Monday, November 5, 2007

There, but for the Grace of Dog . . .

First of all, before I dive into my defense of Dog the Bounty Hunter, I insist that I would never condone flagrant use of the n-word, nor do I condone his flagrant use of the n-word. At 52-years-old, I'd hope that a constant target for criticism like Dog would know better than to use that word in public discourse. Now, we can't control his thoughts or ingrained inclinations, and in fact I think our society must accept the fact that the n-word, and a few other terms like it, will only die when its respective generation dies, too. As long as someone's ninety-year-old grandfather, who used the term all the time without reservation or offense some thirty-five years ago, still utters the n-word unapologetically in traffic, even in the confines of his own car, the term and its implications still exist . . . and as much as it isn't right, it's also just as sure.

In fact, arguably, the word isn't as powerful when it's used as much as when it's rebutted and rebuked. I'm not saying that one shouldn't respond to its use, but pure offense without a trace of hope for a better future, without the call to rise about a former generation's misgivings, is contrary to the Civil Rights Movement's dream. It did have a dream, remember? It wasn't content simply perpetuating the nightmare in which it lived with constant reactive retaliation.

Which brings me to Dog the Bounty Hunter, now the hunted, by all accounts. I wrote a bit about Dog earlier this summer in a two-part "My Man-Crushes" LiveJournal entry: " . . . by taking these addicts down hard, calling them 'dope heads' and such, then reminding them of their forlorn families and forsaken religions or cultures, Chapman and co. exposes them to the consequences of criminal life and the benefits of 'going straight.' By working with his family, Dog unwittingly reveals the camaraderie of domesticity and embodies the good cop/bad cop paradigm, a technique many cannot emotionally balance and convey." I stand by my fandom of Dog, because, while criticism of his methods and character abound, few real law enforcement officers can handle what he does, which is essentially clean up their mess. You track and capture hundreds of drug addicts and try to keep a clean mouth, despite your religious beliefs. Dog's straight-edged naysayers would fold like the cheap suits they wear if they strapped on the bounty hunter's boots for one day.

Nevertheless, Chapman should've watched his mouth, and his heart, while talking to his son recently, particularly in the context of his fear about recorded conversations. Interestingly, that's how the now nationally heard soundbyte on the National Enquirer's website begins, with Dog's explanation of how such a leak would ruin his career. While what immediately follows, his disappointingly racist tirade, has attracted the most attention, listen to the longer version of the conversation; Dog reveals some amount of terror at his son Tucker's girlfriend and her previous intimidations, but still offers Tucker a job if only he'd drop the chick. That's the elephant in the room -- Tucker needs the money. Probably wants to be on TV like his brothers Duane Lee and Leland. So, when Daddy tells him to choose between his seven-month romance and his family (his apparent lifeline), he finds a way to do both: exploiting the latter with the plans of the former. Character Assassination 101. How much did the Enquirer pay for that recording, I wonder?

Dog's critics don't care about that, though. That the methods used to record Chapman, and their flagrant use of terms like "redneck," "white trash," and "flamboyant," are just as hateful as the n-word, sans history, don't register with them. Where is this n-word b-word that Dog hates so much, anyway? Shouldn't she demand retribution for such a racist, sexist attack? Or, if we did see her on television, would we realize that she's just like Dog's family -- visually unsettling, and easy to mock? We really couldn't express honest outrage if we actually saw her for the celebrity-stalking dead weight Dog thinks she is, could we? Black white trash, I presume. Ironically, the other story that battled for its fifteen minutes this weekend was Bill Cosby's book about self-depreciating juvenile African American culture. Coincidence?

Circumstances like this are the only way folks from the older generation will realize the bygone nature of their pre-progressive ways, that's for sure. Dog is actually one of the lucky ones to find these traces exposed and hopefully burned away by the searing spotlight. For a man that gets arrested for trying to uphold the law, and now faces accusations of racism despite his Jesus freakishness, I'm not worried for Chapman's career. (He might be right now, though . . .) It's that ninety-year-old grandpa that's the real threat, the strands of racism that still run undiscovered through our roots, the ones we feel completely comfortable ignoring when a celebrity's shortcomings make us feel a bit better about ourselves.

Mock Dog all you want, but by hounding him as you have, Big Media, you're just an awkwardly opened leather jacket and tight pair of black jeans away from being him.

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