pass out to your unsuspecting children. Nooo!
Annoyance Level: 4/10 if they believe the tales just out of ignorance. 10/10 if they insist on repeating the tales long after being corrected and pointed to the truth.
This one is probably more common in the Bible Belt than elsewhere, but there are a lot of people of the more “religious” persuasion here who are pretty anti-Halloween.
Sometimes it’s about the spooky nature, sometimes it’s about the witches, and some people like to selectively remember Halloween’s pagan roots, while conveniently forgetting the pagan roots of Christmas and Easter. The way families deal with refraining from celebrating “the devil’s birthday” vary by family. There’s a small minority who make no observance at all. Luckily for the kids, most parents are not that dickish… they will come up with alternative celebrations. The most common is the “Fall Festival” held at church gymnasiums across the country. These are essentially Halloween in everything but name. Kids dress up in costumes, play games, and win candy, they just avoid the H-word. The slightly more devout might name their not-Halloween party a “Noah’s Ark” party and ask that kids dress as animals. (The snarky hipster kids will dress as Noah or his wife or kids, just to be rebels. Because they’re badass like that.)
But the kings and queens of Halloween denial are the ones who declare it to be “Reformation Day”.
For the unaware, Martin Luther nailed his 95 these on the door of the church at Wittenburg on October 31, 15-something-I’m-too-lazy-to-look-up. This is pretty much considered to be the beginning of Protestant Christianity. And that’s all well and good if you want to commemorate a day in your religion’s history, but Reformation Day celebrants are frequently, um… not Lutheran. Evangelicals of all stripes would need to celebrate something concerning John Wesley if they really wanted to celebrate the birth of their theology. But that’s beside the point… they aren’t celebrating Reformation Day because it’s something they want to commemorate – they’re celebrating it because it’s something that’s not Halloween.
Annoyance Level: Wow, this one ended up being the longest portion, so it’s no surprise that it’s 10/10
Now that you’ve read all of my bitchings about the bastardization of my favorite holiday, I will leave you with this: All of my Halloween costumes from 2005 to last year.
What is a brontosaurus?
It’s a large herbivorous dinosaur, correct? A sauropod, with a long neck and a huge tail. Right?
It’s a dinosaur that never existed! Most people know the story, but for those who aren’t aware, here’s a basic timeline:
- A dinosaur was discovered called Apatosaurus.
- A second skeleton was found, that was larger, and was called Brontosaurus
- Later it was determined these were both the same species, and Apatosaurus took priority since it was named first
- People were already used to saying Brontosaurus, and some still do.
The above is pretty much common knowledge. What seems to be lesser-known is when exactly this mistake was caught and corrected in the scientific community. My assumption had always been that it was within my lifetime. I never went through the “obsessive dinosaur phase” that many young children go through, but I loved The Land Before Time after seeing it in theaters, and had a few children’s books about dinosaurs. These books referred to Brontosaurus, and while the dinosaurs in LBT weren’t referred to by scientific names, we all knew what Littlefoot was, right?
Webcomic author Brian Russell has been working on a book called “What I Remember About Dinosaurs”, which is a humorous look at how the things we learned about dinosaurs as children aren’t accurate anymore. He even found and photographed a children’s book with a Brontosaurus reference:
So the change must be recent, right?
The Apatosaurus was discovered in 1877. The “Brontosaurus” was discovered in 1879. And the first scientist wrote that they were the same species in 1903… Nineteen-oh-fucking-three?!
That’s 109 years ago! That means that not only have children’s books and our parents lied to us, but their children’s books and their parents lied to them!
How else can you explain that we didn’t know something that the scientific community has known since before human flight was even commercially available?!
And then it hit me… Brontosaurus is a meme.
Not a meme like we find on Reddit (or, more recently, Facebook.) And not really a meme as first defined by Richard Dawkins. But something between. An urban legend, but less detailed. An old wives’ tale, but with a less sexist description. The existence of the Brontosaurus is like the tale of Washington and the cherry tree, or the belief that orange juice prevents an oncoming cold, carrots are good for your eyes, or Sweet & Low causes cancer. Something we believe so prevalently, that we simply don’t question it, even though the truth has been known for much longer than we’re prepared to admit.
There are many, many examples of false beliefs about history, science, or other practices. And like Internet memes, they continue to spread via technology. But the lies that spread post-internet are often more damaging.
Urban legends used to be fairly harmless. They were stories of a killer with a hook, or a father accidentally being seduced by his daughter… shocking tales, but no real outcome relied on their being believed. Not so with the modern legends. Tell me if you’ve heard this one:
[Unnamed Politician] wants to appeal to the religious crowd, so he claims his favorite Bible verse is John 16:3. He meant to say John 3:16, but got it backwards, and the verse he cited is something about “They will not know me and it will show”. So see? Don’t vote for this person. [crazy paraphrase]
This is a common example, because it comes around every election season. I first heard it in 2000, and it was attributed to Al Gore. I heard it again in 2004, attributed both to Bush and to Kerry, and then I heard it again in 2008 referring to Obama. Further investigation found a conservative columnist claiming it had actually been said by George H.W. Bush in the late ’80s. But did this ever happen? Probably not. Was it said by Obama/Romney/Whoever you happen to hear it attributed to in the coming election? Definitely not.
