Friday, February 04, 2011

Finally, it's cool to be rural (but we knew that)

Rural America, or at least urbanites' view of it, is becoming the hot trend in pop culture. "It's as clear as a dust cloud on the horizon coalescing into a stampede of bison: Call it country, Western, country-and-Western or something else altogether, but popular culture can't seem to get enough of rural Americana," Adam Tschorn of the Los Angeles Times reports.

Rural-flavored movies "True Grit" and "Country Strong" have experienced recent success at the box office, and Jennifer Lawrence is an Oscar best-actress nominee for her role in "Winter's Bone" (photo above). A doyenne of hipness, Gwyneth Paltrow, sings country music (photo below from "Country Strong") and "the Ralph Lauren women's spring/summer collection that's soon to hit stores has a distinct frontier glam flavor (think a rodeo's worth of leather and fringe, oversized steer-head belt buckles and lacy blouses with leg-of-mutton sleeves)," Tschorn writes.

The rural trend isn't confined to movies and fashion. "Moonshine has become as trendy as absinthe," Tschorn writes. "Canning and raising chickens have become hipster hobbies, and one of the most popular time-wasters on Facebook, FarmVille — 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." Rural-focused cable network RFD-TV has seen a 74 percent average viewership increase since 2007, and Nashville-based CMT (Country Music Television) saw a 19 percent increase last year in viewers for its annual awards show.

"It's cool to be rural now," Patrick Gottsch, founder and chief executive of the Omaha-based Rural Media Group, which owns RFD-TV, told Tschorn. "For a while, there was a stigma [about the country] — that you had to move to the city to make a living. And that's been changing." Brad Beckerman, chief executive and co-founder of the Stillhouse brand, which has gained publicity for its urban moonshine, told Tschorn the rural focus is similar to the slow food movement. "It's the speed of everything," he said. "Thanks to things like the BlackBerry and the Internet, people are exhausted at how fast everything moves. People want to come back to center. They want to go to a moment in time when everything moved at a slower pace, back to their roots." (Read more)

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