New White Family Movie – Edification or Exploitation
This all really started when the new movie trailer for The Wild and Wonderful Whites documentary featuring Jesco White and other members of the family was released last week. Just the trailer itself stirred some controversy, making people wonder if this movie was going to attempt to accurately depict the White family, or just be one sensationalized scene after another, aka Jackass meets COPS: The Jackass label coming from producer Johnny Knoxville, and the COPS moniker for the violence and drug use depicted in the trailer.
I cautioned at the time that the point of movie trailers is to get people interested in seeing the whole movie, and may not be an accurate representation of what the final movie is. We’ll it apparently got the Po Po interested as well.
Last Monday night, Jesco was woken up out of bed by the police, and told he was charged with “felony delivery of a controlled substance and conspiracy.” According to police, Jesco and his sister Sue Ann “conspired” to buy cocaine. The police say that they found cocaine on Sue Ann, but from what I understand, Jesco was not in possession of any drugs.
MTV has subsequently bailed Jesco White out of jail.
The details on the story are sketchy at best. The journalism in West Virginia seems to be about as functional as the White family itself. It is also unclear what the White family thinks about the documentary. In THIS poorly written and generally unhelpful article, it says, “Members of White’s family said the film casts them in a negative light, and they say they have changed their ways since then.” But this quote isn’t attributed to anyone specifically, and may not be the views of the whole family. Jesco in the video above talks about how the were “paid to have fun,” almost implying that the whole movie is just one big act.
When I published a previous blog about this, a few of my readers to their credit were leery about how this documentary would turn out. Sure, the scenes are funny and all of that, but serious hardcore drug abuse, and specifically the effect on children is a real problem in that part of the country, but not for everyone, and that is why there is also concerns that this movie will help perpetuate negative stereotypes about people from West Virginia, Boone Couty, or the country and the South in general.
At this point, still very few people have seen this movie, including members of the White family, making the quote from the news story above even more ridiculous and misleading. The movie at this point STILL does not have distribution, so there is no release date or any idea how it will be shown: in theaters, at film festivals, in installments on MTV, etc. It did have a showing at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City, a a girl named Gillian Grey wrote THIS BLOG about it, saying:
“When this movie was announced, I was afraid that the Whites would be portrayed negatively, exploiting their differences and making them the clown for us to laugh at. The director (Julien Nitzberg) felt the same way. The documentary Dancing Outlaw about Jesco White (D Ray’s son) from 1992 is cut toward comedy and he wanted this movie to be more respectful.”
I think that it is important to point out that Johnny Knoxville was NOT the director of this film. Yes, I’m sure he had say so in the direction the film took and such, but Julien Nitzenburg was the man in charge.
So all of this leaves me with a couple of questions:
1. Was Jesco framed by police that felt they were being mocked by the movie trailer?
I could certainly see this, but as all Jesco and White family fans know, you don’t need a movie trailer to know there are drugs swirling all around that scene. I wish the media out there would get off their ass and try to put all the facts together so that we all could come to some conclusions on our own. I guess we will know in due course.
2. Does the White documentary exploit the White family?
Again, I’m going to wait to see the movie myself to decide that and not rely on a 2 minute trailer, but from what someone who has seen the movie has said about it, and from what the director has said about it, it will at the least not be as exploitative as the trailer implies.
I also feel like just adding my two cents about why people like me, Hank Williams III, and others find Jesco and the White family’s life so “entertaining” and interesting.
Sure the wildness has some to do with it, but these people also have a beauty about the way they live their lives, their simple philosophies, their all too common struggles that can speak to all of us on a visceral level that rises way above just watching people making fools of themselves. I agree with the director of the new film, that at times the first White documentary made a mockery of them instead of trying to accurately portray their way of life.
Some people don’t understand what all the hubbub is about these stupid white-trash hillbillies, some watch them expressly for the car crash factor. But some, including myself, enjoy it because of the themes that speak to us through Jesco and the Whites on a human level that is very tough to explain to someone that doesn’t “get it.”
