We are in the midst of a Renaissance, my friends, a Redneck Renaissance. As pointed out in a recent article on Cracked.com, the new trend in reality television has been to focus on the Southern working class. Previously America has focused on the grotesquely super-wealthy such as Paris Hilton and the Kardashians. And let's not forget the horribly wretched man known as Donald Trump.
I have read that this shift is caused by the economic crisis we have been mired in the last several years. Americans simply can't stomach the super-rich anymore. They are much happier seeing people that they can either relate with or look down their nose at. We feel better watching the folksy then the wealthy. This has caused Television to shift its focus towards The South, as folksiness and poor people are our two main exports. I wanted to take a look at some of the shows in the Redneck Renaissance and see how they reflect on The South.
True Blood is one of the most popular shows in the Vampire Renaissance and is the only one to take place in the South. The show doesn't spend all that much time exploring Southern Culture and focuses most of its energy on drinking blood and having freaky sex.
There is a cast of Southern Characters (most played by foreign actors of course). While alot of the Southern Characters are portrayed in a positive light there is a fair share of stereotypes. There is a bumbling Southern Sheriff and The Rednecks have switched from being racist against black people and are now racist against vampires. Of course this creates a moral quandary as the Vampires are actually pretty evil, so their racism is somewhat justified.
The main character is Sookie Stackhouse, a psychic waitress who falls in love with Vampires.
Racist rednecks and ignorant yokels do not say to much positive about the South. However, it is nice to see the South featured on such a prominent show, and they definitely capture the Southern Gothic feel.
The Walking Dead
For some reason all fictional shows about the South focus around bloodsucking monsters. The Walking Dead takes place in the area around Atlanta, GA and is filmed on location. All the characters are portrayed as incredibly foolish. They sleep in tents knowing there are swarms of zombies on the loose, despite that there are plenty of empty buildings to hide in.
The group of survivors' leader Rick Grimes, a former Sheriff who is from the area. Despite this he talks about finding snow mobiles for use during the winter, despite the fact that it never snows in Atlanta. Rick should know this. In Rick's defense, he was in a coma at the beginning of the show and may have suffered brain damage, but this does not explain why the rest of the group made him the leader.
In all honestly I don't think they are trying to portray Southerners as idiots, it may just be that the writers are idiots.
How the show reflects on the South can be examined in two characters: Brothers Merle and Daryl Dixon.
This is Merle Dixon, who pretty much sums up everything negative you could think of about the South. Despite the fact that the world has ended and there is only a small pool of survivors Merle still manages to be incredibly racist and sexist to the point that it puts everyone in danger. He is a belligerent Meth addict and has no redeeming qualities.
This is Merle's brother Daryl Dixon. He is pure redneck and is the most popular character on the show. While the rest of the survivors flop around like a bunch of helpless idiots Daryl shows that he is the most prepared due to redneck upbringing. He is a zombie killing machine. In a way Daryl is a great ambassador for Redneck Culture. When the shit goes down we are going to need rednecks to save our asses.
Reality TelevisionI will not discuss how authentic any of the following reality shows are. As Pro-Wrestling as taught us, it is best not to ask such questions.
Swamp People is a show about alligator hunters in the Swamps of New Orleans. One thing that always stands out about this show to me is how insanely tough these guys are. In one episode a guy gets shot in the eye (by his dad) and still spends the whole day hunting (including catching an alligator with a hand thrown grappling hook). At the end of the episode his mom picks the bullet out of his eyeball.
The show is pretty straight forward in showing this culture. The only way this could possibly reflect negatively on Southern Culture is some of the questionable decisions made the hunters, such as pulling a live alligator into your boat or sticking your entire arm in swamp water to grab a hooked alligators.
The star of the show is Troy Landry, know for his catch-phrase "Chut-Em"!
Troy has parlayed his fame into other business ventures as he appears at Bass Pro Shops around the country to sign autographs. He also is the spokesmen for Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning. People may laugh at Troy's accent, but he laughs his way to the bank.
Call of the Wildman
The show has been criticized for being exploitative and showing Turtleman and his friend as redneck fools. I would tend to reject these criticisms as the show has a very positive vibe to it. While Turtleman appears crazy and reckless he always wins and never hurts himself or the animals. Turtleman shows that someone can be unorthodox and unusual but still be the best at what they do. I think it can be summed up when two little kids on the show declared that Turtleman was the "The Greatest Man They Have Ever Met".
Duck Dynasty is the tale of the Robertson family, who own made a fortune off making Duck Calls. Unlike most Southerns on reality TV they have a large amount of money. The family takes pride in the "Redneck" label, which is explained in great detail by narrator and Redneck Philosopher Jase Robertson. While the Robertsons engage in such foolish activities such as putting an RV in a tree and hunting wild honey with a vacuum cleaner they are generally portrayed as just wanting to have a good time. Talking head shots show that they are fully aware that what they are doing is ridiculous. The show generally does not resort to cheap stupid-redneck humor and shows three dimensional characters. I find that a lot of Southerners appreciate the show and relates to the family's life style and philosophy.
Alot of the humor comes from the family's loveable "Uncle Si".
Si is the wackiest of the Robertson clan with his long rambling stories and goofy catch phrases. He only drinks sweet tea and only drinks out of a single tupperware cup that his mom sent him while he served in Vietnam. While some may see Si's foolishness as negative reflection of the South, I think everyone in the entire country has a hysterically weird Uncle.
Here Comes Honey Boo Boo
The show has been harshly criticized as being nothing more then a white trash minstrel show. I can't sit here and pretend that there isn't a sort of car crash appeal to this show, but I can tell you one thing: This show is reality. I know people who live like this and in the end there is nothing wrong with the way they act. The family is close, they love each other and have pride in who they are and where they are from. Alana and her family have done work for anti-bullying campaigns. They have also shown that the South is not entirely populated by bigots as the family is completely accepting of their openly gay "Uncle Poodle".
I'll go on the record and say they are good honest people......plus, Honey Boo Boo liked the Carpetbagger on facebook..........
Psssst.....Update on the Redneck Renaissance here
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