There are two films opening this weekend set in the American South: Junebug, a delicate, quietly observed movie that Michael Koresky (indieWIRE) calls “a North Carolina based portrait of human contradictions and the conundrums of the familial bond” and The Dukes of Hazzard, an adaptation of the television series and, according to A.O. Scott (NY Times), “a white-face minstrel show, which happily traffics in stereotypes, hoping that the people being made fun of – white, rural Southerners – will laugh along instead of picketing or writing angry letters.”
It is no surprise that Phil Morrison’s “Junebug” is getting critical praise for its accurate portrayal of the South since there are so few good ones out there. The region has always been ripe for ridicule, especially on television with the likes of “all situation, no comedy” sitcoms such as The Beverly Hillbillies, Green Acres and Petticoat Junction.
Even as a kid I knew those shows were boring and lame, but I really liked The Dukes of Hazzard. It had a very Robin Hood appeal with cop and robbers action that seemed very distant from life growing up in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Until a History teacher pointed out how “Dukes” was actually a ridiculous caricature of Southern people, it had not really occurred to me that Hazzard County was just one state away and meant to reflect the South, even in its silly, cartoonish way. The show had about as much relevance to where I was living as “Beauty and the Beast” probably had to New Yorkers. No one in Spartanburg bootlegged moonshine while a corrupt man in a white suit cursed them as they sped by in an octane enhanced Dodge Charger with a confederate flag on the top. (Actually, the flag was on the State Capital, but I’m not getting into that right now). And I’m sure even Non-New Yorkers thought Ron Perlman’s “Beast” couldn’t have possibly ridden on top of subway cars. As anyone can see, there is not enough room.
So for those who want a taste of what the real South is like, than please go see “Junebug.” And later this year, check out another film set in North Carolina, Tim Kirkman’s Loggerheads, due for release this October.
Do readers have any other good examples of Southern stories? Please post in comments below.
Here’s a few off the top of my head:
All The Real Girls