Monday, July 8, 2013

Duck Dynasty vs Swamp People

I spent a few days last week confined to my bed while I recovered from a fairly serious surgery. During that time, having been on the losing side of a bet, I worked my way through several episodes of both Duck Dynasty and Swamp People. Maybe it was the pain killers messing with my brain mojo, but, halfway though my viewing, I decided it would be a good idea to write up a comparison between Duck Dynasty and Swamp People.

 If you’re looking for a show about backwoods and long beards, you now have two choices on television; Duck Dynasty on A&E or Swamp People on the History Channel. Take your pick between the Robertson’s Duck Commander empire in Northern Louisiana or the inhabitants of the Atchafalaya River Basin in Southern Louisiana; both shows feature heavily drawled moments of wisdom and laughter.

Though, to be entirely fair, the people of Swamp People seem relatively more grounded and wise than those in Duck Dynasty. Hunting alligators is a high-stakes business, and often the revenues the cast earns feeds their family for the entire year. Viewers who watch Swamp People almost universally laud it as authentic. Even people born and raised in Cajun country feel that their home is being represented fairly, that the intensity of alligator hunting isn’t faked by editing or scripting, that these people truly risk their lives every day to make a few bucks. Given only thirty days to collect these alligators and a limit on how many gators they can wrangle during that time, the Landry, Edwards, Broussard, and Molinere clans have to decide whether to get as many as they can as fast as possible, or if they should wait for the prime catch.

While it’s not true that Duck Dynasty is inauthentic, it’s probably true to say it’s not as dangerous. The most action-packed Duck Commander adventures center on being locked out of the truck or the potential of losing a wedding ring. And though in one episode an alligator does find its way onto the Robertson’s property, they pretty much treat it like another unwelcome uncle (Sorry, Si) and just sit and watch it until someone responsible shows up to get rid of it. No alligator wrangling here, just making fun of their crazy Vietnam veteran uncle and duck-call-related hijinks. That’s not to say that they don’t have their fun over on Swamp People. There’s still the innate hilarity of Cajun culture, of the language (let’s be honest, those of us who have been to New Orleans know that Cajun is a totally different language), and of the alligator-related mishaps.

In contrast to the high-powered nature of most reality shows, these two focused on the laid back, simpler life of Louisiana natives are a nice change. Instead of featuring the ultra-rich (okay, while the Duck Dynasty cast is very rich, the show isn’t about how rich they are), these two channels have decided to perpetuate a more laid back, purely American lifestyle—our very own mountain people. Or mole people. Whichever you prefer. Either way, both shows give a glimpse into a way of life most people assumed was extinct. Instead, we see that it is alive and well, and bringing the entertainment, whether you want to see the Atchafalaya crew wrestling alligators or the Robertson family getting into trouble.

I had gone into this thinking that Swamp People and Duck Dynasty were two different flavors of the same moonshine. It turns out, though, that both shows have something unique to offer the viewer. And, if you're not a reality TV fan, either one of these two shows just might change your mind. 

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