It is a comment upon the state of journalism, of the South, of popular culture, of the Zeitgeist, and all sorts of other things that bore me to mention that this morning, The State ran a well-promoted piece on the phenomenon of “Redneck TV.”
No, I’m not saying a South Carolina journalist took it upon himself or herself to comment on this trend. The paper ran a canned piece from The Los Angeles Times. And it didn’t say much, beyond placing “Ice Road Truckers” (which, to me, still ranks as the show least likely, of all shows in the history of television, to interest anyone on the planet Earth as a recurring series) within a certain context of genre.
At least NPR, also reporting on this phenomenon (there must have been a free feed for entertainment journos sometime in the last few days out on the Left Coast), bothered to say something about it. Didn’t say much, just a harrumph, but that’s better than nothing:
These shows give you a South with no people of color, and they weirdly lack contact with sophisticated southern cities like Atlanta or Dallas; I guess it’s tough to play the bumpkin card when you’re looking at skyscrapers and a booming technology corridor.
It helps to think of reality TV shows as situation comedies for a new generation. And every TV fan knows sitcoms depend on stereotypes to fuel their best jokes. On these shows, decades of stereotypes about the South have risen again, ready to make a new generation laugh at the expense of real understanding.
Despite reality TV’s tendency to stupefy everything it touches, perhaps it’s time for these programs to actually get real, and give us a vision of Southern culture that reaches beyond the fun loving redneck.
Yes, as commentary goes, that’s pretty formulaic and trite, grumbling about stereotypes. But at least NPR took time to disapprove of such goings-on. And I appreciate that.