Cultural rut’s seem to be unavoidable. You find an aspect of culture that suits you and it’s easy to ignore or dismiss other parts of pop culture less appealing. However, it’s important to go outside of one’s comfort zone, break the cultural rut and diversify their interests. Our generation’s ability to use selective exposure allows us to focus on what we truly enjoy, but it can also be what puts us in cultural ruts in the first place. I find myself in cultural rut’s, often times without notice. I binge watch a certain show for weeks at a time, only listen to one genre of music for a day, or spend my Sunday’s watching the Food Network for hours on end. For me this happens because I know what aspects of pop culture I enjoy, so why would I search for new ones?
In the podcast, a recommendation to break a cultural rut is to consult friends on what they are enjoying at the moment or have enjoyed for a while. In the spirit of this recommendation, I turned to my roommate and asked her to list off her favorite TV shows. When listing them off we had many mutual favorites however one stuck out. Duck Dynasty. Originally airing in 2012, Duck Dynasty follows the lives of the Robertson family, Louisiana natives who made millions creating duck call whistles. Growing up less than five miles from downtown Chicago, hunting, camouflage, and anything in relation to the either was of little interest to me. My urban upbringing made the fascination with duck hunting, long beards, and rather conservative ideals seem foreign.
If you turn on A&E at any time of day, most likely Duck Dynasty will be on. The episodes were short so I watched at least two episodes while eating dinner. The episodes seemed to have a central message to each, focusing on family, religion, or general life lessons. Making duck calls in their small, Louisiana town seemed mundane, but made interesting for TV. Their slow-paced lifestyle was not media made for me. I found it difficult to relate to a lot of situations that arose in the show like refurbishing an old hunting outpost or simply knowing everyone in their town. While it doesn’t appeal to me that’s not the rest of the case for television viewers in America. “The season 3 finale stands as the most watched A&E series telecast ever, drawing a staggering 9.6 million total viewers, 5.6 million adults 25-54, 5.5 million adults 18-49 and 2.6 million adults 18-34” (Andreeva, 2013). I honestly would not seek out any other form of pop culture like this because I found it boring. I would zone out and was on my phone the majority of the time I was watching. I think my worldview expanded slightly but less so than if I were to interact with this environment in person.
Duck Dynasty’s popularity, in my belief, stems from people’s fascination of how ‘the other side lives.’ Most Americans live in urban or somewhat urban areas, meanwhile the Robertson’s live in the bayou of the South. Their success in pop culture is built off its mass appeal. “Its an audience is a mass of non-discriminating consumers. The culture itself is formulaic, manipulative (to the political right or left, depending on who is doing the analysis). It is a culture that is consumed with brain-numbed and brain-numbing passivity” (Storey, 2015, pg. 8). This quote from Storey’s introduction on pop culture perfectly described my viewing experience. The show does not dive into controversial topics, the language is not complex, and the pace of the show is slow enough for everyone to follow. While I wouldn’t describe my hour watching Duck Dynasty as wasted, I would not go out of my way to watch it again. Sorry Uncle Si!
Storey, John. (2015). Cultural Theory and Popular Culture (7th ed). New York: Routledge.
Thompson, Stephen. (2014, Sept 5). Pop Culture Happy Hour: Repurposing ‘The Simpsons’ and Bursting out of a Cultural Rut. NPR Podcast. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/sections/monkeysee/2014/09/05/346055621/pop-culture- happy-hour-repurposing-the-simpsons-and-busting-out-of-a-rut.
Andreeva, Nellie. (2013, Aug 13). ‘Duck Dynasty’ Cast Get Major Salary Bumps, Hit Series Secures Extra Seasons. Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved from http://deadline.com/2013/08/duck-dynasty-ae-salary-extra-seasons-547292/