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Best Wishes, Phil Robertson

When Reality and Reality TV Collide


“Did you see that Phil from Duck Dynasty got kicked off the show?” An unkempt, bearded, and garrulous drunk was shouting incredulously while smacking his fist on the bar’s smooth surface. “It ain’t right, I tell ya! Used to be something called Freedom of Speech in this country!”

The noise was interrupting the Bloody Mary I was downing to assuage the gut-full of fish tacos I’d just swallowed at the Shark Bar. The usually dead hour for the establishment had a strange buzz in the dark atmosphere. People were livid.

“He had it coming!” A half-buzzed, horn-rimmed haranguer interrupted from a table away, looking around, smiling smugly at his clique of friends who were undoubtedly hanging out here before it was cool to do so. “You can’t trash a whole community and expect to keep your job!”

This was all in reference to reality TV “star” Phil Robertson getting fired from his show, Duck Dynasty, for making some decidedly un-PC remarks in a recent GQ interview.

“You insolent little douchebag!” The drunk shouted. “This is America, go back to Cuba or wherever you’re from if you don’t like it.” He threw a cup of ice in protest.

His bespectacled adversary let out a high-pitched yelp of some kind and lunged at him, clawing at his face. The drunk retaliated by unleashing a few guttural shrieks of his own and running wildly into battle as if he were some kind of peyote-mad Aztec shaman. Before things could get too out of hand, though, the two reality TV critics were separated.

“Phil’s a hero you son-of-a-bitch!” The drunk thrashed wildly about, struggling to be restrained. He resembled an orangutan who’d just mainlined a speedball.

The two combatants were excommunicated after little struggle and a smattering of profanities. Things went back to normal in a pretty quick-like fashion. I ordered another cocktail and pondered the weirdness.

There were two actual people, outraged to the point of a physical altercation, over the goings-on of a low-end reality TV show.

I’m not sure what’s worse, the fact that such a show exists or the fact that someone would actually watch it. But it is a smash hit, and fights are breaking out about Phil in places other than bars. Earlier in the day I had visited Facebook, where I found my entire newsfeed ablaze with anger. I counted at least two dozen “Boycott A&E” posts, and a dozen or so more indicating a person’s desire to “#standwithphil.”

People came across as if they were personally affected by this turn of events. Like they were haunted by this monstrous move. It’s as if their father just got laid off at the steel mill, his job outsourced to Turkmenistan. The lasting image of your old man becomes a fist shaking and a voice quaking, “Goddamn you Niyazov!”

I didn’t quite understand it. Shouldn’t I be pissed too, at least a little bit, if these blustering blowhards were on the verge of killing each other over the whole thing? Maybe, but I wasn’t. I must’ve had it all wrong, I figured. Here, I’d been outraged over the wrong things, like the NSA spying on us like a latter-day KGB, or the fact that the streets of this seaside hamlet are rife with hit and runs. I was missing the big picture; I was missing the big issue that haunted everything. The fact that Phil got fired. A move so huge that it had potential to become a modern day JFK moment. “Where were you when you found out Phil got fired?”

I finished my beverage and stepped outside, walking past a straw-haired beach hag wrapped in a rug as I headed down State Street nowhere in particular that clear and mild night. A bluehair nearly ran me over as I crossed the street, grazing my leg and speeding away. I found a cop to voice my complaint to, but he told me there was more important business at hand than erratic seniors, like Phil getting fired from Duck Dynasty, before telling me to “move along,” for there was “nothing to see here.”

M.D. Harkins is a noted authority on small hand tools and Nuristani mating rituals. He has lived in such far-flung locales as Beirut, Lebanon, and Billings, Montana. He maintains the Enlightened Despot blog and has written one novel, Feast. He currently resides in a fortified compound near Isla Vista.

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