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(3,682 posts)
Sat Aug 25, 2012, 05:32 PM Aug 2012

Slate--Here Comes the Hillbilly, Again: What Honey Boo Boo really says about American culture. [View all]

A concise article that touches on the classism of the hillbilly stereotype and its history as a source of middle class American entertainment.


"The hillbilly figure allows middle-class white people to offload the venality and sin of the nation onto some other constituency, people who live somewhere—anywhere—else. The hillbilly’s backwardness highlights the progress more upstanding Americans in the cities or the suburbs have made. These fools haven’t crawled out of the muck, the story goes, because they don’t want to."

"This idea that the hillbilly’s poverty is a choice allows more upscale Americans to feel comfortable while laughing at the antics before them. It also pushes some people to embrace the stereotype as a badge of honor."


"And hillbilly stereotypes have always made it easier for middle-class whites to presume that racism is the exclusive province of “that kind” of person. As Ta-Nehisi Coates has written, “It is comforting to think of racism as species of misanthropy, or akin to child molestation, thus exonerating all those who bear no real hatred in their heart. It’s much more troubling to think of it as it’s always been—a means of political organization and power distribution.”

(more at link)

What this article does not do is point out the ways that contempt for the Southern poor has allowed their oppression and exploitation, a longstanding historical phenomenon that is most undeniable in the Appalachian coalfields, but by no means unique to that area.

I'll repeat: images like this one:

Or this one:

Or this one:


...(all of which I have seen on this and other progressive websites), serve no purpose except to define a group of people as subhuman and contemptible, by virtue of the very markers of their marginalization--poverty, substandard housing, poor education, lack of access to healthcare, few economic opportunities--while ignoring the historic orchestrations of business and government leaders to maintain this level of ignorance and destitution.

Disgust for "hillbillies" allows the middle and upper class to point to a contemptible "other," responsible for the racist, sexist, and regressive nature of our country's political order, despite the actual powerlessness of the people to whom such contempt is directed. To justify such classism through the comfortable assumption that people who look like this and live like this must deserve their fate because they "vote against their own interests" only extends the stereotype further. "Hillbillies"--generally defined as the poor whites of the South, especially the mountain south--are as diverse in their political and religious beliefs as any other social group.

And lest you think objection to these stereotypes is just over-zealous political correctness, addressing a crime for which there are no victims, I will point to the ways that the historic perception of Appalachian peoples and cultures is destroying lives, communities, and ecosystems today. The image below is of Judy Bonds, a native Wests Virginian, the daughter of two generations of coal miners, who turned into one of the fiercest activists against mountain-top removal mining after the stream that ran through the property her family had lived in for eight generations, where her grandchildren played, became choked with dead fish, and blackened with waste from a Massey Energy mine.

To see and hear Judy was to see and hear the very kind of person targeted and identified by the images and TV shows above as a subject of ridicule and contempt. A West Virginian ex-waitress was hardly a figure to be taken seriously, and outside of the anti-MTR movement, Judy was virtually unknown despite her tireless efforts and her boundless wisdom. And when she died of brain cancer in January of 2011 , like so many others who live in the coalfields (rates of cancer, like those of poverty, are particularly high in the towns and counties where MTR is practiced), almost nobody outside the movement, and perhaps a few relieved coal company CEO's, noticed or cared. The nearly 150-year exploitation of her region, and the poisoning and blasting of a group of people many in America view as disposable, continues.

