Conor Knighton has been reading my mind.
A commentator for CBS’ “Sunday Morning,” Knighton says cable television seems to be obsessed with rednecks, “typically, lower-middle-class white Southerners.”
“The last few years,” he said, “have brought us ‘Redneck Rehab,’ ‘My Big Redneck Wedding,’ ‘Rocket City Rednecks,’ ‘Hillbilly Handfishin’,’ ‘Swamp People,’ ‘Redneck Island,’ ‘Duck Dynasty,’ ‘Bayou Billionaires,’ Moonshiners,’ ‘Lady Hoggers’ … the list goes on and on.”
Do you see a pattern here?
Then we have the latest redneck offering, “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo,” which features a rural Georgia family whose members and friends have graced the TV screen with pleasant scenes and sounds of bobbing for pigs’ feet and passing gas on cue.
“And while they’re always the butt of the joke,” Knighton said, “they seem to embrace the attention, even coining catch phrases (‘You better REDNECK-ognize’).”
Knighton is not making fun of the South or rednecks or even redneck games. He is from West Virginia, and he seemed pleased that his home state denied a tax credit to MTV’s upcoming series, “Buck Wild,” fearing, he said, “that the show would portray West Virginians in a stereotypical, derogatory manner.”
Good for West Virginia.
Lest you think of me as a snob, allow me a few disclosures:
• I have attended what some might call a redneck wedding.
• I enjoy some of the clever games that Southerners — some of them rednecks, for sure — come up with.
• I think many of Jeff Foxworthy’s lines in his “You Might Be a Redneck If …” routine are funny.
• I was a judge for a Little Miss Princess contest one time, pageants in which little Honey Boo Boo must be a veteran.
• I would like to watch someone catch a 40-pound catfish with his bare hands, but I don’t want to do it.
• I have a friend who is a former moonshiner, a really nice guy, but he would tell you that no moonshiner in his right mind would allow TV cameras near the still site.
End of disclosures.
Now, what I worry about is the same thing Conor Knighton worries about: “that the recent explosion of these types of shows perpetuates outdated stereotypes.”
We know, of course, why these shows multiply. Like most so-called reality shows, they are fairly easy and inexpensive to produce. The shows’ stars get paid for making fools of themselves. And, most important, there must be a demand for them.
But, we also know this: they aren’t really reality; few reality shows are. And the characters are being exploited. Knighton cleverly called it “redneck-sploitation.”
Many folks in Rabun County, Ga., my old stomping grounds, were offended when “Deliverance,” the movie, came out 40 years ago. I understand why.
I am offended by the proliferation of Southern redneck shows. Rednecks, after all, are everywhere, not just in the South. And in the interest of fairness, I’d be willing to share our redneck fame with other deserving parts of the country.
— Hudgins, a former community newspaper editor, can be reached at email@example.com.