Long Live Southern Stereotypes
Ever since Scarlett O’Hara struggled to find love and Andy Taylor was elected Mayberry’s Sheriff, filmmakers and television producers have yet to lose any fondness for stereotyping the southern culture. There are many who despise any form of labeling or stereotyping within the media, fearing false characterizations or inaccurate portrayals of southern customs, traditions, and people. Exposure to southern stereotypes through media is an appealing element in the American lifestyle that can render endearing impressions, contribute genuine metaphors, and provide viewers with a unique and fascinating (whether positive or negative) glimpse toward a regional culture. The mass media, or media at large, would include motion picture makers, television producers, news programs, newspapers, radio, magazines, or any source which has the capability to deliver images or messages to the masses. It seems to be common knowledge that the mass media has inundated homes all across the fruited plain for decades with images of southern stereotypes. Ask a few dozen strangers to describe a southerner in sixty seconds or less and the common descriptions most may have of southern folks are reasonably unsurprising. A few details that come to mind when describing a southerner may include the following: a strong accent or drawl, ignorant, lazy, a barefoot mountain person, an inbred, a hillbilly with buck teeth and overalls, a hick with a pick-up truck and a gun rack, and a moonshiner with a big beer belly. Most will also agree that the mental figures or perceptions on hand are those branded in the brain by the mass media, film makers, and theatre companies. “When you think of stereotypes, you often only think of negative ones. There are also positive stereotypes – the South being a land of nature and holding onto traditions,” said Tom Hanchett, staff historian at the Levine Museum of the New South. (Baldwin 1-2). Hillbilly, country bumpkin, cracker,...
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