Is Hollywood ‘White-Trashing’ American Television?

In the Weekly Standard, John Podhoretz identifies television shows like “Justified,” “True Detective,” “Breaking Bad,” “Sons of Anarchy,” and “The Walking Dead” as “Hollywood folk making mincemeat out of poor rural folk” and part of the “ongoing American culture war that should not go unremarked.” Podheretz notes that “[e]ven Mad Men’s Don Draper, the well-to-do man from Westchester, was damaged forever by being born to a hooker in rural Illinois and raised by a vicious farmer who beat him regularly.”

I’m not so sure.

You can certainly argue that the production design of these shows is Pure White Trash, but when it comes to characterizations of the rural poor and working class, Hollywood has actually come a long way. You can’t judge a person by his double-wide.

For years it seemed as though Southerners and rural folk were forever portrayed in film and television as bigoted, ignorant religious freaks eager to make you squeal like a pig — they always took the pie in the face. From my vantage point, the shows Podhoretz lists (except for “True Blood,” which I haven’t seen and can’t comment on) all offer three-dimensional characters, and in many cases flawed but likable and intelligent protagonists capable of selfless and heroic acts (“Justified,” “The Walking Dead,” “True Detective,” “Breaking Bad” (the brother-in-law)).

I am much less concerned with the production design and wardrobe choices than I am with how the characters are portrayed. And to be fair, when Hollywood explores any culture, be it Southern, Italian, the black inner-city, Mexican barrio life, a high school, Manhattan’s Upper West Side, or even Hollywood… there is frequently a hyper-reality involved in creating a flavorful world that borders on stereotype.


Complete text linked here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *