Looking at the Big Picture

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 notks6xr 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.

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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.

Hamilton, Karen C., “Y’all Think We’re Stupid: Deconstructing Media Sterotypes of The American South” (2009). Electronic Theses & Dissertations. Paper 491.

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.

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This entry was posted in Summer 2015 by sydlynn1094. Bookmark the permalink.

About sydlynn1094

Hello! My name is Sydney Sander and right now I'm in between my freshman and sophomore year of college at Portland State University. I'm double majoring in Film and Business. So how did I end up in this wonderful city of Portland? Well I was born in Jackson, Tennessee and lived there for about 9 years. From there in 2004 my family packed up and took a 12 hour plane ride to what was my home for six years, Waterloo, Belgium (superb of Bruxelles, Belgium). In 2010, we flew from Brussels to Portland. I graduated high school in 2014 at West Linn High School and decided to stay in the area but live in the city. That brought me Portland State. I'm a huge movie buff, making a film major be perfect for me. I hope to pursue my dream of working at Pixar someday a reality. Either being a director, producer, cinematographer, or editor. In my spare time I love watching movies, taking pictures with my Nikon, singing, and playing the piano. I've been playing piano for 8 years but singing since I was a toddler. I've been in nine choirs (six being honor choirs) with my favorite being the most recent, Jazz choir. Music and Movies have always been a big part of my life and will always be.

3 thoughts on “Looking at the Big Picture

  1. I dated a New Orleans girl for about three and a half years and learned a lot about Southern culture, food, and music through her. It was important to remember, however, that New Orleans is not Lafayette or Galveston or Atlanta or Jacksonville. Each of these cities have a different character despite sharing the same geographic location. I know Southerners tend to be regarded as uneducated racists who talk funny. The story you mention about the scene in “America’s Next Top Model” is sad, because it demonstrated that there are preconceived notions about intelligence based on a person’s accent. I like how you mentioned the Confederate flag issue, as it is pertinent to current events. I do appreciate that it was originally created to commemorate the fallen soldiers of the War Between the States before it was co-opted by white supremacists. It reminds me of how the Nazi party adopted the swastika, originally a symbol of great spiritual importance, causing it become indefinitely associated with genocide and racism. I personally think the flags shouldn’t be outlawed, however I do think it is reasonable not to fly them on government property. I have to disagree about the South’s reasons for fighting the North. Yes it was about states’ rights, the states’ rights to own slaves. There is numerous documentation to support this statement.

  2. Hello Sydney,

    The post is very interesting. I have dealt with situations like this not by the same background, but the same concept. It is very hard for people in other area’s to accept new accents, ideologies, and the exact interpretation of what is exactly going on. Most of our news reflects information to attract people to their websites and channels. This is much of a marketing tactic for them even if it isn’t 100% the whole truth or withholding information. I’ve always encouraged people who have traits from their families cultures to express it. Unfortunately many people are hard headed and accepting. Texas is one of many places I would love to go to and think everything about it is great. There are so much cultural and historical parts in Texas that I would like to see.

    I think if people were more accepting and not see a person one-dimensional to their standards it would be a better world.

    Thank you for sharing this.
    Zade Al-

  3. Hi Sydney,
    Interesting post, I was really drawn into your topic in the first and second paragraph. I’ve traveled around the country and I’ve noticed different accents and almost difference cultures. Down in Miami I felt like I wasn’t even in the US it felt like Cuba. I feel like people don’t respect others cultures, we are not very accepting of others and I really with we could be, we could learn so much from others and experience more. People should be free to express themselves in any accent or culture they want as long as they are respect others, we could all get along better if we could respect each other more.
    Great paper!!

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