Rednecks… Let’s Torment The Rednecks…

If one watches any television, it quickly becomes obvious that it’s popular and allowable to make fun of one group of people in this country, and those people would be the much-maligned southern redneck.

Sometimes the humor is more or less good-natured. Shows like “Duck Dynasty” portray self professed rednecks in a somewhat positive light, making fun of their silly backwoods ways, but never showing them to be genuinely stupid or evil.

Other shows like “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” aim low, and revel in the otherness of the redneck family on the show. Then we have other shows featuring weird backwoods alligator hunters, and a southern variation/rip off of “Pawn Stars.”

What is America’s fascination with the lives of rural -living Southern white people all of a sudden? I can’t help but wonder if it’s partially because of the mean aspect of human nature that likes to point and laugh at people we perceive as being beneath us, as being less sophisticated than our own peer groups.

If we turn to the way fictional rednecks are portrayed, things get uglier. Long used as the bad guys in adventure and horror movies, the fictional redneck is either going to fuck you or eat you. In some cases he’ll probably do both, and it’s rare to see a film portrayal of rural whites where they are treated realistically or shown to possess positive traits. But hey! If you’re a hack writer, and need a scary villain for your shitty horror screenplay, create an inbred family of redneck mutants, and you’re well on your way to fulfilling the nightmare requirements of urban film viewers.

My question is why this redneck exploitation isn’t more widely criticized? Why is it alright to continuously pick on a marginalized population of people simply because they were born into poverty, or happened to be white people living lifestyles different than the people either criticizing them or laughing at them?

If the phenomena wasn’t so widespread, I’d just chalk it up to people pointing their fingers at other people they consider weird or outside of their own experiences. In the same way, people will occasionally mock the stereotypes of pretentious urban dwellers, but with rednecks, the mockery seems much more widespread and common. It feels good to have a sense of superiority, and there’s no easier way to achieve that feeling than by finding someone we feel is beneath us.

The term “redneck” is in itself often used as a pejorative, and used to attack people. By calling someone a redneck, many people seek to devalue that person’s opinion or to imply negative traits to them that might not be fair or accurate. At it’s worst, “redneck” is simply used as a stand in for “unsophisticated moron” or “racist.”

People will argue that rednecks themselves embrace their redneckiness, that they choose to be backwards throwbacks, and are thus open for criticism and ridicule. But who decided that being born poor in a rural environment or small town automatically meant that that person was without value? Is it kind or reasonable to expect that such a person should just turn their backs on the lifestyle they were raised with? Even if that lifestyle isn’t harming anyone else?

And just because some folks self identify as “rednecks” does not mean that it’s cool to use that term recklessly. I use it in this entry simply as a point of reference. Just because some folks call themselves rednecks doesn’t mean that they want other people they don’t know using the term.

That’s also an assumption that many people who are critical of rednecks make – that somehow they can’t be as intelligent or cultured as people living in bigger cities. That the conditions they were born into somehow dictate that they will grow up to be uneducated and hateful people, threatened by the idea of progress, and the enemies of those that would seek to improve the human condition.

Some people would point to what they feel is the institutional racism that has plagued the South for generations. I would argue that racism is universal, and just as common anywhere in this country as in the southern states. I’ve heard the word “nigger” thrown around as commonly in New York City as I have most places in the Deep South. Unfortunately, the ugly spectre of racism is everywhere, and is not a uniquely Southern white trait.

Also universal are the rednecks themselves. Poor, uneducated white people live all over this country, and while there are regional variations in the stereotypes, it’s silly to think that only the South is home to them.

And that’s what bugs me the most. I don’t think it’s very accurate or kind to treat people as if they are all the same based on what are often just surface similarities. Not all Southern rednecks are racist throwbacks, and if we’re being really honest, it’s not really a good idea to broad brush huge groups of people as being the same simply because they might be from the country or have an accent that we associate with a certain social class or region.

Most of us would never do that with minorities, or if we did, we’d add some qualifiers to go with any criticism.  Yet it seems to me that not much of anyone has a problem with hurling insults at rednecks. Are they all evil and deserving of that? How is that OK? Should a little girl be treated like she’s less than the rest of us simply because she lives in a trailer somewhere in the country? Because I can’t feel good about thinking like that.      

It just seems to me that if someone is going to criticize another person, they should do it based on that person’ actions or words, not because they belong to some supposedly homogeneous group that it is somehow OK to treat shabbily. That’s a very dark road to wander down.Image
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