I guess what I’m trying to say is that in the United States we have a rule: “Innocent until proven guilty.” I hope to God that this rule is applied with Jesco as he attempts to clear his name. And I think we all have an obligation to apply this rule to this new documentary, Johnny Knoxville, and the White’s themselves, until we see the documentary in full with our own eyes.
May 3, 2009 @ 1:32 pm
They took the movie like a slap in there face. That’s what i think the hole point of an arrest. To save face at Jesco’s expense. Its there way of saying ” Hey you cant do that in Boone county and make a movie like this and get away with it. That’s my 2 cents.
May 3, 2009 @ 2:57 pm
I tend to agree with you, but I want to see the facts before I have to eat my words.
May 4, 2009 @ 8:35 am
I will reserve judgment until I see the movie, but I will say this in advance.
1. Some of the videos that I have seen with Roger Alan Wade, Johnny Knoxville, and his sycophants seem slightly disrespectful to Wade’s music. They sit around and make funny faces at the camera while Wade sings. I realize irreverence is part of the appeal, but I still don’t like it. I should add, I never get this feeling directly from Knoxville himself.
2. One of the reason that I love learning about The Whites is that everyone that portrays them is constantly walking the fine line of exploitation. I think they deserve to be laughed at. I think they deserve to be laughed with. I think they deserve empathy. I think they deserve revulsion. Their story, as each of our’s, if told correctly is a story of humanity. This is why The Dancing Outlaw is revered while The Dancing Outlaw II is reviled.
May 4, 2009 @ 9:23 am
Very well said Big A.
May 19, 2009 @ 7:53 pm
Big A said:
“I will reserve judgment until I see the movie, but I will say this in advance.
1. Some of the videos that I have seen with Roger Alan Wade, Johnny Knoxville, and his sycophants seem slightly disrespectful to Wade”™s music. They sit around and make funny faces at the camera while Wade sings.”
Roger Alan Wade is PJ’s (a.k.a. Johnny Knoxville’s) cousin. Of course he makes fun of him.
May 19, 2009 @ 8:45 pm
Johnny Knoxville has a unique and creative way of taking his celebrity and turning attention to people he thinks deserve it. He’s done this in the case of Roger, of Dale Watson, and others. I am a fan of Johnny Knoxville, because I see through all the nonsense to where he is trying to lead people.
May 21, 2009 @ 8:29 am
He definitely does that. Obviously he’s made a living being ridiculous and making a joke out of just about everything. It’s just his nature to tease. I just wanted to point out that whatever Big A saw that made him think Knoxville was disrespecting Wade’s music was certainly misunderstood because like I said… they’re cousins. Wade actually wrote a song for the Wild Whites movie (which you know Knoxville exec. produced) called Big Ass Happy Family and Knoxville pushed to make sure it made the cut.
May 21, 2009 @ 1:34 pm
Tiffani, I never said that Knoxville was disrespecting Wade’s music. The “they” I referred to was not Knoxville – more like Weeman, Steve O, etc. I understand, too, because real country music is not everyone’s cup of tea. As I said in my original comment, I have never felt that Knoxville was disrespectful to Wade’s music.
I do, however, reserve the right to be disrespectful about most of the movies Knoxville has been in.
More to the point, Tiffani, since you seem to have some inside info. – when are we going to get to see this damn movie?
May 21, 2009 @ 2:56 pm
I can understand both sides of the Knoxville argument. On the one hand he has done a lot to support what I consider REAL country music. But I also understand that the stuff he’s done in the past has opened him up for scrutiny. Since my attention is mostly paid to the music side of things, I appreciate all he has done for Roger, Dale Watson, etc. As for his role in this movie, it was probably less than some detractors would care to admit. But again, and I feel like a broken record about this, nobody has seen this movie. Did Knoxville Jackass it all to hell? Nobody knows because nobody has seen it. I’ll make that call when I see the film with my own two eyes.
