Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Television Show's Depiction of Kentucky Un"Justified"

Though I'm not from Eastern Kentucky, I've visited and passed through enough times that I was interested in seeing how FX's new show Justified portrayed the area and its people. I felt like I was watching an episode of The Dukes of Hazzard meets The Rifleman. Though filmed in Western Pennsylvania rather than the scrub hills of southern California, it still has that flavor of Appalachia run through a Hollywood filter: the stubborn, drunken, "aw, shucks" drawling hillbilly vs. the savvy, smug outsiders. You might as well brew a pot of raspberry truffle coffee with Maker's Mark; that's about the taste it left in my mouth.

Does it make for good television? I suppose. The storyline is well-written enough. It's about as accurate to Kentucky, though, as any wild-west trope was for 1950s television. No, you won't see tumbleweeds blowing down Main Street, nor will you see people sitting around a moonshine still listening to bluegrass music and waiting to fill their mason jar (we keep our stills hidden pretty good). So, no offense to fans of the show, but I hope that people aren't watching it and thinking, "Those Appalachians are crazy." Try watching an episode of Jersey Shore and see if you can say the same thing about The Garden State. I would hope not every resident acted like Snooki or The Situation.


Anonymous said...

OK - this isn't the Travel channel - but it is the best friggn show on TV! Meth is rampant in many depressed areas, and what TV show honestly depicts the area or profession it inhabits?
The scariest villains, the smoothest hero, the scene-stealing, newly-orphaned teen... Walton Goggins!!! And when they don't give an Emmy to Margo Martindale (Mags), the whole committee needs to resign, and have their TVs taken away.
I live in Atlanta, and have yet to be accosted by the Zombie Horde depicted in the Walking Dead! ;> (but I don't get intown, much)
And, these bad guys play mountain music, clog and sing. I don't remember the Rifleman doing any of these things. Maybe Daisy Duke... Like Margo, I've sung 'high on a mountain top' at festivals. That was a real treat to hear her lamentatious version!
Personally, I love this show! It has more tension and suspense in an hour than 24 did in a season. And that 'aw, shucks' marshal keeps the show so easy to watch.
Now those Duke boys - they were something to complain about!

David Hampton: said...

You make a valid point! What would be accurate and wholly realistic would not make for good TV. That's the literary critic coming out in me. Thanks for your passionate response. Stereotypes are sometimes a double-edged sword, though. Outsiders need that stereotype to be able to recognize a certain demographic, but stereotyping also generalizes, making someone think the exception is the rule. Take what Director John Boorman did with the movie Deliverance. He took James Dickey's novel of man versus the wilderness and made it more about the hillbilly rape scene (who doesn't know what "Squeal like a Pig" or "You sure got purty teeth" means now). Maybe if I watch another episode or two, Justified might grow on me.

Cher'ley said...

Some of it is pretty typical Eastern KY. I lived there, even though I wasn't from there. Because of that, maybe I noticed things others didn't.

David Hampton: said...

Thanks, Cher'ley, for your imput! I'll have to ask my friends in eastern Ky what they think of the show, too.

montymike said...

Is the Appalachian Glory Flag something that can actually be had? I love it and would really like one if I knew where to go get it.

David Hampton: said...


You can thank the blogger Tennessee Jed for creating this symbol of regional pride. It's taken on a life of its own since he created it, but he'd be proud I believe for anyone who wanted to use it for themselves. Here is the link to his specific post on the topic of his flag.