December 22, 2013

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How Phil Robertson, Duck Dynasty, and A&E Killed the Gay Moment

Have you ever seen a moment end?

I watched Duck Dynasty once or twice. I don’t get it.

That makes me different. Fourteen million people watch the show every week. That’s more than watch any other show on television. Clearly, I’m a little odd, especially among conservatives.

That’s okay. I’m used to being weird.

I never expected that a reality TV show would stop a “moment.” But that’s exactly what’s happened. The “Gay Moment” is dead.

Back in 1999, Richard Brookhiser identified (accurately) the “Gay Moment” in America.

The moment we are in now is the Gay Moment. The Gay Moment can be explained and defined, though it is easier to describe, and easiest simply to experience. That is the quality of Moments – they are out there, just beyond your eyelids.

Brookhiser provides context for those who don’t understand what a “moment” is by describing other “moments.”

There have been two previous Moments in the 20th century. Irish Catholics had one from about 1900 to World War II; Jews followed them, until yesterday. The Irish Moment crystallized around athletes, actors, pols, and cops – tough guys you liked. A typical figure was Fr. Francis P. Duffy, chaplain of the 165th Infantry (“The Fighting Irish”) in World War I. There is a statue of him in Times Square. He grips a Bible; he could knock your block off; he is smiling. The Jewish Moment threw up comics, writers, and intellectuals-wise guys you liked. A typical figure was Saul Bellow, whose style was criticized, when he first appeared, as “Yinglish.” But this was in fact its allure, rattling like an express subway train from con men to Nietzsche.

So we’ve lived the Gay Moment for at least 13 years. Probably longer. I think the Gay Moment began when Michael Stivic’s flamoyant friend visited 704 Hauser Street in Queens.–where Archie Bunker lived. Archie figured Roger the photographer was gay, so he retreated to Kelsey’s Bar to have drinks with an old Army buddy. Turns out the Army buddy was gay and Roger wasn’t.

Thus began the Gay Moment. February 9, 1971. That was almost 43 years ago.

Now do the math:

Irish Moment: 1900 to 1945–44 years.

Jewish Moment: 1946 to 1999–53 years.

Gay Moment: 1971 to ????– about 50 years.

People might be put off by a television personality who regards homosexuality as a sin, just as people are put off by music stars who twerk. In America, though, we expect the markets, not the censors, to decide whether opinions and behaviors of personalities warrant ostracism.

A&E played censor and deprived the market its opportunity to cast judgment on Phil Robertson. In a well-ordered society and economy, A&E would suffer the consequences or enjoy the benefits of that decision. But in America, large corporations are indemnified from their own bad judgment. So the consequences of A&E’s judgment of Phil Robertson will fall on its proxy: the Gay Moment.

When a conservative friend told me Thursday “who cares” about Duck _Dynasty, _I was reminded of Richard Brookhiser’s opinion of why moments end:

The real end will be boredom. Like the Irish and the Jews before them, gays will run out of things to say. The force field will collapse. People will realize that Oscar Wilde was a witty craftsman, not a great modernist; that Gore Vidal is a vain old chatterbox, not Henry Adams; that Lesley Gore was a mediocre pop singer, not a goddess. Some other well-spoken outsiders will audition for center stage. We’ll all move on.

The Gay Moment is over. I hope conservatives understand this news. Then we can get back to important things, like life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness–none of which has anything to do with sexual preferences.