Michael Vick, an all star NFL football player, was accused and tried for implicating the illegal act of dog fighting. In 2007 when this incident came out to the public, Whoopi Goldberg, an influential actress/comedian, publicly defended him on “The View”. She went on to say that “He’s from the South, from the Deep South … This is part of his cultural upbringing”. This comment defending the Atlanta Falcons quarterback reinforced a southern stereotype that people from the south torture animals for entertainment. Goldberg blatantly lumped together the entire region together into condoning dog fighting.
In the popular reality show “America’s Next Top Model” hosted by Tyra Banks, there was a southern women who was judged based on her accent. A young woman named Danielle from Arkansas was seen as a potential spokesmodel. The panel recognized Danielle’s accent and started making derogatory comments about it. They started out by telling her she needed to neutralize her accent, as of she could not speak the way she was raised to speak. Later in the contest, Banks stated that models need to speak ““eloquently,” thus implying quite readily that the Southern accent is unrefined and ugly to most people’s ears.”. What’s damaging about this action is that, accent’s are very normal wherever you grow up and when people tell you it’s not normal, it’s degrading. My mother, who lives in Oregon but is from Texas, is continually asked where she’s from and have had people tell her, her accent is “cute”. To have an accent that is ridiculed on national television can create insecurities among southern teenagers and young adults. People who are not from the south who viewed this could have easily judged southern people and affirmed negative stereotypes about them.
Media reinforcements such as these, and examples like “Hart of Dixie”, “Sweet Home Alabama”, and “Forrest Gump” perpetuate inaccurate stereotypes about the south.
Inaccurate stereotypes about the south are infamous within pop culture. In a visual medium where being from the south is recognized, most of the time, it isn’t positive and it reinforces negative stereotypes. The biggest conventional images that I found that are reinforced in the media are that southern people are not intellectuals, we are all rednecks, we all live in the country, and we are obsessed with food. The list could go on and on. The only positive reinforcement that the media has portrayed but still has somewhat made fun of is that we are famous for our southern hospitality.
In the visual mediums I chose as my examples, they all represented the traits of unintelligence, southern hospitality, an obsession with food. Although each of them portrayed some different traits that weren’t shown in the other mediums. For example, “Sweet Home Alabama” and “Hart of Dixie” were both set in Alabama with the main character being from a New York setting. They heavily compared life in New York to life in the deep south, making derogatory comments about both places. They gave off a sort of “North vs. South” discretion.
One stereotype I found interesting and didn’t realize was portrayed as much is the fascination with food that is reinforced in the eyes of the media. In Forrest Gump, the stereotype is reinforced with his famous quote is “life is like a box of chocolates” and his and Bubba’s infatuation with shrimp. In “Sweet Home Alabama” and “Hart of Dixie” there are many references towards fried food. References to fried food are popular for reinforcing southern stereotypes. Another example is included in “The Help”. This movie is surrounded around the lives of the African American help that are employed by white families. One particular black help perfects the art of making fried chicken and teaches her white woman employer how to cook it. Also throughout this film, bringing pie to companies house was the social norm.
One topic that has been especially popular in the media lately is the controversy over the Confederate flag. One negative argument about the flag is that is represents racism, slavery, and hate. Yet another side of the argument is that it represents bravery and historical context. It’s known as a rebel flag and rebel flags were never suppose to represent racism. The Civil war erupted over states rights, not slavery. The south was in favor of states rights, whilst the North was in favor of wanting the national government to have more power over the states. While it looks as if the south is in favor of letting the confederate flag fly, the public looks at it as southern people being proud that slavery was in place. Making it look like the southern region is condoning racism.
Watching and observing the southern stereotypes that are portrayed in modern pop culture disappoint me slightly. Mostly because they lead the rest of the world to make us look like conservative, unintelligent, religious, hicks. This isn’t all due to pop culture. Some is due to politics and experience knowing what the south is actually like. What I’ve gotten most out of southern stereotypes that is portrayed in pop culture is that we are all hicks, we’re dense, and we’re “racist and prejudice”. History takes a toll on a lot of these stereotypes like racism and religion but pop culture mostly reinforces and assumes. I appreciate that pop culture does not only represent the negative connotations but also the positive connotations. These include southern hospitality, southern friendliness, and our love for food (yet sometimes that can be carried away). People only take away the more negative judgmental points and less able to remember the positive things. They override the positive things making the negative things more memorable.
For this class, one of the biggest and most eye opening assignments I’ve had to do was the Research Analysis. This was very time consuming and critically analyzed assignment. In this assignment I had to analyze three different popular culture mediums and examined the aspects that resulted in the stereotypes I was researching and exploiting. This made me put on a different lens when watching mediums that point out southern regions and the attitudes about them.
For the first course blog assignment, one of the discussion posts I answered was about “types of person or group of people that you’ve seen represented in a similar or one-dimensional way”. I went on a huge rant about how disney channel girls are all portrayed the same and there is no uniqueness to them. I really enjoyed critically thinking about this topic because I really got to branch out on my ideas on the subject.
Forrest Gump [Motion picture on DVD]. (1994). Paramount pictures.
Hart of Dixie [Motion picture]. (2011). Warner Brothers Television.
Sweet home Alabama [Motion picture on DVD]. (2003). Touchstone Home Entertainment ;.
The Help [Motion picture on DVD]. (2011). U.S.A: Walt Disney Pictures.
The O’Reilley Factor. Fox News. 23 June 2015. Radio.