“Duck Dynasty’s” Robertson family are all so popular with TV viewers. Friday night marked at least the third time since December a member of the popular A&E reality-show clan took a Nashville stage to spread hunting tips and their brand of “happy, happy, happy” Christianity, to steal a phrase family patriarch Phil Robertson made popular. He’ll speak again this afternoon and tonight with wife Kay and brother Si.
Their third-season finale Wednesday set an A&E series record with nearly 10 million viewers. More in the Nashville market watched “Duck Dynasty” than any other show that day.
It’s the Robertsons’ authenticity that attracts viewers, media watchers say. But the Bible Belt particularly loves the Robertsons, because evangelical Christians get messages from the show that other viewers might not. They see faith in Phil’s interactions with his sons, in the boys’ marriages and in the way they run Duck Commander, the business that made them millionaires.
Every week presents a manageable crisis and a happy solution — employees of the family’s duck-call plant don’t like a team-building workshop or Willie Robertson loses his luggage on a trip to Hawaii.
Willie Robertson, Duck Commander’s CEO, will return to Nashville in July for a LifeWay men’s event and again in August for Cornerstone Church’s back-to-school services. Cornerstone Pastor Maury Davis expects 10,000 total to attend the two services, meaning hundreds could end up standing in hallways leading to the sanctuary, watching on flat-screen TVs. Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee and Lt. Col. Oliver North, past speakers at the event, didn’t have the same draw, he said.
It’s tough to predict what celebrities and shows will attract evangelicals because they’re not a monolith, said Robert H. Woods Jr., author of “Evangelical Christians and Popular Culture: Pop Goes the Gospel.” Some prefer overtly Christian programming or shows that feature actors who speak out about their faith in public life. But the stranded-on-a-fictional-island series “L.O.S.T.” also attracted evangelicals.
“L.O.S.T. raised questions of human existence and dealt with complex things like redemption, an ordered universe and the sins of the fathers,” he said.
“Duck Dynasty” works because it brings Christianity into an everyday cultural experience, said Christopher Smit, associate professor of media studies at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich.
“Even though these guys on ‘Duck Dynasty’ have a very bizarre life, the show does try to represent these characters as simple, real life people,” he said. “Christianity doesn’t become the spectacle of the show, it simply becomes an element of authenticity. And that would certainly appeal to anyone who is a Christian.”
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Written By: Tommy Lightfoot Garrett
Photographs are Courtesy: A&E
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