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The Oddly Aspirational Appeal Of 'Duck Dynasty'

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”Hipster or Redneck?” That’s the name of a quiz that popped up online about A&E’s Duck Dynasty, which follows the impressively bearded Robertson family of Louisiana, their Beverly Hillbillies-like high jinks, and their multimillion-dollar duck-call business, Duck Commander. One would think the distinction between the two archetypes would be obvious, but it’s not: Now that Duck Dynasty has broken yet another record by pulling 11.8 million viewers for its Aug. 14 season premiere — the largest audience ever for a nonfiction telecast on cable — even men’s magazine GQ has declared it a must-watch, saying that the hunting clan is on trend, since ”camouflage is of the moment right now.” The aforementioned guessing game involves examining a photo of someone’s facial hair and determining whether its owner is (a) the type of suspenders-clad aesthete who frequents fair-trade coffee shops, or (b) one of those God-fearin’, tradition-respectin’, consonant-droppin’ Robertson boys. Even on Dynasty it’s hard to tell the difference.

Just like a hipster, Willie, the youngest self-proclaimed redneck, wears vintage hair-metal T-shirts. His brother Jase claims that Willie once went through a ”wine connoisseur” phase. Their mom, Miss Kay, serves up fried frog, squirrel, and other local delicacies with farm-to-table flair. During the season premiere she renewed her vows with Dynasty patriarch Phil in a ceremony that featured mason-jar lanterns, antler chandeliers, and ukulele music. The whole thing could’ve been sponsored by Etsy Weddings.

True, there’s nothing ironic about this old-school deep-fried show, which is what makes it so charming. Many episodes start with the Robertsons’ loose-cannon uncle Silas teaching the younger ”yuppified” generation how the good ol’ boys get ‘er done (e.g., by blowing up a beaver dam), and most of them end with the Robertsons gathered around the table, heads bowed in prayer. But it appeals to all different demographics: entrepreneurs, Christians, fans of classic self-made success stories and sitcom tropes (the crazy uncle, the nagging wives who are smarter and hotter than their husbands). And the Robertsons are much more likable than most reality TV families, because even though they’re rich, they still live like humble country folk, with the same do-it-yourself ethos that resonates with every indie kid who ever attempted to brew his own artisanal moonshine. Maybe Jeff Foxworthy had it backward: You might be a hipster if…you aspire to be a redneck.

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