Welcome to Hollyrural: Notes Before The Oscars
Indeed, one of the very interesting things about reading NYT readers’ responses to “Winter’s Bone” and its review is the extent to which those from major metro areas — say New York and Toronto–criticized the film maker for the lack of reality and the way she maligned the place by showing junk cars and dogs in people’s yards. Film goers and readers from the Ozarks, however, generally agreed that the film was quite authentic in its depiction of people and place, though several of them pointed out that it showed only a particular stratum of that society. These differing views make me wonder if urbanites want to believe that rural life couldn’t be that bad? If they are clinging nostalgically to bucolic rural myths?
…..So what can we take away from Winter’s Bone regarding white privilege? I see Ree’s life as a reminder that when you get “down” to a certain socioeconomic stratum, there is precious little privilege or material benefit associated with being white. (I’m thinking the film “Monster” also illustrates this point). Another way of stating this is that disadvantages associated with class (e.g., bias against “white trash”) and geography (e.g., scarcity of jobs and opportunities) seriously undermine the white privilege that Ree might enjoy in other settings.
Even the recent fall/winter menswear runway shows in Milan and Paris found luxury brand collections taking inspiration from both the modern-day Amish (at Louis Vuitton) and the early settlers of the American West (at Dsquared2). Moonshine has become as trendy as absinthe. Canning and raising chickens have become hipster hobbies. And one of the most popular time-wasters on Facebook — played by nearly 55 million people this month alone — is a faux-farmstead game that has people harvesting virtual crops and tending to virtual livestock.
What we do have, to serve as the foundational fantasy of female strength and individualism we’ve agreed upon as embodying American power, are cowgirls: Annie Oakley, Calamity Jane, the outlaws, frontier women and pioneers who pushed West, shot sharp, talked tough and sometimes drew blood. Frontier womanhood has emerged as one of the only historically American models of aspirational femininity available to girls — passive princesses and graceful ballerinas not being native to this land — and one of the only blueprints for commanding female comportment in which they are regularly encouraged to invest or to mimic.
Poverty in America is often given an urban black face. It’s a stereotype, also visible in any metro area, from Des Moines and Omaha, to Chicago and New York City.
Rural white poverty is very much alive and well, too, although not always easy to spot, as it hides around the mountain or off a country road, in an apparently abandoned trailer that is, surprisingly, a home.
“I hope you heard the hillbillies screaming,” laughs Beth Domann, one of the local actors featured in the movie, “because it started early. I think everybody’s real excited about it.”
Here are the trailers for each film. The 83rd Academy Awards will be broadcast this Sunday evening on ABC.