EXCESS HOLLYWOOD: REDNECK STEW

The soundtrack from “Pulp Fiction” is pumping out of the speakers as I write this, and I have no problem picturing Zed and the gimp. Can’t get enough of the gimp. I then flashback to Quentin Tarantino’s “Kill Bill Vol. 1″ and The Bride’s last rapist. Another redneck.

“Deliverance” has that infamous “squeal like a pig” scene. “Mother’s Day.” “The Great American Snuff Film.” “House of 1,000 Corpses.” “Cabin Fever.” “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” All of them have one thing in common: rednecks (or hillbillies, backwoods people, inbreds, whatever you want to call them). They all freak me out — and I love them for it.

I grew up in the Poconos. Ever been there? Yeah, there’re heart-shaped beds, but there are also rednecks … lots of them. I was exposed to them on a daily basis, and that has led me to believe that they are the one group of people actually portrayed fairly accurately in the movies. Sure they are a stereotype, but if the shoe fits …Tarantino does the best job with rednecks. His versions of them are a little more realistic than the ones in other films, and that makes them scarier.

Example: Bruce Willis and Ving Rhames running into a bit of trouble in “Pulp Fiction.” I saw that scene and understood exactly why they were in a bad situation before the gimp was even brought out of the box. Growing up in a country environment just gives you a second sense when it comes to that sort of thing. Basically, all you have to do is imagine the worst possible thing that could happen in any given situation with a redneck … and then plan for it.

While I think encountering rednecks in real life is bad enough, in the movies they make my skin crawl. Living amongst them taught me that they could and would do anything. (One time at a flea market I came across an older redneck who was selling his wife’s vibrator collection. I shit you not. Used vibrators. No, they weren’t clean, either.) They think beer is a major food group, and they really will fuck anything that moves. (I once walked past a trailer with a cow’s skull above its door. From inside I heard a pig squealing and running around as a man kept shouting, “Get the hell back here!” I’m not saying he was making love to it, but let’s be real.) Do I think they are as perverted as Tarantino paints them? Well, I wouldn’t want to pass out in a room with one of them.

The thing about rednecks that makes them creepy is not the backwoods stupidity factor (I actually think a lot of rednecks are intelligent — which makes them scarier). It’s their lack of adherence to the social mores that gives them an edge over city folk. They have that willingness to do whatever it is they want and nothing is going to stop them. I normally wouldn’t have much of a problem with this, but rednecks seem to take some kind of perverse pleasure in acting out in such a way. They are as “happy as a pig in shit,” as I often heard them say. Whether it’s beating homosexuals with a log, sodomizing some drunk chick, or dragging a black man with a truck, rednecks often don’t think they are in the wrong, and they seem pretty cheerful to have that mindset.

Movie rednecks, when written well, act much the same way. They are outlaw spirits with degenerate smiles, and you know the score the second they appear on screen.

It’s a sad fact that movies rely on stereotypes much more than they should. There’s the heavy black woman who always dispenses spiritual wisdom. There’s the whiny white guy in a three-piece suit who is nothing but a yes-man. There’s the Korean store owner just trying to make a living while fearing that everyone is stealing from him. Real rednecks, however, match their movie counterparts moreso than any other group … and I don’t think they mind that. Why would they when their stereotype scares the crap out of me?

Maybe I’ll get over this fear someday, but I really don’t want to. It will be one less thing that scares me at the movies, which aren’t nearly scary enough these days. If I come to accept the rednecks, it will mean

I’ve grown too accustomed to them, and comfort breeds contempt. I’ll lose my respect for what they do to me, and the movies they’re in won’t be as thrilling.

Zed ain’t dead, baby. Zed ain’t never gonna die. And I, for one, am happy as a pig in shit for that.

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Posted on April 29, 2004 in Features by
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