My new feature article for the Norwich Film Festival has gone live. It regards the exploitation of the myth of the Southerner in the light of two of this year’s Oscar contenders. It’s got slander, abuse, and KFC in it, so why not go check it out by clicking the sample text below, ya’ll?
Over the course of the 150 years since the American Civil War, Southern Americans have been the go-to group when it comes to a caricature everyone can get behind giving a good kicking. In the fallout of the war, the hillbilly character originated from Northern news writers, as a kind of primitive parallel to the ‘civilising’ process of industrialisation sweeping the country in the second half of the 1800s. The South had been left in ruin after the war, economically crippled and hit by bad harvests – and the ordinary folk there were subsequently painted as a primitive embarrassment. At the time America’s leaders were becoming obsessed with carving out a new image in the eyes of the world, and the poor, ‘ignorant’, ‘lazy’ South didn’t fit with their ambitions to expand the market empires they thrived from. One example to sum up this frustration, featured in Rich Hall’s brilliant BBC film The Dirty South (2010), comes from The Baltimore Sun in 1912, who suggested the only two remedies to such folk were “education and extermination.” Yikes – with an attitude like that if he’d been born a century later the writer could’ve landed a career in the ATOS PR department!