Phil Robertson of 'Duck Dynasty'
Courtesy of A&E Network
August 4, 2022 8:29 AM EDT

The fourth season of Duck Dynasty heralded the last days of a more innocent time, when viewers across America found wholesome amusement in the antics of a mischievous and unfashionably (for the time) hairy family of duck call manufacturers. In late 2013, the season premiere broke ratings records, and national media began to pay closer attention to the Robertsons of Monroe, La. When Phil Robertson, the patriarch, aired his views of gay people (sinful!) and Black workers in the pre civil-rights era (happy!), in an interview with GQ, the show’s producers put him on an indefinite hiatus—which just happened to coincide with a break in filming for the fifth season. Nine days later, after an outcry at least as negative as the reaction to his comments, the hiatus was over. Robertson returned to the show and—although viewership dropped sharply among younger viewers in season 5, which was largely shot before the controversy—the outcry over his suspension gave America a glimpse into its future: the red/blue divide, the distrust of the media, the arguments over what constitutes hate speech and what is an alternative view, and, wow, so many men with beards. —Belinda Luscombe

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