"Prejudice against Southerners is generally socially acceptable among people who should know better." - Allan Massie
NPR is an unlikely place to find relevant cultural commentary on the American South, but their review of "Redneck TV" is spot-on. The South of reality television appears to be populated only by stupid white people wearing hats. They hunt. They fish. They talk funny.
The article left me wondering were to find depictions of the other American South -- not Nashville, not NASCAR -- but the strange, half-haunted landscape that I left behind three years ago. Now that director David Gordon Green has moved from George Washington to Pineapple Express, what else is out there? My top picks would include documentaries like Benjamin Smoke and Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus, the gentle comic surrealism of Dorne Pentes' The Closest Thing to Heaven, and indie narratives like Winter's Bone. Granted, it's easy to romanticize subcultures birthed from poverty and decades of isolation...far more challenging to render them convincingly.
This book took me through ten states and over 10,000 miles of highway, to rural Appalachia and the Mississippi Delta, prosperous New South suburbs and New Orleans after the flood. I talked to pretty much anyone who would talk to me—black and white, rich and poor, liberal and conservative, Baptist, Pentecostal, and Catholic.
I witnessed protest rallies and Pentecostal tent revivals. I visited megachurches and a pacifist Christian commune. I met a few scary people and many more kind, hospitable ones.
I heard some stories you might or might not believe...