(This story has been updated. See below and CLICK HERE for update.)
A nice hearty “Fuck You!” is due CNN today for posting a photo montage that depicts “everyday” people from The South as Klansman, snake preachers, and inbred fuckwits driving their clunkers through the mud.
The CNN photo blog entitled: “Life In Appalachia: Regression to the Mean” includes admittedly very powerful, well-done images that do give an honest interpretation of a very fringe, yet nonetheless present element of rural, Southern living. But the problem is these pictures are depicted as a realistic regional representation, as a global view into life in Appalachia as opposed to a case study of a diminutive periphery population on the rapid decline. Southern people are offered up as hillbilly oddity, like Barnum & Bailey circus fodder to be oogled at, as CNN expects its readers to marvel at deformity and ignorance as high art.
Why couldn’t CNN and photographer Stacy Kranitz depict this for what it is, a fringe case study? Instead it is Appalachia that is offered up as fringe for being “outside mainstream American culture”, yet the people depicted in the photos are labeled as “everyday” members of Southern society.
Photographer Stacy Kranitz is drawn to people outside mainstream American culture. Last summer she traveled through West Virginia, Kentucky, Virginia and Tennessee for three months exploring the towns and the everyday lives of the people of Appalachia.
If CNN or this photographer were going to undertake this task, why not depict the other side of Southern living as balance? Main Street parades, fruit and harvest festivals, local church gatherings, family gatherings on the back porch?
What if you took pictures of poor black people in urban slums, with mothers smoking crack while babies were left unfed in dirty diapers and said this was a representation of the urban America, or black America? Wouldn’t this be wrong? Where are the black people in these pictures that are supposed to be representative of The South? The South has one of the largest concentrations of black people in all of the country. Was there not enough “regression” in those photos to make the piece? Why does Hollywood and the media inherently avoid the negative stereotyping of other races and regions in the name of political correctness, but has a perpetual open season on The South?
CNN and this photographer should take a step back out of their high-brow reality tunnels and think of how these pictures and caption will represent The South to people from Europe or Japan, from Long Island or Seattle that have never been there.
The reason that people cling to corporate culture, especially people from The South is because they don’t want to be perceived as weird or “outside mainstream American culture”. This creates a cycle of consumerism and debt, people working bad jobs and living unfulfilled lives as they sell their indigenous agrarian culture to chase the corporate ideal of success and acceptance. This is the reason that drugs and cultural subversions like country rap have infiltrated rural areas, preying on people whose self-esteem has been stolen from them by media in features just like this.
CNN should be absolutely ashamed of itself for its short-sighted attempt to create interest and awareness with such a shallow approach.
Long live the culturally-rich, beautifully-simple people of The South!
Apparently the photographer of this photo blog, Stacy Kranitz found CNN’s choice to label the pictures “everyday life in Appalachia” (which was bolded in red above in this story) “just as offensive and shocking” as it was to the rest of us.
In a correspondence with a CNN reader, Stacy Kranitz explained how CNN was responsible for the caption that introduced the photo montage, as well as selecting the specific images used to “reinforce stereotypes” from a broader collection of photos.
…(Stacy Kranitz) was just as disturbed by the CNN piece as many of the commenters are. She explained that CNN’s decision to add the label “everyday life in Appalachia” to her image of the Klan was just as offensive and shocking to her as it is to the rest of us.
Stacy wrote that her project is meant to “look at regionalism and the factors and mythology that contribute to it.” To do this, she wanted to acknowledge the existence of stereotypes and then confront them and prove that they often don’t hold true. CNN chose to use only the images that reinforce stereotypes and present them as the whole project rather than a small part of the project as they are intended.”