Every day I give thanks to 8 lb. 6 oz. baby Jesus that I don’t have cable, but unfortunately as the proprietor of a country music website, I find myself on CMT’s website quite often to keep a finger on the pulse of what’s happening in the mainstream country world. That’s where I was so unfortunately and indecently exposed to the trailer of an upcoming series on CMT called “My Big Redneck Vacation” beginning January 21st.
The premise appears to be to ship a bunch of yahoos from the South up to The Hamptons in New York, and have them behave like a troupe of Barnum & Baily hillbilly oddities for the bemusement of New England’s sniveling upper crust, all while middle class suburbanites sit at home and live the stereotypical corporate country life vicariously through these redneck caricatures. See for yourself:
Perpetuating negative stereotypes on television about people from the South, and people from the country in general has been going on since the medium of television was created and before, and this dumb and clearly-staged reality show is in no way either a new concept or out of character for the entertainment elitists living on the two coasts. My beef is where this particular show is coming from.
There’s a contingent of white people who love to point out how you can have Black Entertainment Television (BET), but if you had “White Entertainment Television” it would be racist. They act like it’s some deep point that hasn’t been made a million times before when they make it, when it really goes without saying. But one of the reasons BET was created was because certain black entertainers and television executives were tired of seeing blacks depicted only negatively on TV. In the beginning, BET tried to make people of color proud of who they were, reinforce positive role models, and preserve black culture and history.
Then to make money, BET went to a strictly music format. And then Viacom, the same company that owns MTV and CMT, bought them and made even more changes until the vision that BET began with was all but erased. Instead of trying to break stereotypes, BET began creating and reinforcing them. MTV has also gone through a significant programming shift, from almost strictly music videos, to almost strictly reality programming.
“My Big Redneck Vacation” is the cultural equivalent of eating your own children, and the beginning steps down the slippery slope that CMT’s Viacom brothers of BET and MTV have already traversed into the pit of cultural decay. I know some will say CMT is in cultural decay already, but the format change from music to reality, and vice versa has always been the guidepost in Viacom properties moving away from values and towards maximizing revenue. We know folks outside of the country culture are going to use negative country stereotypes as a form of entertainment, so why would we then reinforce these stereotypes by engaging in these practices ourselves?
“My Big Redneck Vacation” is no different than the Jason Aldean’s and Justin Moore’s of the world singing laundry list songs filled with banal countryisms to bored suburbanites, while ignoring the things that actually make the country life beautiful and unique.
And it almost appears that these negative country stereotypes are becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. By glorifying and showcasing stupid behavior, we’re perpetuating it. Folks are acting dumb, behaving idiotically, and eating poorly because that is what they think they need to do to be accepted, or to part of a front-running culture, even though they know it’s bad for them. They are proud of being stupid, because right now, being stupid gets you attention…
…or maybe I’m just over-reacting, or being “high fallutin'”. I’m sure that’s what the “Clampitt’s” would say.