But here’s where the second danger comes in. Have you ever seen a newspaper with an incorrect headline on the front page?
Have you ever seen the paper print the retraction in a headline on a front page?
Of course not, it’s always on page twelve, tucked away in the corner. The lie stays powerful.
Now, for a real world analogy (because newspapers, amirite?!) — Have you ever seen someone post something false on Facebook? Do they delete it when the falsehood is pointed out? Or, more likely, do they post a comment that says “Oh, I guess it’s not true.” Why not delete the post?
Or another common response is “It may not be true, but it’s funny.”
And this is valid… to an extent. Humor, inspiration, shock… these can all come from fiction, and I daresay fiction does a better job of them than reality does. But more often than not, the humor, inspiration, or shock value of the story is directly dependent on the story’s authenticity.
The idea that a Ron Paul supporter met the president while “Vote Ron Paul” was scribbled on his hand is kind of funny, but only if it’s true. The true story… that an Obama supporter’s picture was photoshopped and passed around the internet portraying him as A) a subversive, and B) a supporter of a candidate that he doesn’t support, isn’t funny. In fact, it’s pretty much just stupid.
I can Photoshop shit too, you know. Look at this, I put it on Reddit yesterday:
It’s even more true of inspirational (vom) stories.
Remember Herman Rosenblat? I first read his story in Reader’s Digest in middle school, and had no reason to doubt its authenticity. And it was a very sweet story. Here’s the short version (stolen from Wikipedia):
…beginning in the Winter of 1944, a nine year old Jewish girl posing as a Christian from a local farm, met him at the electrified perimeter fence of the Schlieben concentration camp and tossed him an apple over the fence. She continued passing him food for seven months until he was transferred to another camp. According to Rosenblat, they met in 1957 on a blind date at Coney Island, New York, and, while relating their personal histories, discovered their shared past. Shortly afterwards, they married.
This story was to be published in a book called Angel at the Fence … until it was discovered that it was made-up bullshit.
Rosenblat was a Holocaust survivor, but the claims of the little girl throwing him apples were not only fabricated — they weren’t even possible, based on what is known of the layout of the concentration camp.
Even Rosenblat’s kids knew the story was false.
But though the book was canceled, the film was still going forward last I heard (and last the Wikipedia page was updated.) Why?! This story’s inspiration requires it to be true. It isn’t!
So here’s the real question: Do you care if the things you propagate and believe are true? Does it even matter?
If you do care, do you retract falsehoods with the same enthusiasm with which you announce them?
If you don’t care… well, here’s a couple of brontosauruses fucking:
Let’s talk about a disturbing trend on college campuses that has made its way across the Tube de la You in the past couple of years: college a capella groups.
Now don’t get me wrong: a capella music is often some of the most beautiful music you can find, and when sung live, the power of voices blending in harmony can move even the stoniest heart to tears. Even a capella covers of popular music can have this effect… but only if done right.
What I’m talking about is the plethora of groups springing up on campus after campus, writing cheap knockoffs of pop songs. And in the cheapest way possible. Across the country they appear, with pseudo-clever names like “All-Night Yahtzee” or “Pitch Slapped”, acting as free entertainment at events where the university doesn’t want to pay a real band, and directly knocking off whatever Katy Perry tune happens to be playing on the radio that particular week.
The most telling aspect of a crappy college a capella group is the direct knockoff. Repeat with me: Good a capella music does not have a star. It’s about harmonies and voice blending. Shitty a capella, on the other hand, involves converting the instrumental portions of the song into “doo doo da da”, and arranging in a semi-circle around whichever member has been chosen to sing lead this time. And then they recreate the song exactly how we already know it. (See figure A)
I’m sorry, but that’s not a capella. That’s karaoke with a less interesting track. If I wanted to hear a soloist singing “Two Points for Honesty”, I would listen to Guster’s original version… I searched for an a capella version because I wanted to see what harmonies people came up with.
And then there’s this guy:
Without fail, the SAGs (Shitty Acapella Groups) feel the need to spice up their acts by including someone with no musical talent, probably the brother of one of the organizers, to provide beat-boxing. He is generally the whitest, douchiest male they could find, and tries to disguise this by wearing a baseball cap in the inevitable backwards/sideways variation. You know the backwards hat: It’s the universal sign that you were unequivocally street smart in 1974.
Oh, and he gets a microphone too. It’s not because he really needs one (his contribution to the piece is only harmful to all that is sacred), but it’s because he threw a temper tantrum and wanted people to look at him.
Now, like I’ve said, good a capella music does exist, and good a capella covers of pop songs are even out there. Some of them even involve the occasional soloist. There have been some great arrangements of Ben Folds songs, and I participated in a six-part rendition of a Billy Joel piece back in high school all-state choir. Unfortunately, the market is inundated with so many SAGs that these are all most searches will yield. Looking for good a capella music on YouTube is like looking for a Weird Al song on Napster 12 years ago that was actually a Weird Al song and not someone’s homemade parody.
The SAGs, you see, have failed in the same way bar bands have failed. To cover a song well, you have to reinvent it, not just recreate it.
Otherwise, you’re just unoriginal.