Okay, for the record, so our discussion can be a civil one, let me just say: I think “Duck Dynasty” sucks. I think the show, the plots and the “characters” are all phony and largely staged.
Apparently Liam Payne of English boy-band One Direction doesn’t share that opinion because a tweet he sent over the weekend has now spiraled into a crazy maelstrom of emotions that has resulted in Tyler Oakley “quitting” Twitter and commentary galore from other YouTubers about the nature of authenticity, fans, homophobia and Taco Bell. Whew.
Okay, let NMR sort this out for you the best we can, because it is sorta complicated: Over the weekend, Liam Payne sent Willie Robertson of “Duck Dynasty” a tweet telling him he admired his family dynamic and show. Willie isn’t Phil, his father, who recently got into a brouhaha (yup) over some homophobic remarks made in GQ magazine. Tyler Oakley, an enormous One Direction fan, talented YouTuber and openly gay advocate for LGBT issues, then commented on Liam’s Twitter: “Wow. Very confused and disappointed by this @Real_Liam_Payne tweet. This literally changes everything.” Not sure if Tyler thought Willie was the one who made the homophobic comments, but that’s how it went down.
Liam then responded that liking the family/show doesn’t mean you agree with their entire philosophy, to which Tyler responded that it wasn’t even possible to be on the same wavelength for a discussion if support of homophobia and intolerance were involved. Kaleb Nation then tried to clarify things, which Oakley wasn’t having, and then Liam went on a rant about being a 20-year-old living under a microscope. And to make everything more complex, One Direction fans got involved and began sending off a flurry of death threats to Oakley, resulting in Oakley making the determination that he was “quitting the internet” for awhile.
If you think the story ends there, I assure you, it only just begins. See, concurrently YouTuber Sam Pepper decided to spark a discussion about the nature of YouTubers who voice support for One Direction in order to gain access to the One Direction fanbase. Apparently, he was implying that Tyler falls into this category. Then YouTuber SupRicky06 called attention to the fact that Sam Pepper was “conveniently” making this assessment in the middle of the storm, attempting to capitalize off everything. This drew YouTubers such as Chris Thompson, Kingsley, Shane Dawson, Marius Listhrop and Grace Helbig out of the woodwork to make their own comments about the nature of reality in terms of what it means to interact with fans.
And that’s how Taco Bell suddenly factors into all of this.
Allegedly Taco Bell pays YouTubers good money to be fans of Taco Bell. It’s not an unheard of practice throughout the medium of celebrity whatsoever — “you promote my product, I give you money.” But that’s where Kingsley is coming from when he talks about how maybe some of these teens and late-twentysomethings aren’t all actually “1D obsessed Taco Bell eating robots.” We’re now living in a world where very little is authentic — including “Duck Dynasty.” Ahh, now it all ties together! When YouTubers are paid to have an opinion, suddenly that opinion becomes, well, not an opinion, it becomes, for better or worse, an endorsement.
This is the new reality of spin that we all are graduating into — not to get too conspiracy theory on the whole thing, but what if the “Duck Dynasty” people paid for One Direction to send out a positive tweet endorsing the show? That would certainly help Duck Dynasty’s PR (what with their recent controversy) if one of the biggest bands on the planet (currently) “liked” their programming. Does that seem so “outside the bun” for a world where reality stars aren’t all that real, opinions can be bought by fast food corporations and cash rules everything around us? If no, then is it right for One Direction fans to be tweeting death threats at Tyler Oakley for having what essentially amounts to as a “real” opinion? Even if misguided in its efforts (and I’m not saying it is or isn’t), or if the death threats are only digital in scope, Tyler is allowed to think what he wants, Liam is allowed to think what he wants (oh wait — that right is only guaranteed to Americans … USA … USA!) and Taco Bell is allowed to pay YouTubers to say their food is delicious.
The end result is that One Direction has unfollowed their former “bestie” Tyler Oakley on Twitter, several YouTubers have sniped at each other perpetuating the drama most of us were hoping to leave back in 2013, and everyone else is left to wonder: is anything real anymore?
#TylerOakleyGotSlayed was the No. 1 trending item on Twitter over the weekend and no one is better off for how everything went down. I say if we can all just agree that homophobes or not, “Duck Dynasty” is phony, then that can become our first block in building a better world. It’s not much, but its a start.
For those of you who can only follow along in 140-character bursts, here is how it mostly played out via screencaps:
And here’s more drama from the Twitterverse: