Thanks a lot pop culture!
That’s what I think when I come across insults or jokes about Arkansas. Okay, I get it. Every now and then you hear about something crazy happening there, but what state is entirely sane? Lord, three of our neighbors are far crazier than we are. Texas, Louisiana, and, obviously, Mississippi. But it’s pop culture’s fault when it comes to Arkansas having such a bad name.
The Discovery Channel, much like the History Channel, hasn’t done a great job when it comes to quality television recently. It seems that every station is moving further into the hell of reality TV and there’s seems to be no escape since half the country loves it. One of the Discovery Channel’s most recent premieres was Clash of the Ozarks. It follows a blood-feud that’s supposedly been occurring in Hardy, a small Arkansas town, since the nineteenth century. This show, like so many others, continues to reinforce Arkansas stereotypes that, frankly, we don’t take too kindly to!
It’s not just them. The Beverly Hillbillies to Glen Campbell have helped. And it’s going to keep happening. According to Brooks Blevins, an Ozark Studies professor, it’s got deep roots. In his book, Arkansas / Arkansaw: How Bear Hunters, Hillbillies and Good Ol’ Boys Defined a State, he writes that, “There seems to be no scientific way to quantify the level of stereotyping to which Arkansas has been subjected in comparison with other states. But the general consensus around the Natural State is that Arkansas was at some point in the murky past singled out and given a special place in the American consciousness. And it’s a specialness that many in the state would just as soon do without.” Ain’t that the truth? I would like to take a moment to defend my state and all of us Arkansans out there.
1. I’ve never heard about a feud going on. My neck of the woods is exactly that—way out in the woods a ways south of Little Rock. I’ve never even heard stories about a feud. Sure, sometimes you hate your annoying neighbor and might get into an argument with them but no one’s going to break out the shotgun.
2. WE ALL WEAR SHOES. I was in Chicago for a national quiz bowl tournament (nerd!) and when the waitress found out we were from Arkansas she asked, in all seriousness, “Do you wear shoes down there?” We don’t go running around bare foot all the time.
3. Incest is incest everywhere! No one’s marrying their sister. Hear everyone talk and you’d think that Arkansas is a William Faulkner novel where sexual sadism is rampant and daughters are being forced to marry step-fathers and first cousins. I promise that it’s not.
4. Banjos. A few more musicians here play the banjo, but it doesn’t mean that we’ve all got one somewhere or that we spend afternoons “pickin’ and a grinnin’” on the porch.
5. There aren’t stills cookin’ up in everyone’s back yard. We like booze just as much as everyone else, but moonshine isn’t something that’s done everywhere. None of Grannie’s tonic, I’m afraid.
6. Corncob pipes. I’ve seen corncob pipes, but have never seen anyone smoke one [apart for myself, but I like the idea]. Nor does everyone have a plug of chewin’ tobacco in their mouth.