Here at Society Matters, we’ve long argued that selling our Society’s good name to Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation — the majority owner of the National Geographic Channel — has been a disaster for our Brand.
Well, the problem received national attention this morning on NPR, where TV critic Eric Deggans delivered a scathing commentary on the growth of what he called “Redneck TV” — and on the participation of (once blue-chip) documentary producers such as National Geographic:
… More than anything, these [Redneck] series feed an odd sort of racial stereotype. The subjects are hard-partying, not particularly intellectual and connected to the land in ways we Yankees can only guess. They’re real-life descendants of the Dukes of Hazzard who wave around the rebel flag and embrace the term “redneck” as a badge of honor.
Which explains the titles for some of these shows: CMT’s My Big Redneck Wedding and Redneck Riviera, a show gathering buzz as a southern-fried Jersey Shore.
And when the National Geographic Channel built a show around Alabama rocket scientist Travis Taylor, guess what they named it? Rocket City Rednecks.
Over in Rocket City, patriarch Charles Taylor was one of NASA’s original machinists. But here, he frets about a homemade submarine his son and grandson have built. And even when these guys have Ph.Ds in aerospace engineering, the show makes them sound like extras in a Hee Haw skit.
It’s even worse that all this hokum comes from traditional sources of great documentaries like History and the National Geographic Channel.
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.
I really hate these shows. They do for Southerns what Jersey Shore does for Yankees. The worst part is these folks serve themselves up to be made fun and laughed at. Yes some of them are laughing all the way to the bank, but the ones who didn’t make the TV cut just get more stereotypes heaped upon them. These shows are nothing more then bigotry on the small screen used to sell a product the same way the once thick lipped Uncle Ben (referring to the original image made to look like a stereotypical black man) was used to sell rice. I am a Southern and proud to have been born into such a rich tradition and culture, why this kind of trash is promoted by the once relevant and upstanding National Geographic Society I will never know. ….