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Duck Dynasty: Wedding Special
There isn't much to say about the new Duck Dynasty Wedding Special DVD that cannot already be said about the lies inflicted by reality TV in general. The special contained everything I expected from a staged, fake-documentary show about a Southern family that affects a kind of faux-redneck/working class lifestyle, at the expense of a major TV network. The Wedding Special is overstuffed with insufferable schmaltz and the overly materialistic, generic ritual of non-religious American weddings. The sense of love and commitment that the young couple at the center of the special may feel towards each other are drowned by the grandeur of their nuptials.
Willie Luke, the bearded patriarch of a duck whistle empire and one of the interchangeable camo-wearing ZZ Top cover band members that consist of the Luke family, is marrying off his effete 19-year-old son to a girl of the same age. Intercutting segments show members of the Luke family and wedding planners going on a buying craze that only wealthy people have the luxury to afford. The elaborate wedding takes place at a semi-rustic plantation that contradicts the Luke family's, and the show's, forced salt-of-the-earth/Conservative sensibility. At the end of the special, one wedding guest marvels at the "simplicity" of the youngest Luke's country wedding. The slick, misleading editing style of reality television leaves out the planning done by producers, by lavishly paid stylists and designers. The decadent, garish ceremony at the center of this particular Duck Dynasty special betrays the disingenuous viewpoint that the Lukes are a family that holds modest, working-class and conservative values.
The wedding special begins with the groom, John, the timid, whispy son of obnoxious and bellicose Willie, being fitted for his wedding wardrobe by an effeminate stylist from New York that the younger Luke hired. Willie, slouching hard into his carefully constructed rugged woodsman persona, immediately criticizes the stylist for his tight pants, his hairstyle and the decidedly non-rustic aesthetic that he wishes to bring to John's wedding. Willie stops short of hurling homophobic epithets at the stylist. He, perhaps unintentionally on the show's part, immediately exudes an unlikability that draws out the older Lukes' constructed "us vs. them" schema that Fox News pundits attribute to working-class and/or rural Conservatives and any group of people perceived to carry liberal-leaning viewpoints.
The banal aspect of the show involves the bride preparing for the wedding. There are obligatory scenes where we see her fretting over choosing the right dress. She begs her soon-to-be husband to not include hot dogs as part of the reception meal. Her bland, agreeable disposition causes her to blend seamlessly into the reality TV maelstrom of pre-scripted quips and smash cuts that obscure any true sense of the world as it is. She too betrays the show's salt-of-the-earth conceit that the Lukes are good-hearted rural folks, by opportunistically playing the corporate TV network game.
Duck Dynasty may be an insult to real rednecks. The Luke family has successfully used their wealth and fame to create the illusion that they are the representatives of Conservative mores and a hard work ethic. They contribute to the false notion that anyone, no matter which social strata they come from, can achieve wealth and success in America. Witness the Luke family casually spending the day at a sky-diving retreat, or their ability to effortlessly hire a stylist from New York to coordinate the suits worn by the men at the wedding. While they affect an uneducated, earthy personae, they are beholden to A&E and the network's advertisers, who've undoubtedly reaped the rewards of higher ratings, due in part to the devisive anti-gay-marriage rhetoric publicly spewed by Phil Robertson, one of the eldest beard wearers on the show. Similar to current inexplicable Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump, the Lukes and A&E have twisted and exploited an economically poor, working-class, white sensibility to gain higher ratings.
Video: The only redeemable aspect of the Duck Dynasty Wedding Special is the quality of the show's footage. Shot on HD in a 16X9 aspect ratio, the colors are rich in detail and well balanced. Camera set-ups and the blocking of the show's principle players are nicely balanced, unintentionally pulling the veil off the false notion that these kinds of shows are unscripted. For film students and anyone studying cinematography, Duck Dynasty can serve as a case study for making fictional films that are meant to have a realist aesthetic. Somewhat undeservedly, the creators of current reality TV are some of the best Neo-Realist filmmakers currently working in film and TV.
Audio: The "simply country wedding" in the show is packed with hundreds of guests, many of whom wear Lavalier mics. Mixing the sound must have been an amazing feat in order to choose which voices should be the most prominant in any given scene with overlapping voices. The sound mix of the show makes one almost believe that the shows creators are near perfect imitators of Robert Altman's ensemble-cast overlapping dialogue style. Alas, this style is used illicitly for the gains of ad dollars.
Extras: The vows of the two young people at the center of the Wedding Special is seperated into a single clip that can be viewed via the disc's "extra features" menu. This adds nothing to the experience of wathing the disc, as it is simply extracted from the longer feature. Also included is an additional wedding-themed episode of Duck Dynasty in which the Lukes are given the seemingly pre-scripted objective of giving a decades-due wedding ceremony to Robertson and his wife. The staged manner and pre-scripted feel of this episode does little more than reiterate the suspicion that the entire show is faked.
Whoever the Lukes are, they have the media savvy to play the reality TV game, and win. They affect and exploit a rural, Conservative sensibility that underlines their positions as, at best, gentrified hillbillies. Like all reality TV, there is little substance. The Lukes are huxters who currently hold a position of influence among angry Conservatives whose economic woes are exploited for political and financial gain by the corporate vultures at A&E and by people like Donald Trump.