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On 'Hicksploitation' And Other White Stereotypes Seen On TV

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On 'Hicksploitation' And Other White Stereotypes Seen On TV

On 'Hicksploitation' And Other White Stereotypes Seen On TV

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Television networks offer a truckload of popular, unscripted programs, some of which lampoon working-class, white Southern culture. Think "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" and "Duck Dynasty." They are popular. Our TV critic Eric Deggans has been wondering why it's so easy to start up shows that exploit stereotypes of white people.

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: MTV tried cashing in on the redneck TV trend with its own, hyped-up platform for young Southern kids behaving badly, "Buckwild." And this is what it took to get it off the air.


UNIDENTIFIED BROADCASTER #1: Budding reality star Shain Gandee was discovered dead in his SUV, the victim of accidental carbon monoxide poisoning. Now, one week later, MTV is making the bombshell decision to cancel his hit show, "Buckwild."

DEGGANS: Gandee was the star of a so-called reality TV show that played like a Southern-fried version of "Jersey Shore"; its stars a dimwitted crew of young people in West Virginia, drinking hard and riding pickup trucks through ditches filled with mud.


SHAIN GANDEE: Oh, (bleep). (Laughing) ... Miss Carrie, you ever been mudding?

MISS CARRIE: Yeah. I used to go mudding all the time in high school.

GANDEE: Oh, yeah? Well, you ain't never been mudding with me.

DEGGANS: Small wonder some locals complained the show was a black mark on West Virginia. It highlighted oversexed, undereducated kids whose favorite pastimes included joy riding inside construction equipment.



GANDEE: Go, go, go.

DEGGANS: Southern-based hicksploitation TV shows are only the beginning of reality TV's caucasian cliches. There are the violent, in-your-face Italian ladies in VH1's "Mob Wives."


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: I've poisoned people. I've shot them. I stabbed my last boyfriend in front of his mother.

DEGGANS: The backwards, rural kids wandering around New York City in TLC's "Breaking Amish."


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Dropped out of school early. A third or fourth grader can probably read three times better than I can.

DEGGANS: And the lustful brides in "My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding."


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: Like, my first husband was my third cousin. (Laughing) Our family believes in that stuff.

DEGGANS: That's a big pile of the worst stereotypes about white, working-class people around. And here's the thing - there aren't nearly as many shows like this about African-Americans or Latinos. Late last year, the Oxygen channel tried to create a new one, developing a pilot featuring rapper Shawty Lo.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #3: To you guys, he might be known as a rapper, but here in Atlanta, he's known for having 11 kids and 10 baby mamas.

DEGGANS: The backlash against this travesty was immediate and powerful.


UNIDENTIFIED BROADCASTER #2: Outrage and calls now for cancellation over a new reality show that's about to hit the airwaves. So here's what it's called: "All My Babies' Mamas."

DEGGANS: Radio personalities complained on air; harsh coverage came from CNN and Fox News; and more than 30,000 protesters signed a petition against the show on And it worked - Oxygen announced it wouldn't develop the series. So why haven't these other shows stereotyping white people seen protests just as strong? I suspect it's because too many folks see stereotypes as a problem mostly for people of color. We've got lots of practice criticizing degrading images of black and brown people.

Activists know how to gather the news stories, book the media appearances, and assemble the petitions to press their case. Advertisers get nervous, and programmers think twice. What many forget, is it can be just as easy to stereotype white, working-class folks, and just as hard to scrub those stereotypes off our TV screens.

INSKEEP: Eric Deggans, regular guest here, and TV and media critic for the Tampa Bay Times.


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