The recent flap by Duck Dynasty patriarch brought to mind this quote by Flannery O’Connor, a leading southern writer in the forties. “Anything that comes out of the South is going to be called grotesque by the northern reader, unless it is grotesque, in which case it is going to be called realistic.”
“Duck Dynasty” cornered the market on grotesque, and far too many people believe it is a realistic portrayal of most southerners. The series reinforces the stereotype that people in the north are more urbane and intelligent than their southern counterparts. In fact, one of A&E’s licensing agency gurus says part of the show’s appeal is the Southern lifestyle and redneck humor. He failed to state what qualifies him to define Southern lifestyle and left out the part about creating a niche market to sell a ton o’crap at Walmart.
Duck Dynasty is not an accurate depiction of mainstream southern lifestyle and the term redneck should have been retired eons ago.
Southerners dine at non-chain restaurants for regional cuisine and franchised camouflage apparel is not on the menu. Cracker Barrel and Waffle House restaurants are located off southern interstates to lure innocents much to the delight of marketers like the A&E gurus.
Southern men do not sport exaggerated wooly whiskers. Those who do, call the local missionary shelter home. GQ magazine whose tag line is Look Sharp, Live Smart should travel outside the Louisiana backwater for material about the south.
Child brides do not abound in the south. Information from the Global Justice Initiative indicates the legal age of consent in all southern states is seventeen or eighteen years of age with the exception of Mississippi. Interestingly enough states that permit marriage with parental consent for pubescent children (which pretty much defines “grotesque”) are located in the North.
When asked why she specialized in a dark southern gothic genre, Flannery explained in part, “Whenever I’m asked why Southern writers particularly have a penchant for writing about freaks, I say it is because we are still able to recognize one.”
Duck Dynasty meets that criteria spot on.