Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Rise in TV 'hixploitation' begs the question: Why are TV producers fixated on rural oddities?

There has been a recent rise in "hixploitation," or hick exploitation, on television in recent years with shows like "Call of the Wildman," "Hillbilly Handfihsin'" and "Swamp People" flooding the airwaves and becoming hit reality TV shows. The protagonists seem proud of their new-found fame, like Turtleman (aka Ernie Brown Jr., in photo) of Lebanon, Ky., star of "Call of the Wildman." But as Matt Frassica of The Courier-Journal in Louisville reports, the compulsion to watch such shows is not very clear.

Karen L. Cox, a history professor at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, told Frassica it's still socially acceptable to regard the South as different from the rest of the U.S. and poke fun at the region. "The reality shows trade in stereotypes. You roll your eyes and think, 'How do we move beyond that?'" Cox said. Others, like author of "Reality TV: The Work of Being Watched," play on a longing for "agrarian nostalgia," Mark Andrejevic told Frassica. He also said these shows may be seeing an increase in audience due to extreme economic uncertainty. Indiana University associate professor of gender studies Brenda Weber said the shows are not about looking down on people and making fun of them: "These reality shows are more concerned with the personal challenge of overcoming adversity. All of them take away their character’s civilized comforts and test their abilities as outdoorsmen and women."

That resembles the view voiced by MTV's programming director, David Janollari, about the station's new docu-series called "Buck Wild." Michael Schneider of TV Guide reports the series focuses on recent high school graduates living in West Virginia from "across the socio-economic strata - from the more well-off kids living 'up in the hills' to the working-class kids down 'in the holler.'" Janollari insists the show will not be ridiculing the graduates: "the show is so wholeheartedly not making fun of these kids." Rather, the station seems to be taking an approach more like Diane Sawyer's "Children of the Mountains" on ABC's "20/20" almost three years ago. Said Janollari: "Historically, we've had great success at MTV diving into unique and unexplored youth cultures."

UPDATE: Another article concerning television "hixploitation" has surfaced, this time focusing on whether or not showcasing illegal activities is in fact legal. John Jurgensen of The Wall Street Journal reports  the Discovery Channel is trying to cash in on the odd jobs reality show craze with shows like "Weed Wars" and "Moonshiners," about California medical marijuana dispensaries and Appalachians making corn liquor, respectively. Jurgensen reports: "Reality TV's exploration of the subcultures of work, especially the macho variety, is an effort to rope in coveted male viewers who might have a voyeuristic curiosity about Gulf Coast fishermen (History Channel's 'Big Shrimpin''), boar hunters (A&E's 'Lady Hoggers') or Texas oil workers (TruTV's 'Black Gold')."

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

"Rise in TV 'hixploitation' does not beg the question.

Begging the question is a type of logical fallacy in which the proposition to be proven is assumed implicitly or explicitly in the premise. (circular reasoning)

Nancy C said...

unfotunately "begging the question" is misused so constantly for "posing the question" that I guess that it has come to mean "posing"the question. There is so much of this that results from people trying to sound more "intellectual" than they actually are. TV presenters are among the worst offenders. It "sounds good" so they throw it into their conversations.

Nancy C said...

Most stories set in the South, like "Hart of Dixie" are just cringe-worthy to the nth degree. The ONLY series I've ever seen that really captured a local, Southern culture was the wonderful "Frank's Place." It was set in New Orleans and was written and produced by people who really understood, loved and respected the community/region. This, of course, was far too good for TV and was cancelled.

Chuck Sampson said...

I think you have it backwards.

If you go to the Google Books website and google Unabomber Manifesto it will take you to Ted Kaczynski's treatise "Industrial Society and Its Future".

You will find, surprisingly or maybe alarmingly, that it is a fairly popular book. Kaczynski is a mass murderer serving a life sentence for murdering three people. Nevertheless his book got a 3.5 star rating out of 24 reviews. There a section in the treatise which describes modern man's situation which is eerily resonant with many technophobes today.

Kaczynski's premise-that people are enslaved by machines and the only way to free ourselves is to destroy them-has become very popular. This is the market that is being exploited, not the other way round.

It is the hicksters who are tapping into the money stream from so-called sophisticated city folk seeking an escape from their daily grind.

It's just like Green Acres. Mr. Haney would be damned proud.

Anonymous said...

Not all of the popularity of such tv shows can be blamed on Yankees wanting to laugh at "the rubes". Rather, there is a subset of America that identifies itself as proud American Patriots and also rednecks. I am from the Chicago area but live in Kentucky. During our breaks at work my coworkers watch all of the most derogatory shows that portray Southerners as yokels. They are not offended but rather feel included and validated by what is on the tv. This is not true of all of Kentucky but the group of a certain county which I work in.

Anonymous said...

Not all of the popularity of such tv shows can be blamed on Yankees wanting to laugh at "the rubes". Rather, there is a subset of America that identifies itself as proud American Patriots and also rednecks. I am from the Chicago area but live in Kentucky. During our breaks at work my coworkers watch all of the most derogatory shows that portray Southerners as yokels. They are not offended but rather feel included and validated by what is on the tv. This is not true of all of Kentucky but the group of a certain county which I work in.