Return of the Hicks – The Washington Post reports today on page one that “CBS Plans a Real-Life Version of Its 60s Hick Hit,” the Beverly Hillbillies. That was the subtitle; the bold title is “Gold in Them Thar ‘Hillbillies.'” On the continuation page inside, the big bold headline that stretches five (out of six) columns across the top of the page is: “CBS Seeks a ‘Very Rural’ Family to Move to Beverly – Hills, That Is.”
The CBS “reality” TV unit (exactly whose reality is that?)
has a crew of casting agents combing the “mountainous, rural areas” in Arkansas, West Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Kentucky in search of a “multi-generational family of five or more … who will be relocated for at least a year” to a mansion in Beverly Hills….”
The family will be given money … with which to buy expensive cars and designer suits, hire maids and personal assistants, and dine at hot West L.A. eateries.
I’m sure I’m not the only hick to take offense. (I may be Jewish, but I’m also, probably more, Southern.) The only people remaining on the face of the earth on whom there is an open season for ridicule and derision are Southern rural whites, and perhaps rural whites outside the South (except, of course, for flinty New England farmers).
The CBS people, and probably others, will say my skin (they probably wouldn’t say, at least not in public, my white or Jewish skin) is too thin, that their intention is not to make fun of anyone, and that the hillbillies may well be more appealing than their new Hollywood neighbors. “If you look at the real ‘Beverly Hillbillies,” one of the developers said, “Jed [Clampett] was the one guy you had any respect for, not the banker.”
Baloney. A quick Nexis search reveals that “Beverly Hillbillies” has become a common synonym for dumb-hick-po-white-trash. It also reveals, by the way, that no one knows, or cares, exactly where the Clampetts were from. Most think West Virginia; careful research in program transcripts convinced most scholars of the show that “Bug Tussle,” their home community, was in the Ozarks, and a few articles had them leaving from Tennessee. It doesn’t really matter, since everyone in New York and Hollywood knows hillbillies are all alike, wherever they’re from. (See “Beverly Hillbillies seem to be from all over map,” Chicago Sun Times, 3/20/1998, p. 58.)
Here’s a test of whether or not hicks are the only group left not protected from open sneers, jeers, and Bronx cheers: can you imagine a similar show being made about, say, Hasidic Jews or Muslims being moved to a Bible Belt small town, or a poor black rural or Harlem family being set up in a Park Avenue penthouse? I didn’t think so.
According to one of the program developers,
“Most of America can only imagine what it’s like to live in Beverly Hills and live in a multimillion-dollar mansion. We can share this advantage with them, rather than laugh at them.”
Sure. Just show me the treatments for programs where we can also laugh with, but not at, blacks, Jews, Hispanics, Catholics, Arabs, the handicapped, etc., who are set up in new and alien situations with live cameras trained on them.
Update – Trojan Horseshoes (a Tarheel) is similarly peeved.