May 28, 2009 @ 10:01 am
I apologize Big A… I went back and read again what you wrote and apparently I looked over where you said “I never get this feeling directly from Knoxville himself”. I get what you’re saying. And of course, feel free to respect or disrespect anything he’s done because obviously what he does isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. I respect all opinions about this issue and anything else for that matter. I was just pointing out that those Jackass guys make fun of everything and I know PJ wouldn’t do anything to hurt Wade’s career.
Triggerman, you’re right about his role in Wild Whites. He never participated in any of the filming or visited Boone County, etc. He DID watch all of the movie cuts and had a hand in saying what stayed and what went. The film is not “Jackassed all to hell”. A brief synopsis would be this… you have this family that is just a natural train wreck. You see some of the train wreck and then as the film goes on you start to learn WHY it’s a train wreck. You learn about the mind set of people raised in that area. I personally saw through the train wreck and saw people with raw emotion. I love Jesco even more. You know I can’t say whether or not White family fans are going to like this film or not… I am a Dancing Outlaw fan and I LOVE it, but I could be biased considering my husband produced it. It’s a great film. Everyone we have allowed to watch it thinks it’s incredible. As far as when everyone else can see it… they are trying to get theater distribution right now, but it may be a little too edgy. 🙂 If that doesn’t work out, then it will be released onto DVD but I can’t give even rough dates for any of that. I will for sure let Triggerman know as soon as I find out though.
Saving Country Music » Blog Archive » Movie Review- The Wild & Wonderful Whites
April 25, 2010 @ 12:38 pm
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May 9, 2010 @ 8:24 pm
Interesting to read all comments. Just saw the film at Tribeca Film Festival with my husband and friend. The director is a friend from when I lived in L.A…. I think Julien did a fine job of observing and documenting a deeply troubled, complicated and unique family.’Big A’ summed up my response quite well… I did find myself wanting to see and hear more from Jesco…
I think the friend I brought to the movie, whom, MANY years ago (1994?) made me watch ‘Dancing Outlaw’ after she met Jesco’s wild sisters by chance in a Charleston bar, had a much more negative response to the film. She felt that it was exploitative and that some percentage of the revenue should go to doing something to help change the situation of the people in this film, whether it is simply creating a rec center, establishing a scholarship fund, donating to social outreach or drug prevention: just something.
I think she made a good point. There were quite a few music -montage moments that seemed gratuitous, to my husband and myself, and could have been abbreviated or left out altogether. Those bits seemed to be “dickhouse” (Knoxville’s production co.) driven…
It was heartbreaking to see the kids watching and learning as adults snorted pills, drank and got high and ignored them. I was deeply moved (to tears) by the struggle of Kirk after the birth and state confiscation of her daughter. Julien told me that she was still clean and sober (as of last night) and had asked the judge to extend her probation and urine testing because everyone around her would prefer if she WEREN’T sober. Hard to fathom someone being so undermined by their own family…She was a ray of hope. A beautiful moment transpires when she apologizes to her little boy.
In all, it generated quite a bit of conversation about WHY this family suffers in the particular way that they do, and the role played by the mining interests to keep an entire state down, an entire population down… Julien touched on this in the film when he talked about the indentured servitude created by coal mines and the violent death of the patriarch, who also, I think, unwittingly condemned his family to much of the pain they now endure when he wrangled “crazy” checks for all his kids through gaming social security. Everyone seems stuck in a loop of violence, addiction and poverty… left me hoping that some of the next generation of Whites find the loophole that allow them to step out…
Saving Country Music » Blog Archive » Hank III Disses New White Family Movie
July 28, 2010 @ 4:33 pm
[…] first came out (which includes a brief appearance from Hank III), some people wondered if the movie exploits the Whites. Some have also cited Johnny Knoxville’s involvement in the movie as a concern, though […]