The guys with the beards are back. On reality television that is. Duck Dynasty’s new season premiered last night and its legions of fans tuned in to see the latest happenings in the Robertson family, especially those of the hirsute men of the clan.
Duck Dynasty has become the most successful of the reality shows set in the South. It’s part of what I like to call the “Louisiana genre” of reality TV that includes other successful show like Swamp People and Billy the Exterminator. Though let’s not forget the lesser known Cajun Pawn or Cajun Justice.
What makes Duck Dynasty different, for me at least, is that the guys with beards are nobody’s fool. So much of southern-based reality TV seems geared toward stereotyping people from the region. Very often they are placed in ridiculous situations for comedic effect and their speech is accompanied by subtitles. This is most famously the case with the Thompson Family in Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. Not so with Duck Dynasty.
One gets the impression that Willie and the boys are very much in control of their show and while there’s humor, it’s the kind where we can laugh with them and not at them. Uncle Si might be the one in the family who’s picked on, but “hey,” he and the rest are in on the joke. Moreover, the show about these self-made millionaires, whose company Duck Commander makes duck calls among other products, seems more like a strategic move on the family’s part to further their brand. And it’s worked like a charm.
Now the brand includes the show itself. The success of Duck Dynasty has resulted in sales of all sorts of items that have less to do with duck calls and more to do with the family’s keen marketing sense. Products range from bobble heads of father Phil and his sons Willie and Jase to shirts and coffee mugs with Phil’s saying “Happy, Happy, Happy,” to images of Uncle Si and his catch phrase “Hey!” printed on t-shirts. The Robertson women are also in on the boondoggle with products of their own.
One of the reasons I enjoy the show is that I can see that the Robertsons are very grounded, self-aware, and clearly wise to the ways of the world. When their fame dissipates, they will still be doing well financially. Unfortunately, this is the exception to the rule when it comes to southern-based reality TV. True, many of those stars may temporarily be enjoying some windfall, but they are not as savvy as the beards. And that’s too bad.