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The first Mountain Dew commercial kentuck Aug 2012 #1
great find LiveNudePolitics Aug 2012 #3
They do proud2BlibKansan Aug 2012 #57
Thanks for another illustration of what I'm talking about. antigone382 Aug 2012 #7
That's as bad as the Frito Bandito add muntrv Aug 2012 #31
I'm from Western Pa LiveNudePolitics Aug 2012 #2
+1 antigone382 Aug 2012 #6
well if it makes you feel better arely staircase Aug 2012 #14
well if it makes you feel better LiveNudePolitics Aug 2012 #23
no problem arely staircase Aug 2012 #24
greenwich village performance art LiveNudePolitics Aug 2012 #62
never been to one arely staircase Sep 2012 #63
I'm a hillbilly (a real one - I'm from East Tennesse where the Fawke Em Aug 2012 #40
It depends on how it's said. antigone382 Aug 2012 #44
but they enjoy white privilege arely staircase Aug 2012 #4
Well, to some degree, I wouldn't necessarily say that they don't. antigone382 Aug 2012 #5
Well, if they voted right maybe we liberals wouldn't be so mean to them cthulu2016 Aug 2012 #8
I point you again to the example of Judy Bonds. antigone382 Aug 2012 #10
I'm sorry, but Pab Sungenis Aug 2012 #9
See post #10. n/t antigone382 Aug 2012 #11
Exactly.... ann--- Aug 2012 #12
Judy Bonds did not revel in ignorance. antigone382 Aug 2012 #13
but her opinions on mt removal are in the minority arely staircase Aug 2012 #16
Well of course they are. antigone382 Aug 2012 #18
thanks, i get where you are coming from arely staircase Aug 2012 #25
lol, I think that might have been a discussion between you and me... antigone382 Aug 2012 #38
Neither does my beloved wife, a sophisticated woman from eastern Tennessee. n/t Bertha Venation Aug 2012 #42
shows like "Bridezilla" target urban/city stereotypes along with the rural stereotypes Liberal_in_LA Aug 2012 #15
To me, shows like that, "The Real Wives of..." "bad girls club" etc. antigone382 Aug 2012 #17
I hear ya. I watched that documentary about Appalachia. It explained the source of one stereotype Liberal_in_LA Aug 2012 #20
True... ohheckyeah Aug 2012 #28
dump's not free. everytime you go you have to pay. HiPointDem Aug 2012 #35
We don't. ohheckyeah Aug 2012 #37
I'm in Maine and we have to pay to drop off certain items at the dump magical thyme Aug 2012 #49
The area I was talking about.... ohheckyeah Aug 2012 #56
we do. depends on jurisdiction & what you're dumping. HiPointDem Aug 2012 #55
Well, not everyone has access to a truck. antigone382 Aug 2012 #39
yep. big difference in poor rural areas and city in transportation availability. Another Liberal_in_LA Aug 2012 #43
Yep...used to catch a ride with friends, but it wasn't very easy... antigone382 Aug 2012 #58
I appreciate the responses to this thread, and will check back in tomorrow. antigone382 Aug 2012 #19
It always baffles me that people here in W.Va. celebrate the continuing Jesco White minstrel show Adenoid_Hynkel Aug 2012 #21
I just watched that mess on Netflix this morning, in fact. Codeine Aug 2012 #46
Great post. Reminds me of a few days ago when listening to a DJ on WDTW FM 106.7 muntrv Aug 2012 #22
Excellent article. Lifelong Protester Aug 2012 #26
For a corrective view, read Joe Bageant's "Deer Hunting with Jesus" Lydia Leftcoast Aug 2012 #27
America handed WV over to the coal industry and said "Here have your way with her." limpyhobbler Aug 2012 #29
For a better understanding...I do suggest everyone read Joe Bageant's books.. riverbendviewgal Aug 2012 #30
thanks for the suggestion limpyhobbler Aug 2012 #32
Exactly. n/t antigone382 Aug 2012 #45
Outstanding post. lumberjack_jeff Aug 2012 #33
Unfortunately, class bigotry is still considered more acceptable than racial bigotry eridani Aug 2012 #34
I get it all the time here in Montana sorefeet Aug 2012 #36
Thanks for all of the supportive responses... antigone382 Aug 2012 #41
Three of my Grandparents were "Hillbillies" who would have sooner eaten bees than vote Republican Burma Jones Aug 2012 #47
The words classy and sophisticated do not describe the Honey Boo Boo family. Initech Aug 2012 #48
The words classy and sophisticated also do not describe amusement based on class-based prejudice. nt antigone382 Aug 2012 #52
True. Initech Aug 2012 #54
No one held a gun to the heads of kurtzapril4 Aug 2012 #50
Well, she's six...so she doesn't really have a say either way. antigone382 Aug 2012 #53
Cute Doggy in the first pic! smirkymonkey Aug 2012 #51
I come from a long line of hillbillies, probably one of the first in this country, MadHound Aug 2012 #59
That photo with the two rednecks and the Rottweiler RebelOne Aug 2012 #60
Thank you for this thoughtful thread. K&R myrna minx Aug 2012 #61
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