Friday, August 3, 2012

The Rednecking of America

"I am a redneck myself, born and bred on a submarginal farm in Appalachia, descended from an endless line of dark-complected, lug-eared, beetle-browed, insolent barbarian peasants, a line reaching back to the dark forests of central Europe and the alpine caves of my Neanderthal primogenitors."
- Edward Abbey "In Defense of the Redneck"

The twisted cultural depiction of so-called rednecks from the Southern United States is sapping our collective consciousness as a civilization. Like a virulent plague, the over saturation of selfish and destructive behavior on TV is having a negative effect on our internal psyche, as if the American zeitgeist is forced to listen to Travis Tritt while banging its cousin.

Early depictions of rednecks in popular culture were ones of good-natured fun. Popular entertainment showed them as backwoods and inept, and blissfully ignorant of anything other than hog sloppin', moonshine-swillin' and makin' babies.

In short, they were stereotypes.

Negative stereotypes, but stereotypes nonetheless. As far as the effete Manhattanites were concerned, rednecks remained clutching their Bibles and guns and stayed confined to their trailer parks.

Remember the Beverly Hillbillies, Hee Haw, the Dukes of Hazzard and the Grand Ole Opry? They proved to be popular, yet there was a cultural divide. Rednecks were still looked down upon in those early days.

Popular culture's influences remained centered on Hollywood and New York and if you were a college-educated snob, you prospered on TV. The archetype of articulate, suburban or urban educated people dominated the airwaves.

All that changed with the rise of blue collar comics like Foxworthy who showed pride in his southern upbringing and did a brilliant bit "You Might be a Redneck If..." in 1993.

Suddenly, the representation of uneducated poor people from rural areas became widely circulated in popular media. The rise of country music in the mid-1990s to mainstream audiences, and the image of rednecks as "poor but happy" folks who were always surrounded by family became more widespread. Their comic milieu explored themes of laughing at life's absurdities, and recorded the universal struggles of the everyman, both were accessible to everyone, hence their growing popularity.

When George W. Bush became president in 2000 America had a Commander in Chief from Texas with a southern drawl, and redneck mania heightened. NASCAR became popular as a sport. The derogatory stereotype of the poor farmer became highly visible thanks to reality TV.

Comedians such as Foxworthy, Larry the Cable Guy and Ron White brought the trials and tribulations of redneck-hood to mainstream audiences.

Then, something happened.

We went overboard, and the rednecks shown in popular culture went from being friendly and kind to being total assholes.

There was an influx of redneck culture in mainstream American society. Stupid shit such as the show Jackass hit the airwaves, followed by a steady stream of shows featuring rednecks. All of a sudden, television became a smorgasbord of cussin', ignorant people whose behavior reflected badly on the rural South.

Southerners are proud of their heritage and culture. They're friendly and helpful to strangers, are God-fearing people with a strong sense of community and tradition.

This tradition is cheapened by American Hoggers, My Big Redneck Wedding and Redneck Riviera.

Yes, these are all real shows.

But the worst offender is a show called Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. The show - and it's more like a nightmare vision of what America would be like if Fred Thompson were president - follows an obese family of rednecks from McIntyre, Ga. This dysfunctional family consists of daddy "Sugar Bear", ogress mother June who resembles Brian Baumgartner from The Office, and their fucked up kids, the star of course is Honey Boo Boo, who reminds one of a possessed demon doll.

Yee Har.

Honey Boo Boo, whose real name is Alana, is a beauty pageant contestant who appeared on Toddlers & Tiaras, a show which is akin to abusing your child by tying them to the basement with bungee cords and broadcasting every painful second. Honey Boo Boo talks like Jodie Foster from the movie Nell. Most of the time, you can't understand what this kid is saying. She rocks her head back and forth, gurgles some unintelligible garbage and acts like she either has ADD or some mental disability.

This is on The Learning Channel. Learning. As in 'education'. The only thing anyone can learn from this show is that our standards have shrunk. 

Remember when the extraordinary and talented would receive much-deserved acclaim and kudos from a public? Now TV has become a freak show, a circus of deformed, uncouth and uncivilized misanthropes who degrade themselves just to gain a piece of the spotlight. They're not entertaining. Their exhibitionist scum performing for the jaded voyeuristic public. We're a nation of moronic hedonists getting off to Hillbilly Handfishin' and Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. 

We're wallowing in the shallow end of the pool.

And that's what the rednecking of America is about. We're so blithely ignorant, so rotten to each other, so uncivilized. I know several people from the South and all of them are mannerly and treat people with dignity and kindness. But rednecked America? That's just a mean place, where if you're different, if you think and speak with clarity and conviction and have something intelligent to say, you're openly mocked as being a snob.

Our current political climate is scary, where guns are brought to political rallies and discourse has degenerated to guttural grunts. Is it any wonder why political ads have gotten so vicious on both sides? Is it because it's easier to manipulate people when they've become conditioned not to think critically or question anything?

The only thing you need to remember is America is a Christian nation and anyone not like you is an enemy. It's a time when words incite violence, when shouting someone down is better than listening to them and rebutting and when Honey Boo Boo is a plump little TV diva.

All hail our crass, unshod bumpkin overlords!

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