What Duck Dynasty can teach us about “Christian Media”

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Imagine for a moment you are a fly, kicking it on the wall, in a fancy board room. The year is 2011. You are in the offices of A&E,

Scott Gurney a former Gay porn star walks in, and says “Let’s take some redneck, Bible loving, God quoting, gun toting millionaires from Louisiana, and make a reality show exposing the ignorance of the Bible belt.”

The board loves it. A few jokes about republican Christians come up, the board laughs, another about hunting ducks come up. The timing is perfect. Obama will be reelected. Let’s throw some salt in the wound.

One board member says “Think of the controversy this will cause among the religious right, they are going to hate the stereotype!”

A check is written and the first pilot for Duck Dynasty airs the following March.

Little did they know the show would have the opposite effect they intended. Who could have imagined that a show that was meant to mock the gun toting, Bible thumping south would gain such a large following, and become a five hundred million dollar Dynasty. That’s half a billion.

The goal was to mock Christians. The goal was to make Christianity seem unintelligent, backwoods, ignorant and foolish. The goal was to push Christianity into a hillbilly sterotype.

But none of that happened. Instead, Christians fell in love with the Robertsons, one of the few intact families on television.

The Robertson’s were not just role models for Christian families, but idol’s of people with broken families. Everyone wanted a family like them, especially those without a family.

That wasn’t supposed to happen. But it did.

A&E’s plan backfired. Suddenly they had half a billion dollar empire, record ratings and genuine, intelligent, heroes for the Christian worldview on a network whose worldview opposed it.

The ducks took control of the hen house, and no one saw it coming…

That is except the Robertsons.

Phil Robertson knew exactly what he was getting into. He’s a smart man. He graduated college as a starting QB for Louisiana Tech, and turned down a contract with the Redskins to pursue his passion for duck hunting and create a multi-million dollar industry.

Somehow the A&E executives in that board meeting failed to look at his resume.

Oops.

In this interview, after three minutes Phil Robertson says:

“The people of God just have to be patient, you don’t turn that ship quickly. Big ship. A lot of depravity, a lot of heathens and a lot of the evil one…he is entrenched in the United States and you’re not going to turn it like “shoosh”…You can’t just break out your Bibles and start laying it down, No. This format doesn’t allow for that…It does create a big audience and the people who want to hear more from the spiritual side, are, trust me, gathering up in massive numbers and we’re going to them. This is Hollywood hitting the Kingdom of God, head on, but they don’t know who we are, but we know who they are.”

Sometime after this interview you fly into boardroom meeting number two. Scott Gurney, who still opposes everything about Christianity is having a discussion on how to handle this problem. They now know, that they know.

I imagine the conversation went something like this…

“We need to get them to become the next Michael Richards. They need to say something so offensive, everyone will demand their show be removed from the air. We need an Imus. We need them to openly oppose homosexuality, because everyone hates Gay bashing and then we will be free of them and accomplish the original mission.”

Well, that didn’t work did it?

Duck hunt

In the game of television, the Robertson’s we’re the laughing dog from NES Duck Hunt, snickering about A&E’s misfire. One doesn’t simply throw away half a billion dollars and the highest rated television show of all time. No one at A&E wants to go back to Dog the Bounty Hunter, or Steven Segal Lawman.

So the Robertson’s get to stay. Every one of them.

Capitalism is a very powerful tool that suppresses evil. No matter how much Scott Gurney might love his gay lifestyle, he loves bringing in millions of dollars just as well and Gay Porn just doesn’t bring in that kind of cash. If several years ago, you asked Scott Gurney to make a Christian television show that promotes intact Christian families, I promise you he would have said no. He would not have even considered it. Now he can’t even consider getting rid of a thing. His livelihood and reputation is now on the line and the backwoods, Louisiana Christian family, is holding his neck between their teeth like a loyal hunting dog.

But why is all of this important for Christian media? What does this matter to Christian filmmakers, directors, and producers?

First I think it eliminates every single possible excuse Christians have ever had for creating bad media and sets a direction which Christians should follow.

Christian media can make tons of money and break cable history records. Duck Dynasty, a show about a Christian family, is the highest rated cable reality television show in history. The bulk of the audience? Wal-Mart shopping, Lifeway buying Christians. Christian’s with checkbooks, bank accounts, and a love for media that is clean and wholesome. Christians buy things. They have money just like everyone else.

Which is why we need to kill off non-profit Christian networks. They don’t work. They have no power or voice of influence in the world. Time, after time, we see Christian, or even Christian themed films succeeding financially. Whether it be the $300 million dollar box office smasher, The Passion of the Christ; the incredibly profitable films Courageous and Fireproof, the obvious Duck Dynasty or the record breaking mini-series The Bible. There is a market so huge for Christian media that we can’t even fathom the dollar amounts available to us in the free market.

Does anyone notice?

So many Christians always ask the question. “Doesn’t Hollywood know that good Christian family films bring in lot’s of money, why don’t they make stuff for us?”

Well it’s not because they don’t know Christian films make money. The Christian market neglect of the film industry is because they do know Christian films make money and that scares them. Because if Christians control the bank accounts of Hollywood, the Christians control Hollywood and that is just unacceptable. Their media, their worldview and it’s not yours. Meanwhile Christian, go watch the next Marvel Movie, and don’t be reminded of your desire for stuff that actually conforms to your worldview.

For years we have been told that Christians are a minority. There is no market for Christian film. The Christian box office records are rare, unique occurrences that don’t happen very often…except for every Christian film that comes out, which of course doesn’t come around often. Whatever you do, don’t make the connection. Oh by the way, watch NOAH this summer, we know you will. You will also talk about how unbiblical it was on Facebook, and Twitter. Thanks, we appreciate the promotion via controversy.

Not all Christian programming has to be evangelistic. Some programming can just be down right entertaining. Duck Dynasty is not evangelistic, but neither is Chick-Fil-A yet both are massive economic powerhouses for defending the Christian worldview. Think about this, the two biggest stories in Christianity this year has been based on the defeat of the homosexual agenda by powerhouse, Christian capitalist. The death of Paul Crouch barely had a whimper.

We Christians have been so caught up in this deception that the only thing that qualifies as “Christian” is programming with a Gospel message smacked into it. Phil Robertson, said it best “This format, (reality television) doesn’t allow for that.” but those who do want more “gathering up in massive numbers.”

Non-evangelistic programming, based on a for profit model, leads to greater opportunities for the advancement of the Gospel than non-profit models. Pure and simple.

So it’s time for Christian businessmen, and investors to look to funding regular television, produced by those with a Christian worldview. Let’s make sitcom’s, reality shows, drama’s and media that simply give families a reason to sit together and laugh while enjoying each others company. Let’s invest and create shows that secular networks will pick up and air.

As much as the secular world, hates what Chick-Fil-A stands for, they still love to eat Chicken, just as it appears as that they still love to eat Duck.

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2 Responses to "What Duck Dynasty can teach us about “Christian Media”"

  1. Terrence says:

    Dang good article Marcus. We may disagree on a lot of things, but this is phenomenal.

  2. John E. Owens says:

    Hit the nail on the head.
    We wrestle not against flesh and blood.